Apart from 4-years under Italian occupation during world war 2, Ethiopians were NEVER colonized. So they have their own way of doing things --- Here are 10 things that makes Ethiopia special for me:
1.) They run on their own time. They start counting at 6am each day, so 7am would be one o'clock, 8 am be two o'clock and so forth… In this manner, buses always leave at 12 o'clock and you can eat lunch around 6 o'clock. Get it?
2.) While you may have just celebrated Happy New Year 2005, Ethiopians are struggling through the fifth month of 1997. The Ethiopian calendar, which follows the orthodox Christian church, starts counting 8 years after our AD. Ethiopian calendar also has 13 months. The extra month, which is called Pugmey has 5-6 days and is inserted between what we know as August and September. The Ethiopians celebrate their NEW YEAR on September 11.
3.) When you see an Ethiopian suck in a deep breathe, that means YES. Or in local language amharic -- OW! The same when they throw their head back and suck in the breathe, which can be confusing as the same gesture can mean No in the Middle East.
4.) The Ethiopians eat injera twice a day everyday, maybe more with curry meat or stew -- this is made from a wheat called teff and is ONLY grown and available here. Injera is a spongy, thin and grey steamed dough which is often the size of a BIG round plate. (The closest relative I can think of is India's Dosai.) Wednesdays and Fridays are called fasting days and in towns where there are mostly Christians, only fasting food will be served. Strings of vegetables and INJERA or maybe spaghetti with tomato and onion sauce.
5.) They seem to be obsessive about weight. In some towns like Gonder and Bahir Dar, you can find a weighing machine every few hundred meters, manned by a beggar who will let you check yourself for a quarter. I suspect the weighing machines, so many of them ubiquitous, are left-over from medical aid services provided during the last famine.
6.). Ethiopians drink coffee as a community event , 3-5 times a day. They take fresh beans out, roast them, pound them and serve the coffee in small cups, supplemented by popcorn or fried barley seats. Sometimes foreigners are invited to share in this ceremony. Ethiopian main foreign exchange earner is coffee, which originally comes from southwest Ethiopia area called kaffa. It is their GIFT to the world. Tea however is also widely drunk.
7.) The Ethiopian national language is Amharic, which when sung in songs sounds a lot like Japanese with a lot of ta, na and neh. The strange thing is in school, children stop learning in Amharic and convert to English after secondary 3. The university is conducted entirely in English.
8.) Everyone knows an Ethiopian face. If you watch American movies, among the more common look-alikes you may spot in Ethiopia are Laurence Fishbone (Matrix), Morgan Freeman, Oscar actress Harry Berry, Janet Jackson, and even dead rapper Tupac Shakur (although I think he looks more Sudanese!) From the paintings in some ancient churches, even Jesus and the angels are BLACK.
9.) The third or fourth most holiest Muslim city in the world is in East Ethiopia in Harrar, where Mohammed's family once took cover from the marauding Arabs. There are many Muslims in Ethiopia.
10.) Avocado and mango juice -- this highly-addictive and affordable concoction, I have not been able to find anywhere else in the world.