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All About Ethiopian Culture: (FSF Cultural Exploration)

Ethiopia Demographics

Ethiopia is a large, populous country in the Horn of Africa. It is surrounded by the Countries of Sudan, Entrea, Djibouti, Somalia, and Kenya It is one of the world’s oldest countries, though its territorial holdings have varied over its 1,000 years of existence. Ethiopia is currently considered a multicultural and multiethnic nation where religion and family play prominent roles in daily life. Roughly half of its population are Christians belonging to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, though there is also a sizable Muslim population as well as adherents to an ancient form of Judaism. The extended family is considered vital in Ethiopian life, with family needs being put before those of its individual members.

Ethiopia History

Ethiopia is among the oldest nations in the world, being founded as the Ethiopian Kingdom in the 10th century BC. Its early history was influenced by Egypt, with the royal family that ruled Ethiopia until 1974 claiming to be descended from King Solomon. It is one of the first nations to adopt Christianity. This dates back to 333 AD, when Aksum, then the capital of Ethiopia, was converted to Christianity. This makes the Ethiopian Orthodox Church among the oldest in the world. Though Christianity is dominant in the country, Islam has also been influential. The two religions are said to have peacefully co-existed ever since the first king in Aksum granted protection and residence to the first disciple of the Prophet Muhammad. Ethiopia is distinguished from other African nations for having never been colonized, though it was briefly occupied by Mussolini’s Italy from 1935 to 1941. In 1974, Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie was ousted by a communist military council, which led to the rise of Mengistu Haile Mariam. Under communist rule in the 1980s, Ethiopia experienced some of the worst famines in its history. Mengistu’s regime was overthrown in 1991 by guerrilla forces led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. In 1994, Ethiopia formalized its current constitution which divided the country into ten relatively autonomous zones.

Ethiopian Cultural Customs and Lifestyle

Ethiopians and Eritreans both generally identify as ‘habesha’. Historically, “habesha” exclusively referred to the Semitic tribes and ethnicities in Eritrea and northern Ethiopia, but it has since become more inclusive and now refers to all people in the region regardless of tribe or ethnicity. Patriotic views are common among Ethiopians. Many view their country as having great cultural depth in comparison to others with it being commonly accepted that those living overseas will want to return to stay connected with their country.

Part of this pride stems from its legacy as a historically independent African nation. Its strong statehood left the culture untouched by colonialism, with it still being taught in its original form by Ethiopians. It is a common sentiment that they have strong moral convictions and are righteous in their faith. For this reason, it is typical to view the hardships of the past few decades as a recent chapter in their long history rather than as defining the country.

Wealth tends to be the biggest determinant of a person’s status within their community. As a majority of the Ethiopian population belongs to the lower class, disparities in wealth are especially noticeable. Ethiopians generally respect those with money regardless of other social indicators, with things such as education being viewed as skills that can improve social mobility between generations. The extended family is also considered vital in Ethiopian life, with family needs being put before those of its individual members.

Ethiopia Ethnic Groups

While there are practices indicative of national culture, practices can vary between different regions, religions, and ethnicities. Ethiopia has over 80 distinct ethnic groups. Traditionally these groups have been divided into tribes and subtribes on the basis of ancestral descent, though this has been dismantled in many urban areas. 87 native languages are spoken in Ethiopia, though Amharic is the only one to have official status across the entire country with several others being recognized by regional states. Since 1995, it has been recognized as an Ethnic Federation, meaning that states are divided on an ethnic basis with most Ethiopians living where their ethnicity is dominant. This was intended to give ethnic groups more political autonomy, though it is widely considered to have only exacerbated ethnic tensions.


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