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"The migration of the well-versed and faithful followers of Christ from countries of the Middle East into Ethiopia occured at that critical period when doctrinal schism was prevalent within the Ecumenical Church. Because these pious men were divinely called to make their refugee in Ethiopia with their theological knowledge of the primative and pure apostlic teachings, their advent into Ethiopia was a blessing for Ethiopians and a milestone in the Consolidation of Ethiopianism." -- Ermias Kebede Wolde-Yesus, Nibure Id, "Ethiopia: The Classic Case: A Biblical Nation under God"

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... That night the King dreamt that a brilliant light, the divine presence, had left Israel. Shortly afterwards the Queen departed and returned to her country and there, nine months and five days later, she gave birth to a son - Menelik, the founder of Ethiopia's Solomonic dynasty...

... when the boy had grown, he went to visit his father who received him with great honour and splendour. After spending a year at court in Jerusalem, however, the prince determined to return once more to Ethiopia. When he was informed of this, Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and commanded them to send their first born sons with Menelik. Before the young men departed, however, they stole the Ark of the Covenant and took it with them to Ethiopia - which then, according to the Kebra Nagast, became "the second Zion".


"Today man sees all his hopes and aspirations crumble before him. He is perplexed and knows not whither he is drifting. But he must realize that the solution of his present difficulties and guidance for his future action is the Bible. Unless he accepts with clear conscience the Bible and its great message, he cannot hope for salvation. For myself, I glory in the Bible." Sellassie I
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1991 : Growing civil unrest and a unified force of Ethiopian people, led by the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) against their communist dictators finally led to the demise of the Mengistu regime in 1991. Between 1991 and 1995, the transitional government of Ethiopia, a coalition of 27 political and liberation organizations, embarked on its path to transform Ethiopia from a centralized, military-controlled country to a free and democratic federation.


AXUM : The country's rich history is woven with legends of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba; the Ark of the Covenant that is said to rest in Axum; the great Axumite kingdom and the birth of Christianity; the rise of Islam; and the story of King Lalibela, who is believed to have constructed eleven rock-hewn churches, still standing today and considered the eighth wonder of the world. By the beginning of the 1st century AD Aksum, from which the kingdom of Ethiopia was to emerge, was a powerful trading state. Its kings caused tall, flat- side monoliths (stelae) to be raised, some over 30 meters high. Originally there were more than a hundred at Aksum. Now only one remains standing. its navies sailing across the sea to Egypt, India, Celyon and China.


Ethiopia * HISTORY : Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa and one of the oldest in the world. Herodotus, the Greek historian of the fifth century B.C. describes ancient Ethiopia in his writings. The Old Testament of the Bible records the Queen of Sheba's visit to Jerusalem. According to legend, Menelik I, the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, founded the Ethiopian Empire. Missionaries from Egypt and Syria introduced Christianity in the fourth century A.D. Following the rise of Islam in the seventh century, Ethiopia was gradually cut off from European Christendom. The Portuguese established contact with Ethiopia in 1493, primarily to strengthen their hegemony over the Indian Ocean and to convert Ethiopia to Roman Catholicism. There followed a century of conflict between pro- and anti-Catholic factions, resulting in the expulsion of all foreign missionaries in the 1630s. This period of bitter religious conflict contributed to hostility toward foreign Christians and Europeans, which persisted into the 20th century and was a factor in Ethiopia's isolation until the mid-19th century.
Under the Emperors Theodore II (1855-68), Johannes IV (1872-89), and Menelik II (1889-1913), the kingdom began to emerge from its medieval isolation. When Menelik II died, his grandson, Lij Iyassu, succeeded to the throne but soon lost support because of his Muslim ties. He was deposed in 1916 by the Christian nobility, and Menelik's daughter, Zewditu, was made empress. Her cousin, Ras Tafari Makonnen (1892-1975), was made regent and successor to the throne.
In 1930, after the empress died, the regent, adopting the throne name Haile Selassie, was crowned emperor. His reign was interrupted in 1936 when Italian Fascist forces invaded and occupied Ethiopia. The emperor was forced into exile in England despite his plea to the League of Nations for intervention. Five years later, the Italians were defeated by British and Ethiopian forces, and the emperor returned to the throne.
After a period of civil unrest which began in February 1974, the aging Haile Selassie I was deposed on September 12, 1974, and a provisional administrative council of soldiers, known as the Derg ("committee") seized power from the emperor and installed a government which was socialist in name and military in style. The Derg summarily executed 59 members of the royal family and ministers and generals of the emperor's government; Emperor Haile Selassie was strangled in the basement of his palace on August 22, 1975.
Lt. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam assumed power as head of state and Derg chairman, after having his two predecessors killed. Mengistu's years in office were marked by a totalitarian-style government and the country's massive militarization, financed by the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, and assisted by Cuba. From 1977 through early 1978 thousands of suspected enemies of the Derg were tortured and/or killed in a purge called the "red terror." Communism was officially adopted during the late 1970s and early 1980s with the promulgation of a Soviet-style constitution, Politburo, and the creation of the Workers' Party of Ethiopia (WPE).
In December 1976, an Ethiopian delegation in Moscow signed a military assistance agreement with the Soviet Union. The following April, Ethiopia abrogated its military assistance agreement with the United States and expelled the American military missions. In July 1977, sensing the disarray in Ethiopia, Somalia attacked across the Ogaden Desert in pursuit of its irredentist claims to the ethnic Somali areas of Ethiopia. Ethiopian forces were driven back far inside their own frontiers but, with the assistance of a massive Soviet airlift of arms and Cuban combat forces, they stemmed the attack. The major Somali regular units were forced out of the Ogaden in March 1978. Twenty years later, the Somali region of Ethiopia remains under-developed and insecure.
The Derg's collapse was hastened by droughts and famine, as well as by insurrections, particularly in the northern regions of Tigray and Eritrea. In 1989, the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) merged with other ethnically based opposition movements to form the Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). In May 1991, EPRDF forces advanced on Addis Ababa. Mengistu fled the country and was granted asylum in Zimbabwe, where he still resides.
In July 1991, the EPRDF, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), and others established the Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE) which was comprised of an 87-member Council of Representatives and guided by a national charter that functioned as a transitional constitution. In June 1992 the OLF withdrew from the government; in March 1993, members of the Southern Ethiopia Peoples' Democratic Coalition left the government.
In May 1991, the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF), led by Isaias Afwerki, assumed control of Eritrea and established a provisional government. This provisional government independently administered Eritrea until April 23-25, 1993, when Eritreans voted overwhelmingly for independence in a UN-monitored free and fair referendum. Eritrea was declared independent on April 27, and the U.S. recognized Eritrean independence on April 28.
In Ethiopia, President Meles Zenawi and members of the TGE pledged to oversee the formation of a multi-party democracy. The election for a 547-member constituent assembly was held in June 1994, and this assembly adopted the constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in December 1994. The elections for Ethiopia's first popularly chosen national parliament and regional legislatures were held in May and June 1995. Most opposition parties chose to boycott these elections, ensuring a landslide victory for the EPRDF. International and non-governmental observers concluded that opposition parties would have been able to participate had they chosen to do so.
The Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia was installed in August 1995. The EPRDF-led government of Prime Minister Meles has promoted a policy of ethnic federalism, devolving significant powers to regional, ethnically based authorities. Ethiopia today has 10 semi-autonomous administrative regions which have the power to raise and spend their own revenues. Under the present government, Ethiopians enjoy greater political participation and freer debate than ever before in their history, although some fundamental freedoms, including freedom of the press, are in practice somewhat circumscribed.

[source: U.S. State Department Background Notes 1998]


Alecha: Stew, either chicken or beef, but not hot and spicy stew

Berbere: Thick, red paste composed of paprika, salt, ginger, onion, garlic, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, pepper, coriander, and fenugreek blended by water and oil.

Doro Wat: Chicken stew

Fenugreek: Little brown seeds that are ground into tan powder for spice seasoning

Injera: Thin, spongy pancake-like flatbread made from teff flour used to scoop up and wrap food in place of utensils

Niter Kebbeh: Spicy butter made from sauteeing onion, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom, clove, and nutmeg in butter

Shiro Wat: Vegetable stew popular during religious fastings

Sik Sik Wat: Beef stew

Teff: Ancient grain of Ethiopia available in whole-grain form as well as ground (teff flour) in health food stores

Wat: Essentially means stew — typically made from base of berbere paste so it is hot and dense with spices.

HORN of AFRICA : The first written records pertaining to the Horn of Africa date back approximately four thousand five hundred years. We owe these early historical commentaries to two of the very first centres of human civilization, Persia and Egypt - for both of which the Horn seems to have served as an emporium of much-prized tropical products. Egyptian hieroglyphic records indicate that the Pharaohs obtained frankincense and myrrh from Ethiopia, and from the Somali coast, as far back as 2700 Re. Trade with India was likewise of great antiquity - the Horn has supplied the subcontinent with vast quantities of ivory since time immemorial.


ISLAM : The Ethiopians themselves, however, were very much on the defensive. Despite the Prophet Mohammed's seventh-century injunction to his followers to "leave the Abyssinians in peace", Muslim invaders did subsequently attack and occupy much of the Horn's northern coastal zone. In so doing they rolled back the frontiers of what had once the most important secular power between the Roman Empire and Persia - a power that, in days gone by, had sent.


LALIBELA ["Lalibela" - meaning, literally, "the bees recognize his sovereignty"]: Towering edifices, the Lalibela churches were not built at all in the conventional sense. Instead they were hewn directly out of the solid red volcanic rock on which they stand. Close examination is required before the full extent of this achievement can be appreciated: some of the churches lie almost completely concealed within deep trenches, while others hide in the open mouths of quarried caves. Connecting them all is a complicated network of tunnels and narrow passageways with offset crypts, grottos and galleries - a cool, lichen-enshrouded, subterranean world, shaded and damp, silent but for the faint echoes of distant footfalls as priests and deacons go about their timeless business. [ Churches in Rock ]


"Lucy" : It is in the Afar region of Ethiopia where scientists discovered the remains of "Lucy" or Dinkenesh, meaning "thou art wonderful," as she is known to the Ethiopians. "Lucy" lived more than three million years ago, and her bones now rest in the Ethiopian National Museum. Lucy was a female hominoid that lived in what is now called the Awash Valley in Hadar some 3.2 million years ago. When her skeletons were discovered in 1974, Ethiopia then claimed that it was the first dwelling of mankind. But recent finds in Kenya, such as the discovery of Kenyanthropus platyops in 1998, have come to challenge Lucy as to who really is the direct ancestor of humankind. But what this discovery does more than anything is add to the confusion about the human evolutionary tree. This recent discovery in Kenya is among a series of fossil finds over the past two decades that have doubled the number of recognized human-like species.
Lucy’s scientific name is Australopithecus afarensis. The first word means “Southern Ape” and the second word signifies she was discovered in the Afar region. Ethiopians refer to her as “Dinqnesh.” She is also classified in Hadar as AL 288-1. When she was discovered, only a little over half of her skeletons were found, however. She probably did not live more than 20 years and weighed around 60 pounds and stood three and a half feet. Lucy is kept fully preserved at the national Museum in Addis Abeba, an exact plaster replica is also displayed next to her. (Pankhurst 1-2)
But why was she called Lucy? Donald Johanson, the anthropologist from Chicago University who discovered her, tells us why: "Surely such a noble little fossil lady deserved a name. As we [his expedition crew] sat around one evening listening to Beatles' songs, someone said, ‘Why don't we call her Lucy? You know, after “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. “’ So she became Lucy.”


MENELIK : In recent history, between 1889 and 1913, Emperor Menelik II reigned, fending off the encroachments of European powers. Italy posted the greatest threat, having begun to colonize part of what would become its future colony of Eritrea in the mid 1880s. In 1896, Ethiopia defeated Italy at the Battle of Adwa, which was considered the first victory of an African nation over a European colonial power.


ORTHODOXY : The notion that the Ark of the Covenant was removed from Jerusalem to Axum is central to the reverence accorded to the tabots, the Tablets of the Law, in Abyssinian Christian practices. The belief system of which the tabots are a part is, however, an unusual one. No other Christian Church gives such importance to what is, by definition, a pre-Christian - indeed a Judaic - tradition. Furthermore, the Christian faith did not itself reach Ethiopia until the fourth century AD - some one thousand three hundred years after Solomon's rule in Israel. The only satisfactory explanation for the unique position given to the Ark and to the tabots, therefore, is this: in Old Testament times, there must have been a period when there were very close cultural and religious links between Abyssinia and the Holy Land.
The story of the conversion, which has its roots in the reign of Ezana's father, King Ella Amida, is preserved in the writings of the fourth-century Byzantine theologian Rufinius. He records that a certain Meropius, a Christian merchant, or - as he calls him - a "philosopher of Tyre", once made a voyage to India, taking with him two Syrian boys whom he was educating in "humane studies". The elder was called Frumentius and the younger Aedesius. On their return journey through the Red Sea, the ship was seized off the African coast, apparently as a reprisal against the Eastern Roman Empire which had broken a treaty with the people of the area.
Meropius was killed in the fighting. The boys, however, survived and were taken to the Axumite King, Ella Amida, who promptly made Aedesius his cupbearer and Frumentius, the more sagacious and prudent of the two, his treasurer and secretary. Rufinius states that the two boys were held in great honour and affection by the King who, however, died shortly afterwards leaving his widow and an infant son, Ezana, as his heir. Before his death, Ella Amida had given the two Syrians their freedom but the Queen begged them, with tears in her eyes, to stay with her until her son came of age. She asked in particular for the help of Frumentius - for Aedesius, though loyal and honest at heart was simple.
During the years that followed, the influence of Frumentius in the Axumite kingdom grew. He is said to have sought out such foreign traders who were Christians and urged them "to establish conventicles in various places to which they might resort for prayer". He also provided them with "whatever was needed, supplying sites for buildings and in every way promoting the growth of the seed of Christianity in the country".
At around the time that Ezana finally ascended the throne, Aedesius returned to Tyre. Frumentius for his part journeyed to Alexandria, then a great centre of Christianity, where he informed Patriarch Athanasius of the work so far accomplished for the faith in Ethiopia. The young man begged the ecclesiastical leader "to look for some worthy man to send as bishop over the many Christians already congregated". Athanasius, having carefully weighed and considered the words of Frumentius, declared in a council of priests: "What other man shall we find in whom the spirit of God is as in thee who can accomplish these things?" He therefore "consecrated him and bade him return in the Grace of God whence he came".
Frumentius accordingly returned to Axum as Ethiopia's first Christian bishop and there he continued his missionary endeavours - which were rewarded, eventually, by the conversion of the King himself. Afterwards, the new faith spread rapidly and the next two hundred years - during which Christianity established itself firmly as the State religion of Ethiopia - are regarded as a golden age. Towards the end of the sixth century AD, however, the port of Adulis was sacked. Barely one hundred years afterwards, Muslim invaders from Arabia seized and occupied much of the coastal zone. Deprived of its access to the sea, Axum then slumped with terrible rapidity into cultural and military stagnation - the beginnings of the millennial sleep that Gibbon was to describe.


Ras is the highest noble rank, sometimes borne by minor princes of the Solomonic blood. One had to be elevated to the the rank of negus by Imperial decree, but ras was usually hereditary. (The word's origin is Indo European, hence the Indians' raj, the Egyptians' ra, the Romans' rex.)

Bitwoded (abbreviated Bit.). Literally "beloved" by the king, the highest non-royal title ranks after ras in precedence.

Dejazmach (abbreviated Dej.) is a high title which follows bitwoded in precedence. It originally referred to a "gate keeper." In more recent times, it was also a military title.

Fitawrari (abbreviated Fit.) is a noble title and was formerly a military one, meaning "leader of the vanguard." This title ranked after dejazmach.

Gerazmach (abbreviated Geraz.) ranked after fitawrari and is translated literally "military commander of the left." This is one of the lower aristocratic titles but also one of the older ones.

Kenyazmach (abbreviated Kenyaz.) is equivalent in rank to gerazmach, to which it may be considered complementary. It means "military commander of the right."

Balambaras is a lower title of nobility of ancient origin, literally "castellan" or commander of a fortress. Similar in some respects to dejazmach but considered a lesser title.

Ato. Traditionally 'sir' for a gentleman. Now "Mister."

Woizero (abbreviated Woiz.) Traditionally an aristocratic lady, now Mrs.

Lij. Literally "child," this is a title reserved to the children of the titled nobility.

Titled nobles collectively were the makwanent.


Saba : The legend of Solomon and Sheba is one of great mythopoeic power that has infiltrated numerous cultures outside Ethiopia. The earliest known version is preserved in two books of the Old Testament. Here we are told that the Queen of Sheba, lured by Solomon's fame, journeyed to Jerusalem with a great caravan of costly presents and there "communed with him of all that was in her heart". King Solomon, for his part, "gave to the Queen of Sheba all her desire ... So she turned and went to her own land, she and her servants." The Talmud also contains oblique references to the story, as does the New Testament (where Sheba is referred to as "the Queen of the South"). There is, in addition, a fairly detailed account in the Koran, echoed in several Arabic and Persian folk tales of later date (in which she is known as Bilqis). Further afield, in southern Africa, the enigmatic stone ruins of Great Zimbabwe are said by the local Mashona people to have been the palace of the Queen of Sheba, and tribal elders still repeat their own fully evolved version of the legend. Of all these different narratives, however, it is the Ethiopian variant (where Sheba's name becomes Makeda) that is the richest and the most convincing - despite the fact that it does not seem to have been set down in writing until medieval times when it appeared in the Kebra Nagast (Glory of Kings), the Ethiopian national saga.



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