Ethiopia Local Customs

  • Local Customs
    by rosequartzlover1
  • Euro 2 pins - Addis Ababa
    Euro 2 pins - Addis Ababa
    by DAO
  • Local Customs
    by DAO

Ethiopia Local Customs


    %3Before you can enter an Orthodox Christian Church anywhere in Ethiopia you have to remove your shoes. And any hats as well. I would suggest that you wear socks, especially in older churches and the rock hewn churches of Lalibela. Your feet are going to get dirty, even if they do have carpets down! Unfortunately in Lalibela you are expected to pay...


    Ethiopia uses 220 V electricity operating at 50 Hz. The most common plug you will find is the European 2 pin types known as ‘C’ and ‘F’. In some older buildings and in more rural areas you will often find British 3 square pin types. You can, and it is commonly done, stick a European 2 pin plug into the British square sockets. It’s not as well...


    I will give you a concise explanation of what to do if you are invited to someone’s home. First – you need to take a gift with you. This is traditionally ‘Bhuna’ or raw coffee. You can buy this at a lot of small kiosk shops. If you have some duty free spirits – this highly prized. Just make sure you have a gift for the Hostess – as the Lady of the...


    Yes, banks here accept them! American Dollars are the preferred currency for American Express Travellers Cheques. Some banks in Addis Ababa actually sell them too. British Pounds sometimes get a much worse rate. Standard fees are what the banks describe as 0.5% but actually come out at 1.5%. Banks in the historical towns (Gonder, Axum, etc.) may...


    Ethiopians are very observant of hygiene, especially when eating. The national dish is Injera with different dishes being placed up on it. All Injera is eaten with the right hand and food is traditionally shared. So it makes a lot of sense that you will always be offered for your hands to be washed by your hosts before you eat. Whether it is in a...


    These guys are fascinating to watch. They start the day – early – by collecting 5-10 very tall stalks of sugar cane. These can reach up to 6 metres in length! Needless to say they are heavy and awkward for these poor guys to carry around. They will sell you a length of sugar cane about as long as your hand for 1 or 2 Birr (11-22 US Cents). After...


    Followers of The Ethiopian Orthodox Church observe 7 fasting periods a year, but that does not mean they stop eating. The food and dishes available are actually quite extensive and tastes great. They are simply free of meat and animal products. This essentially means no meat, fat, eggs or milk. Because there are so many periods of fasting and often...


    In many places in Africa this is known as ‘Chewy Stick’ and it works as good as a toothbrush – with toothpaste! In Ethiopia it is known as ‘Mafakia’ it has been proven to have antimicrobial qualities. You chew on this very hard piece of wood and scrape your teeth with the top edge. I used it and found it helpful. Expect to pay about 1 Birr (11 US...

  • sports hero in a country crazy about...

    Ethiopians are famous for long distance running (like Kenyans, or rather Kalenjin) and the most successful marathon runners are national heroes. One of the best known if Haile Gebrselassie, who not only made a great comeback at an (for a runner) advanced age, but also uses his popularity to promote social projects.


    Pronounce it however you want, its Home Brew! Unlike Tej (local honey wine), this can be brewed in the home in about 4 days. It tastes like a very weak ale but can still pack a punch of up to 6% alcohol! A lot of families have this on hand to serve with a meal when you visit their home. It is brewed (fermented more like) from locally grown grains...


    After you have finished your meal you may, out of habit, place your napkin on your plate. Do not do it here! If there is any food left, the restaurant will give this to poor people after they close. If you put the napkin on it – they won’t. It is a really hard habit to break, but please remember to leave your napkin on the table when you finish.

  • Time in Ethiopia

    In Ethiopia everything is different even the calendar! Ethiopians have 13 months instead of 12, that’s why they use as slogan “Ethiopia: 13 months of sun”. Their end of the year corresponds to our 10th of September and, like us, they celebrate it with big parties. The Ethiopian Calendar is 8 years behind the Gregorian Calendar so when I was there...

  • Tejj and Injera

    Tejj is the basis of Ethiopia’s diet. With this cereal (second picture) Ethiopians prepare the Injera, a kind of tort which you will find everywhere accompanying all kind of meat and vegetables (main picture) Maybe there are different ways to prepare it because depending on the area where we were, Injera’s color was darker. Texture is funny but it...

  • Chat

    The flower of paradise, Allah’s gift . . . that’s how this stimulant is known by the chat consumers. Chewing the leaves of this small plant - Catha Edulis - (second picture) releases people’s mind and it is very appreciated by poets and philosophers who use it as a source of inspiration. Nowadays people, especially in the south of the country, chew...

  • Rainy Season

    Going to Ethiopia during the heavy rainy season (from June to September) means to have a shower almost everyday. When it rains, IT REALLY RAINS! In Bahir Dar usually it started raining by 7.00 -8.00 pm so it was never a problem for our day tours. But it was also in Bahir Dar where storm and rain were heavier (see the picture), being the air...

  • Traditional boats

    On Lake Tana is easy to see some nice Tankwas. This papyrus canoes look like exactly as the ancient papyrus canoes depicted on the Egyptian Temples’ walls and nowadays they are still used as the main means of transport on the lake. The construction of a tankwa needs two people’s work for a whole day and it has a life of only few weeks. If it rains...

  • Colorful Umbrellas

    These beautiful and colorful umbrellas don’t have a aesthetic use. They are not used to protect people from sun or rain either. We can see these umbrellas only in religious events like Timkat, processions or funerals (picture 2). I was very curious about the meaning and I asked some locals about it but nobody could give me a good answer. Later I...


    The currency of Ethiopia is known as the Birr. Notes are 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100’s. Coins are 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents. 1’s are rarely used and you need at least 10 cents to buy a small loaf of bread. This is important if you want to give a poor person a coin. Supposedly all bills must be paid in Birr, but many businesses including state-owned...

  • How to be a bride of Hamara tribe

    Before wedding ceremony ,would be bride shaved her hairs and seat in her hut alone just some younger girl of her relatives bring her food ,this loneliness continued for half year,and all time bride ribs in skin mix of butter with red soil , while bride seat in her hut, groom have to prove his braveness by leaping on backs of 10 oxes smeared with...

  • Hamar people "evangedi"dance

    Hamar people usually young men and women in evening gathering for dancing and singing that named "evangedi" dance.

  • Coffee

    Ethiopian coffee has been my favorite for many years! The highland climate contributes, no doubt. I am fascinated by the different coffee-serving traditions -- this is a staple of the bedouin groups all over the Middle East, but here is another slightly different, yet similar way of serving the brew. Not when you enter as in Arab tradition, but...

  • harmful traditional practices

    I went to attend a meeting in Ethiopia on harmful traditional practices that hurt women. While we are concerned with such practices in many parts of the world, some of our Ethiopian representatives spoke about 1) FGM - very problematic , still, in many parts of Africa and also the Middle East and 2) kidnapping and early marriage - which is an...


    In Ethiopia, holding your right elbow with your left hand as you shake some else’s hand is a great form of respect. Over time the left hand has made its way forward and some times you will see the left hand as far forward as the right wrist. You will also sometimes see this as you are offered the bill in a restaurant if you have been very pleasant...

  • not a secular country

    Religion plays a great and important part in Ethiopian life. when you travel across the country you will notice churches are full not only on sundays, but also on weekdays. It also means quite a lot of fasting requirements and a big number of religious holidays (not very good for productive working when people keep them on the countryside) Be...

  • Ethiopia, a land of many ethnical people

    The population in Ethiopia is approximately 80 million, with over eighty different ethnic groups. The Oromo group account for 35% of the population. The Amhara 30% and the Tigreans 10%. Smaller ethnic groups include the Somali, Gurage, Afar, Awi, Welamo, Sidamo, and Beja. The women on the photo are Ethiopian Somalis, from the eastern provincial...

  • Shaking hands / Nodding

    Hands: If you have dirty hands, extend a limp wrist to be shaken by that instead. This is a sign of respect that you don't wish to contaminate your host's hands.Nod: A dip of the head when passing chamber maids, door staff etc is a polite mark of respect and acknowledgment


    For some reason many visitors to Ethiopia want to try this dish as soon as they can. Kitfo (or Ketfo) is raw beef. That’s how it's served. I find this heavy on the stomach and have never had a very good dish in a restaurant. One of my friends made it at home for me and I did find it very tasty. Essentially Kitfo is minced beef marinated in butter...


    Tere Sega, also known as Gored Gored, means raw meat. This is a special delicacy served at weddings (pictured). Some or all of the carcass is hung to show it’s fresh. Appropriately dressed butchers will choose quality cuts for you and even take requests. They cut off cubes with large sharp knives. You are then offered 2 sauces to go with it: Awazi...


    Ethiopians do not have last names. In fact – they have 3 first names! Everyone is born with a first name. Their second name is the name of their father. Their 3rd name is that of their grandfather. So if you met Mr. TESFAYE GEBRE MOGUS, he is the son of Gabre and the grandson of Mogus. That’s why women here have 2nd and 3rd names that are always...


    The Ethiopian flag was first adopted in 1897, a year after Ethiopia had bravely defended itself from advances by Italy at the Battle of Adwa. It has always had the same 3 colours that have been adopted by other African countries upon independence that the tricolours have become known as the ‘pan-African colours’. It is a true testament to the only...


    Injera is the basic ingredient of any Ethiopian meal. It looks like a large spongy pancake and some of the sizes produced are huge. It is usually laid down in a large circular tray and sauces, meat and/or vegetables are poured right in the middle. Then you use you right hand (only) to tear pieces off the side and scoop of the wonderful food. It has...


    Every morning in Africa you are greeted by the same sight, no matter where you are. I am always in awe of folks going to collect water each morning. Many people do not have indoor plumbing, so there is a walk to the well to get water for the morning bath. Then there is probably another walk for more water for another bath. Then for food. Then for...

  • Carrying firewood

    Okay girls, if you thought you are carrying around a heavy backpack, you might rethink now…Almost everywhere food is cooked on fire, maybe charcoal, and getting the firewood for cooking is female business. Some of them, i.e. in Addis Abeba do it as a job and sell the wood. In Addis there is even a “wood carrying women’s association” for those who...


    OK. You are being shouted at in public if you are hearing this. It means ‘Foreigner’ and can come across as rude to the unaccustomed. It is almost always meant with the best possible intentions. It’s a way of saying “Hello Visitor”. The best response is to answer “Habesha!” with a smile and a wave ( pronounced: hâbeðâ). You should be met now with...


    I have to admit, I really like Tibs. This is a quick, easy and tasty dish. Small chunks of (usually) lamb or beef are marinated in a clear sauce containing butter, rosemary, qarya peppers (like jalapeños) and sometimes tomatoes. This delicious mixture is then sautéed. This makes the meat really tender. Local people will simply dump all this right...


    In every Church you go into you will find the resting sticks, usually in a great pile on the floor. This is for older people who become tired during Church services. Notice there aren’t really any pews or seats? Now you understand the importance of the resting stick!


    They look like elaborate wall safes that look more at home in a bank, but any good Church has these donation boxes outside. Sadly a few look like they have been robbed over the years, but most are in good shape. A few coins are a good donation if you have been for a visit. In a few places where they have a tour and you don’t see theses boxes – you...


    I don’t know how these guys do it all day. See the scale? Yes, it’s to tell you your weight and you pay the attendant a small amount of money for it. It’s a business and these guys can actually make a living out of this. What I don’t understand is how they put up with the noise all day. Most of these scales put off a loud alarm like noise every 30...

  • "Afar men's walking stick"

    In most parts of Ethiopia, men living in the countryside carry sticks around. In the Danakil Desert the stick is replaced by - see picture.When you plan to go further into the desert or walk around near Bilen Lodge you have to have an armed guide or scout who are perfectly peaceful and interesting company. But without one you might meet men who...


    Ethiopians believe that diseases are carried by the wind and the best way to get them is to have air coming through the windows while you are driving down the road. You will probably never ride in a vehicle that actually has air conditioning here and it gets very hot! If you have a long drive and don’t like hot cars, I suggest you look where the...


    The Ethiopian calendar is similar to the Egyptian Coptic and old Julian calendars - having 13 months in a year, and 365 days with 366 days in a leap year (every fourth year). The Ethiopian calendar is always seven years and eight months behind the Gregorian (Western) calendar. The 13 months consist of the first 12 months having 30 days each, and...


    ETHIOPIA HAS ITS OWN TIME! If you are just visiting for a short period of time, you need to specify that you mean FARANJI (foreigner) TIME or you may get some real confusion. Ethiopian time is 6 hours different from Faranji Time. So midnight or noon is 6 o’clock to local folks. It’s easy once you think about it. Just add (or subtract) 6 hours....


    Tej is a thick and tart honey wine that actually tastes pretty good. They ferment this stuff for about 1 year. Yep, a year. They make Tej in 3 varieties:• Normal• Strong• Kick your ass (so my local friends say)It can be very strong and so tart that you may only want one. It is served in something resembling a laboratory beaker. You hold the neck...


    In many Church and Monastery sites you will see long pieces of stone hanging from some rope. They are actually bells and you use just about any rock to hand to ring them. Do not do it! You may find yourself having to cook for a group of hungry Priests! They use the bell to call them to meal times. If you are a bit curious, just do not ring it...


    HELLO!You are looking at a tip I have not added content to yet. If you need information about this now, please email me and I will update it immediately. Thank you for your patience.DAO


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Ethiopia Local Customs

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