Ethiopia has a long, detailed, fascinating history, distinct national identity, incredible and untapped heritages, and rites that are truly exciting and mysterious by themselves. The heterogeneous and outlived cultural values and norms, mind-blowing natural attractions, the most dynamic landscapes on earth coupled with peoples’ way of life make the country a mosaic of the plethora of identities and cultures.
Not only that the country is also the place where the hottest place on earth, The Danakil Depression, is situated. The Depression also called “The Gateway to Hell” and located in the northeastern corner of Ethiopia, has the distinction of being the hottest place on earth, with recorded temperatures of 125 degrees.
Further, the lava lake in the Erta Ale Volcano is one of the only 4 living lava lakes in the world. Not only that but, the nation is also the only African country that has its own distinct alphabets, letters, and numbers and puts it in a special place in history for having Africa’s the oldest alphabets that are used even today. As sources indicate, the alphabet of Ethiopia called Ethiopic and was created around 100 BCE. This alphabet is used in several of the languages in Ethiopia and Eritrea.
The Ethiopic alphabet has close similarities with the Sabean language scripts. The script is used in Ethiopia and Eritrea to write different languages like Amharic, Tigrigna, Haderigna, Awigna, khemtigna (Waghimra Agew), Guragegna, and others. It is called the Geez alphabet because Geez is the first written language that used these alphabets until it was substituted by Amharic, studies indicate.
The alphabet has seven vowels: an (about), u (spoon), I (meat), a (car), e (say), I (kin), and o (tore). The Ethiopic alphabet consists of 26 letters, all representing consonants, which may be transformed into syllabic symbols by the attachment of the appropriate vocalic markers to the letters.
The Geez alphabet had only consonant letters. In due time, new letters were added that combine a consonant with a vowel sound. The language uses seven vowels known as አ ኡ ኢ ኣ ኤ እ ኦ. For example በ(belike Bermingham ), ቡ(bu- like a book ),ቢ(bi-like bee),ባ(ba-like bank),ቤ(bae- like ben),ብ(b’i- like a break),ቦ (bo-like bob).
The Geez language has 26 letters just like the English alphabet. However, other languages that use the script have more sounds than that are not found in Geez so linguistics added letters that would complete the other languages that use the Ethiopian script. For this reason Amharic has 34 letters, Tigregna has 35 letters, and so on, sources show.
Ethiopia is also one of the few countries in the world that still uses its own calendar and unlike most of the world, has an extra 13th months comprised of ‘leftover days’. Each month in Ethiopia is 30 days and in order to make 365 days a year, there are 5 (6 in a leap year) days that form an extra month at the end of the year known as Pagume.
In contrast, the Gregorian calendar has days that can be less or more than 30 days in a month. Some differences were the result of kings adding extra days on the months bearing their names in their honor in the Julian Calendar, such as July and August, which were named after Julius Caesar and Augustus and have 31 days each.
“Travelling to Ethiopia is like taking a trip back in time. When you first set foot in the country, you can’t help but notice that Ethiopia has a calendar which is seven to eight years behind the rest of the world,”says a piece produced and posted by Culture trip under the title ‘Why Is the Ethiopian Calendar 7 Years Behind?”
As the piece further elaborated, from the naming of the weekdays to that of the 12 months of the year, the Ethiopian calendar is greatly intertwined with biblical anecdotes. The first day of the week, for instance, called Ehud, translates as ‘the first day’ in the ancient Ge’ez language, the liturgical language of the Ethiopian church. It is meant to show that Ehud is the first day on which God started creating the heavens and the earth.
The Ethiopian Calendar’s four-year leap-year cycle is associated with the four evangelists of the Bible. The first year after an Ethiopian leap year is named the John year and is followed by the Matthew year and then the Mark year. The year with the 6th Epagomenal day is traditionally designated as the Luke year.
Pagume, the 13th month in the Ethiopian calendar, comes from the Greek word epagomene, which means ‘days forgotten when a year is calculated. This month has five days or six days in a leap year. According to the Ethiopian calendar, a year has 365 days, six hours, two minutes, and 24 seconds. Once every four years, the six hours add up to 24 hours and become the sixth day in a leap year. Once in 600 years, the two minutes and 24 seconds add up to a full day and form a seventh day, which the Ethiopians call Rena mealt and rena lelit.
As one of the few countries in the world with its own calendar system, Ethiopia celebrates important holidays on days that are different from the rest of the world. For instance, Ethiopia rings in the New Year on September 11, and not on January 1. The calendar offers foreign travelers the perfect excuse to hold two different celebrations for New Year’s and Christmas.
Modern-day Ethiopia still embraces its ancient calendar. However, travelers hardly experience any inconveniences because of the calendar difference. Most Ethiopians are aware of the Gregorian calendar and some even use both calendars interchangeably.