Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world. This makes most people think that it is the worst place one could choose to live in. The images that come to many people are not really of people in frivolous joy and jamboree. Au contraire, it wouldn’t be too bold a statement if one said that most people would think that all Ethiopians want to be anywhere but in Ethiopia.
Most Ethiopians in other countries are amazed when they are in conversations about their homelands. They are even expected to denounce the life and people they left behind. If there is one thing that all Ethiopians agree on it is that Ethiopia is a land to be cherished and loved. Even in its darkest hours Ethiopians have kept hope burning next to the longing and desire to be back. In every country that an Ethiopian has gone, there’s always an exclusive society where he or she meets to just listen to the language spoken. They somehow manage to find the one place in hundreds of kilometers where ‘injera’ (traditional Ethiopian bread) is sold. With the choice of hundreds of beers they still prefer a cold St. George.
Why do we love our country so? No matter how long a paper is, or how long it might take to complete, it cannot even start to say what an Ethiopian feels when he or she thinks of his motherland. It’s the fierce pride one sees on the face of an Ethiopian. It’s the automatic skip of the heartbeat all Ethiopians experience whenever there’s a Green-Gold-Red banner flying. It’s that instinctive looking and knowing an Ethiopian from a distance of 50 meters in a crowded park. It’s those and a million other things that add up to define Ethiopians. Here’s a list of some of the tip of the tip of the iceberg:
- Women: beautiful. All that needs to be said. They are head turners from the jungles in the west to the boardwalks of the fashion centers in the world.
- Men: proud, down to earth and humble. But not when they go to war.
- Weather: Ethiopia is blessed with a year round weather that can meet anyone’s wish. From the cold in Addis Ababa to the dry heat of Afar to the sweltering humidity of Gambella.
- History: Three thousand years of documented history. Ethiopia has existed since 980 BC. And this blog can never even start to tell the glories of the country.
- Tolerance: There are more than 80 nations and nationalities living within the border. Compared to what has happened in some countries there hasn’t been any major problem. Minor skirmishes are fueled and aired as big wars by people trying to take advantage of it. Ethiopians might joke about one’s creed, (the Gurage being money minded, the Oromo a pastoralist in love with his stock, the Amhara too proud even when his luck has turned for the worse, the Tigrayan technical minded person obsessed with trucks and garages etc.) but bottom line is all laugh and move on.
- Culture and Heritage: the culture is as diverse as each nationality within the borders. Ethiopia holds the record for having the most UNESCO World Heritage sites. Not many people know or want to believe that.
- Religion: same applies to religion. Ethiopia is a country where Christians and Muslims live together peacefully. It’s no big deal if there is intermarriage. In fact it’s very common in some parts of the north. Another thing is that Ethiopians are a God-fearing people. Common greetings go like “Endmin aderachi’hu?” (Good morning [pl.]) the answer: “Egziabher yimesgen!” (Thanks to the God.)
- Hope: this can be mentioned with the point above; Ethiopians tend to think that whatever happens does so for a reason. Even a beggar lying in the street will answer “Egziabher yimesgen!” to morning salutations. If patience is a virtue – Ethiopians are saints with no wings.
- Compassion: Although this is slowly being eroded as modernization takes over, it’s still very much alive. People involve each other in their daily lives. The sick are taken care of communally when there is no hospital in the whole region, no man is turned away if he comes knocking at the door asking for help. A real life story is when this author’s neighbor’s house caught fire. It took the fire brigade twenty minutes to reach the place, but the whole neighborhood had put the fire out in under 20 minutes. The firemen just checked that there weren’t any forgotten spots.
- Family and community: The one thing and Ethiopian parents are guaranteed is respect from their offsprings. That is all changed when the families have to migrate. In countries where children’s right borders on spoiling them rotten Ethiopian parents nearly have nervous breakdowns. A mere spanking could result in a showdown with the law, especially if the four year old is 911-savvy. This leads to mistrust, confusion and a breakdown of the traditional Ethiopian family. A rift is created between the traditional elders and the modern youngsters. And that is sad especially when the people come from a country where a mother is almost revered. If an Ethiopian swears ‘Enate timut!’ (May my mother die!), then there is a 98% chance that he or she is telling the truth, the 2% are more likely to be orphans.
- Coffee: Ethiopians love coffee. It’s the ceremony, the women preparing it, the way they do it that adds to the aromatic organic flavor. And coffee came from Ethiopia.
- Food: Q - “Have you ever tasted Ethiopian food?” A – “Neither have they!” goes a joke which just shows how uninformed the world is about traditional Ethiopian food. The best dish is the ‘Doro Wot’ (Chicken Stew). It takes hours to prepare once done, it’s just plain heavenly. And anyone who makes fun of Ethiopian food truly ignorant. Whether kitfo, ye beg wot, tibs, zilzil tibs, shiro, kocho and ayb or any of the hundreds of dishes available from all parts of the country they just leave the taste buds tingling.
We may appear as a miserable, mangy and dusty lot. But it’s these and more that have made the world cast an evil eye towards Ethiopia for centuries. And it’s these and more secrets that Ethiopians have died for not to give up.