East Africa

Ethiopia Culture and Traditions


Ethiopia (excluding the brief parenthesis in which it became an Italian colony), unlike other African countries, has managed over the centuries to remain independent; for this reason it still retains many of its peculiarities. The cultural elements that characterize it are for example the type of religion (Coptic Christian), the language and writing (Amharic), the calendar. It is almost certainly the first region of the Earth that has seen man take his first steps; here, in fact, the oldest hominid remains have been discovered, such as the famous Lucy, dating back to more than 3.2 million years ago. The Amharic Empire, together with the political, historical and geographical isolation allowed it to resist to a large extent the Islamic wave.), which has a strong social function; they exist for every occasion and ritual dances are still performed to thank nature or on the occasion of public holidays. Popular music is accompanied by simple percussion and wind instruments, while a strong emotional connotation has the sacred one, which can be heard in the old churches. Popular literature is still very much alive, and many traditional tales are handed down orally. The Amharic language theater is also particularly original; in the capital there are some stable companies that bring modern performances to the stage, characterized by long monologues and where the public actively participates. The monuments considered world heritage by UNESCO tell the long history of this country: among these, the paleontological site of the lower valley of the Awash (inserted in 1980), where the remains of Lucy were found, the rock churches of Lalibela, of the century. XIII (inserted in 1978), or the extraordinary ruins of the city of the kingdom of Aksum, ranging from the I to the century. XIII (inserted in 2006).


Religion, be it Christian or Muslim, is of great importance among all Ethiopian ethnic groups and strongly influences daily life, which is marked by prayers and religious festivals. Copts celebrate Christmas on January 7th; on this occasion it is customary to play gennà, a kind of hockey played on a field without limits; the gugs, a sort of polo, but more violent, is practiced on other occasions such as the New Year, which falls on September 11th. The family is the fulcrum of life; in general, the original one is left only at the moment of marriage. On this occasion, the couple goes to live with the groom’s parents and subsequently ask the village for a plot of land to build the house. A common element of the country is the scarcity of the scattered settlement in favor of the village, which guarantees a minimum collective security. In the forest areas it is placed in the center of the clearings; in those steppes the massed village prevails, while in the savannas the dispersed village predominates, with huts in contact with the fields. Along the rivers and communication routes, villages arise preferably at the fords or at crossroads. The shape of the houses is also different, although the best known types can be reduced to three, with a prevalence of cylindrical-conical houses. The beehive hut is the type used by the most ancient agricultural populations. In the northern regions, the square or rectangular house prevails (hudmò), which consists of a single room, divided into two parts by a series of clay pots; in the back there are the kitchen and the bed, in the front, the closet; there is never a lack of a veranda, where most of the family’s daily activities take place. The roof of the house is flat and covered with branches and soil. Proceeding towards the S, where the rains are abundant, the most common type of dwelling among the farmers of the plateau and the plains becomes the cylindrical hut with a conical roof, called agdò or, with the Arabic word, tucul. The hut consists of a single circular room with a diameter of 6-10 m, with walls of tree trunks and branches, often plastered with a mixture of mud and chopped straw; the truncated cone roof is supported by a central pole and is made of poles, on which a layer of straw is fixed; the hut has a single opening that serves as a door and window. Other types of dwelling are the abùr, consisting of a large irregularly oval enclosure, in which a dense palisade, inclined towards the inside, forms a large hut with an open roof in the middle; the dasà, conical hut of branches without central support and with a small triangular opening; then there are huts with a rectangular plan with a double sloping roof, common to throughout the coastal area. Finally, in Danakil it is common to build huts with dum palm leaves, very common in these areas, sometimes completed with mats. Nomadic shepherds, on the other hand, use to wait using sheets, mats, skins and branches as temporary shelters during their slow wandering from one grazing area to another. According to aristmarketing, the main ingredient of Ethiopian cuisine is a kind of thin and soft focaccia, rather large, called injera; it is usually brought to the table rolled up next to the plate or served on top of the food. Meat in the form of stew (wat) is presented in different ways: it can be beef, lamb or goat, never pork, which is prohibited by both the Coptic and Muslim religions. Vegetables are rarely used: cabbage, potatoes, beets and spinach are usually cooked. Spices abundantly season all dishes. The most popular drinks are of course coffee, served with a typical ceremony and, on the lowlands inhabited by Muslims, tea.

Ethiopia Culture and Traditions