Culture of Ethiopia

Ethiopia has a diverse mix of ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. It is a country with more than 80 different ethnic groups, each with its own language, culture, customs, traditions and lifestyles going back to the days of Axum where celebrations and festivals play an important part in daily life.

In Ethiopia, men and women have clearly defined roles. Traditionally men are responsible for providing for the family and for dealing with family contacts outside the home whereas women are responsible for domestic work and caring for the children. Although many people continue to follow these traditional roles, life is constantly evolving including the role of men and women. 

Costume - The Ethiopian traditional costume is made of woven cotton and is called gabbi or Netella. Women often wear dresses (Kemis) and netella with borders of coloured embroidered woven crosses, but other designs are also used. Other ethnic groups and tribes in the south and west of the country wear costumes that reflect their own traditions. Some tribes partially cover their body with leather but others do not wear any clothes at all, merely decorating their faces and bodies with distinctive images.

Food - The Ethiopian national dish is called wat. It is a hot spicy stew accompanied by injera (traditional large spongy pancake made of teff flour and water). Teff is unique to the country and is grown on the Ethiopian highlands. There are many varieties of wat, e.g. chicken, beef, lamb, vegetables, lentils, and ground split peas stewed with hot spice called berbere. Vegetarian meals such as lentils, ground split peas, grains, fruit, varieties of vegetable stew accompanied by injera and/or bread are only eaten during fasting days.

Drink - The favourite drink of many Ethiopians is bunna (coffee) and is drunk in a unique and traditional way known as a "coffee ceremony". First the coffee is roasted, then ground and placed in a Jebena (coffee pot) with boiling water. When ready it is then served in little cups, up to three times per ceremony.

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