Ethiopia is a country rich in tradition and has a laundry list of incredible things to do in a relatively small area. It’s also growing more and more popular with travelers, as it’s a safe and affordable destination. But Ethiopia is quite different from other countries in eastern Africa. Here are 10 things to know about the culture, customs — and coffee — before you go to Ethiopia.
Clocks are set differently
Many Ethiopians measure time from when the sun rises and count time based on dawn. So when the sun rises, it can already be 12:00. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it pretty quick.
Calendars are a bit behind, too
The calendar is also different and Ethiopia is about seven years behind Western countries (and others in Africa, too). As of June 2015, it’s currently still 2007 in Ethiopia. If you look at a calendar and think you went into a time warp, don’t worry, you’re just in Ethiopia.
The coffee will probably make you jittery
Ethiopian coffee is strong — really strong. And Ethiopians tend to drink quite a bit of it at a coffee ceremony. If you’re used to drinking the brew at your office or Dunkin Donuts, be prepared for a jittery caffeine buzz after downing a few cups.
You might meet Rastafarians
While Rastafari is usually associated with Jamaica, it was the late Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie who inspired it. If you travel outside of Addis along the roads toward the Simien mountains, you’re likely to encounter a few of them (many of whom relocated from the Caribbean).
Most of the country is at a high altitude
Most of the areas where tourists go such as Ethiopia’s highlands and Addis Ababa are at high elevations. Addis is at 7,600 feet and the highlands are of course even higher. Be sure to take it easy for a few days when flying in so you don’t get shortness of breath, dizziness or nausea.
The rainy season is between June and August
African countries like Zambia and South Africa have rains between November and April, but the rain tends to fall pretty hard in Ethiopia between June and August. The northern highlands can be especially wet during this time.
It also gets cold
Although Dallol is the hottest year-round place on the planet, other areas in the country are mountainous and can get pretty chilly. Be sure to check the weather and pack a jacket.