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Ethiopia /ˌθiˈpiə/ (Ge'ez: ኢትዮጵያ ʾĪtyōṗṗyā), a landlocked state in the Horn of Africa, is one of the most ancient countries in the world. It is the second most populous nation in Africa with over 80.2 million people and the tenth largest by area. The capital is Addis Ababa. Ethiopia is bordered by Djibouti and Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south, Eritrea to the north, and Sudan and South Sudan to the west.

Though most African countries are far less than a century old, Ethiopia has been an independent country since ancient times. A monarchical state for most of its history, the Ethiopian dynasty traces its roots to the 10th century BC. Besides being an ancient country, Ethiopia is one of the oldest sites of human existence known to scientists today—having yielded some of humanity's oldest traces, it might be the place where Homo sapiens first set out for the Middle East and points beyond. When Africa was divided up by European powers at the Berlin Conference, Ethiopia was one of only two countries that retained its independence. It was one of only three African members of the League of Nations, and after a brief period of Italian occupation, Ethiopia became a charter member of the United Nations. When other African nations received their independence following World War II, many of them adopted the colors of Ethiopia's flag, and Addis Ababa became the location of several international organizations focused on Africa.

The Modern Ethiopian state, and its current borders, are a result of significant territorial reduction in the north and expansion in the south, toward its present borders, owing to several migrations and commercial integration as well as conquests, particularly by Emperor Menelik II and Ras Gobena. In 1974, the dynasty led by Haile Selassie was overthrown as civil wars intensified. Since then, Ethiopia has been a secular state with a variety of governmental systems. Today, Addis Ababa is still the site of the headquarters of the African Union and UNECA. The country has arguably one of the most powerful militaries in Africa. Eritrea and Ethiopia are the only African countries with their own alphabet. Ethiopia also has its own time system and unique calendar, seven to eight years behind the Gregorian Calendar. It has the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Africa.

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Crater Lake
Credit: Hansueli Krapf

Landscape near Debre Zeyt, Ethiopia

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Ethiopian cuisine characteristically consists of spicy vegetable and meat dishes, usually in the form of wat (also "w'et", "wot"), a thick stew, served atop injera, a large sourdough flatbread, which is about 50 centimeters (20 inches) in diameter and made out of fermented teff flour. Ethiopians eat with their right hands, using pieces of injera to pick up bites of entrées and side dishes. No utensils are used.

Traditional Ethiopian cuisine employs no pork of any kind, as most Ethiopians are either Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, Muslims or Jews, and are thus prohibited from eating pork. Furthermore, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church prescribes a number of fasting (tsom Ge'ez: ጾም tṣōm) periods, including Wednesdays, Fridays, and the entire Lenten season, so Ethiopian cuisine contains many dishes that are vegetarian (Amharic: ye-tsom የጾም ye-ṣōm, Tigrinya: nay-tsom ናይጾም nāy-ṣōm). This has also led Ethiopian cooks to develop a rich array of cooking oil sources: besides sesame and safflower, Ethiopian cuisine also uses nug (also spelled noog, known also as niger seed). Ethiopian restaurants are a popular choice for vegetarians living in Western countries. (Read more...)

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Credit: Steve Evans

A man in southern Ethiopia.

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Amda Seyon (also Amde Tsiyon and other variants, Ge'ez ዐምደ ፡ ጽዮን ʿamda ṣiyōn, Amharic āmde ṣiyōn, "Pillar of Zion") was Emperor of Ethiopia (1314–1344; throne name Gebre Mesqel Ge'ez ገብረ ፡ መስቀል gabra masḳal, Amh. gebre mesḳel, "slave of the cross"), and a member of the Solomonic dynasty. According to the British expert on Ethiopia, Edward Ullendorff, "Amde Tseyon was one of the most outstanding Ethiopian kings of any age and a singular figure dominating the Horn of Africa in the fourteenth century." His conquests of Muslim borderlands greatly expanded Ethiopian territory and power in the region, maintained for centuries after his death. Amda Seyon asserted the strength of the newly (1270) installed Solomonic dynasty and therefore legitimized it. These expansions further provided for the spread of Christianity to frontier areas, sparking a long era of proselytization, Christianization, and integration of previously peripheral areas.

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