CULTURE & RELIGION
Ethiopian culture is very multi-faced, reflecting the ethnic diversity of the country;
RELIGION IN ETHIOPIA
Religion is a secure and accepted element of everyday life in Ethiopia and the language is full of references to God. Yet there is not the ever-present feel that one can experience in a totally Muslim country for example.
On the central plateau, the Ethiopian Orthodox church holds sway, again an individual and fascinating feature of this unusual country. Priests and deacons abound in their often-colourful robes, carrying their staffs and ornate crosses that people frequently kiss as they pass.
Christianity came to Ethiopia in ancient times and became the official Ethiopian religion in the 4th century. The Orthodox church has many connections with ancient Judaism. Fasting and detailed food restrictions, the specific ways of slaughtering animals, circumcision and the layout of the churches, all these things make for a very particular religious culture.
Islam is also very strong in many parts of Ethiopia, frequently existing peaceably alongside Christianity. The city of Harar, in the east of the country, is officially the fourth most holy Muslim site in the world.
The official language of Ethiopia is Amharic, a Semitic language which is spoken by about 27 million people. Amharic is written with the Ge'ez script, which derives its name from the ancient Semitic Ge'ez language. Ge'ez is largely extinct as a productive language but is still in liturgical use by the Beta Israel Jewish community and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. The second largest language in Ethiopia is the Oromo language, a Cushitic language spoken by about 30% of the population. The third largest language in Ethiopia is the Tigrinya language, related to Amharic but mostly spoken in northern Ethiopia in the state of Tigray. Additionally, most villagers are accustomed to their ethnical languages over the official Amharic language.