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Driving Directions Ethiopia

ETHIOPIA is a landlocked, east African republic that borders Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti, and Eritrea. Formerly known as Abyssinia, the country is 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 Eastern Highlands’ smaller area. 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 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 highlands forests 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 is confined to a small manufacturing sector in the capital, Addis Ababa.

There are mineral deposits of copper, iron, petroleum, platinum, and gold which have been 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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Ethiopia has some of the most spectacular scenery in Africa. Much of the country is set on a high plateau, with a massive central highland complex of mountains divided by the deep Great Rift Valley and a series of lowlands along the higher elevations’ periphery (edges). The wide diversity of terrain produces regional variations in climate, natural vegetation, soil composition, and settlement patterns.

In the northwest, Simien Mountains National Park provides a habitat for such native animals as baboons, ibex, Simien fox, and birds of prey, including a large vulture species, the bearded vulture or lammergeyer.

Most of Ethiopia is seismically active. There are hot springs that bubble up from deep below the earth’s crust in Addis Ababa and elsewhere. There is potential for serious and damaging earthquakes in the area surrounding the Great Rift Valley. Ethiopia is located on the African Tectonic Plate, with the Arabian Tectonic Plate somewhat further to the north, beyond Eritrea. The Great Rift Valley extends across the country from the southwest to the northeast.

Neighboring Somalia claims the Ogaden border region in the southeast, but an exact border between the two countries has never been determined. Ethiopia is a landlocked country.

Did you know about Ethiopia?

The Blue Nile, one of the tributary streams that eventually flow into the Nile River, has its source in Ethiopia. With a total length of 6,693 kilometers (4,160 miles), the Nile is the longest river. Its main headstream rises from Lake Victoria of Tanzania and Uganda. These rivers meet in Sudan and flow into Egypt. Throughout its length in Egypt, no other tributary streams enter the Nile before it empties into the Mediterranean Sea through a large delta.

The Horn of Africa is a peninsula that juts out from the northeast of the African continent, just below the Red Sea. It separates the Gulf of Aden from the Indian Ocean. Because the two main countries on the Horn of Africa are Ethiopia and Somalia, it is sometimes called the Somali Peninsula.

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