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Cultural Routes

Ethiopia supports varied and complex cultural mosaic, with more than 80 languages and 200 dialects spoken in various parts of the country, and a similar ethnographic diversity.

  • The Great Ethiopian Route: Historic North focuses on the predominantly Christian cultures of Amhara and Tigray. Highlights include the 3,000-year-old city of Aksum, which is still inhabited today, and the 17th century castles at Gondar. The Ethiopian Orthodox culture of the north is, however, epitomised by the age-old rock-hewn churches of Lalibela and Tigray, and the white-robed worshippers who gather there for services, as they have done since time immemorial.
  • The main focal point of the Great Ethiopian Route: The East is the walled Islamic city of Harar, which is regarded to be the world’s 4th most holy place by Muslims, and is noted for its wealth of mosques and shrines. Further north, the Danakil Depression is inhabited by the pastoralist Afar, predominantly Islamic camel-herders and salt-miners who have inhabited their harsh homeland for at least 2,000 years.
  • The most culturally diverse circuit in Ethiopia, the Great Ethiopian Route: the Cultural Mosaic of the South passes through areas dominated by Islam, Orthodox Christianity, various Protestant denominations, and traditional animists. It also incorporates what is perhaps Ethiopia’s most important location for ethnographic tourism in the form of the South Omo Valley, whose astonishing mix of small, contrasting and utterly fascinating ethnic groups includes the Hamer, Gangatom, Karo, Dassench, Bodi, Mursi, Surma and Arbore. Here, visitors have the opportunity to witness a variety of authentic African tradition, including colourful ornaments, elaborate hairstyles, colourful body painting, and unique traditional performing arts.