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Driving Directions Ethiopia

ETHIOPIA is a landlocked, east African republic which borders on Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti, and Eritrea. Formerly known as Abyssinia, the country dominated by a high, central plateau of volcanic rock from which rise rugged mountains ascending to heights of 4,572 meters or 15,000 feet. The Great African Rift Valley divides the plateau into the higher, more rugged and extensive Western Highlands and the smaller area of the Eastern Highlands. The plateau is deeply dissected by river valleys forming towering cliffs and escarpments, especially in the northeast.

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Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile (Abay), is found in this region. To the east of the plateau lie two sun-scorched desert regions - the Danakil Depression in the northeast which descends to 116 meters or 381 feet below sea level and the Ogaden Plain in the southeast. The western and southern border regions also consist of lower-lying plains. The highest parts of the plateau experience temperate conditions with plentiful rainfall. At lower levels, there is a subtropical and a tropical zone with less rainfall and higher temperatures.

The main rainy season is from June to September. The desert regions experience high temperatures and limited rainfall. There are a great range and diversity of natural vegetation, reflecting the different climatic zones, and an equally wide variety of wildlife. However, the forests of the highlands have been extensively cleared leading to soil erosion and a decline in biodiversity.

Around 80 percent of the population is involved in subsistence farming. Teff is the main food grain and coffee is the main source of rural income. Employment outside agriculture confined to a small manufacturing sector in the capital, Addis Ababa.

There are mineral deposits of copper, iron, petroleum, platinum, and gold which have exploited. Ethiopia was involved in a costly war with breakaway Eritrea, and the effects of this civil war compounded by periods of severe drought and famine in the 1970s and 1980s. The situation remains precarious, particularly in some of the more marginal areas of the country.

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