There are several things that make Ethiopia stand out in the enormous African continent, and make it one of the few African countries that foreigners can even name when asked on the fly. Here are 10 things that make Ethiopia extraordinary, according to a CNN report.
One of the best Italian restaurants in the world
Sitting on one of the busiest streets in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, is the Italian restaurant Castelli’s. Italian soldier Francesco Castelli opened the establishment at the end of World War II and since then, praise from celebrities like Bob Geldof, Bono, Brad and Angelina has gained the restaurant immense fame. Italian travelers will feel right at home here.
Italy scores two points on this list, first with Castelli’s and next with its coffee. After the Italians ended their World War II occupation in Ethiopia, their coffee stayed. During Mussolini’s stay, authentic espresso machines were installed in most cafes and restaurants, and are still there today. But stepping away from the Italian coffee for a moment to give credit where it’s due, the coffee plant’s incredible effects were first discovered in the Oromia region of Ethiopia.
You may have heard that well-paved roads are hard to come by in Africa, but that’s simply not true in Ethiopia. Thanks to enormous Chinese investment in Ethiopia’s infrastructure in 2009, the country can boast roads void of the bumps and even bandits they were once plagued with.
Extinct tanks, that is. These beasts can be seen along the roads in Ethiopia, defunct remnants of the Eritrean-Ethiopian war. Even though these war machines carry dark memories, they make for great photos.
Ethiopia is home to several UNESCO World Heritage sites, but one particularly intriguing site is Lalibela. At the end of the 12th century, Gebre Mesqel Lalibela built 13 churches carved out of solid rock. Today you can see these if you make the 10-hour drive from Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia is home to one of the hottest places on the planet, as well as one of the eeriest—the Danakil Depression. Covered in volcanoes and salt lakes, the unwelcoming landscape is also one of the most captivating you’ll ever see. Just don’t travel here alone; escorts familiar with the territory are highly recommended.
Some historic aspects of Ethiopia are more cultural than physical, like this men-only monastery, Debre Damo. A 15-meter-high climb will get you there, but the fairer sex of any species (even female dogs can’t enter the front door) won’t be let in. The policy was instituted because apparently women distract monks from holy contemplation. Those who can enter will find some of the most ancient Christian scriptures in Africa, as well as beautiful views.
The Ark of the Covenant
This will probably go against all your beliefs about the biblical lost ark, but some people insist that the historic town of Aksum is the real resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. The reason it can’t be confirmed is because it can’t be seen! The closest glimpse you can get will cost you a few dollars to one of the temple guards, but that’s not close enough to confirm rumors.
Most people think of Jamaica when discussing the Rastafari movement, but it was actually Ethiopian Haile Selassie who inspired the religion. The former ruler is rumored to have been Jesus incarnate and many Ethiopians have taken to the wardrobe and lifestyle choices of Jamaican Rastafarians. Don’t be surprised to find groups of Rastafarians roadside in Ethiopia, happy to give you travel tips and sell you red, green and yellow clothing items.
A fairy tale kingdom
Ethiopia is the only African country with castles truly worthy of a fairy tale. The former imperial capital of Gondar is home to the castles of Fasilides, Iyasu and Mentwab, all eye catching in their own right.