The Land of Our First Grandparents

Science traces the first man to unicellular Amoeba that evolved 800 million years ago. Christianity says that Adam is the first human. Hinduism has two concepts for the origin of man as explained in Rig Veda – Hiranyagarbha and Purusha concepts,. In whichever of these or other concepts of man’s origin that you believe in, there is some kind of unanimity among anthropologists, based on the paleontological evidences, that the first human had started to roam around in Africa and that it was in the modern-day Ethiopia.

Scientists found that our first foreparent was a woman and gave her the name: Lucy. She was discovered by the French paleontologist, Donal Johnson, at Hardar in the Awash valley region in Ethiopia in 1974. She was reconstructed from hundreds of fossilized bones that formed 40% skeleton of a female belonging to hominin species: Australopithecus afarensis. Google says,” Hominin – the group consisting of modern humans, extinct human species and all our immediate ancestors, including members of the genera Homo, Australopithecus, Paranthropus and Ardipithecus.” Lucy is 3.20 million years old. So it is believed that humans emerged first in Ethiopia, then, spread across the globe.

Lucy as reconstructed, then portrayed, accordingly.

So, is it because of Lucy and her relatives that the Colonists decided to leave Ethiopia from occupation? Ethiopia is the only country out of the 54 countries in Africa that was never colonized by the Europeans or any other country, except for a small period of 4 years during the Second World War when it was put under the protectorate of Italy — this was not colonization. Ethiopia has its own calendar which is 2013 years old. I was in the capital, Addis Ababa, in 2007 when Ethiopia was celebrating the completion of its second millennium. For more than 3000 years, Ethiopia was ruled by various kingdoms till 1975 when the Communists overthrew the king and took over the reins. In 1991, Ethiopia saw a people’s revolt against the brutal communist rule, with the Communists losing power. It led to the establishment of democracy in Ethiopia.

Physically, the Ethiopians look closer to South Asians and less African. Most women have long, uncurled hairs. Many men also have uncurled hairs. Their facial features like long and sharp nose, eyebrows, general complexion etc. resemble to those of South Asians. I described these features only to show how the Ethiopians have physical features that show linkages to other ethnic groups.

It is an English speaking country. People are friendly and helpful. I found Addis Ababa as a safe city and never had any problem. It is safe to venture out at night. 

Some of the Ethiopian foods are also similar to the Indian food — spicy. Chicken and beef curries are similar to the Indian make. Injera, Ethiopian flatbread, looks like Dosa. Unlike other sub-Saharan countries, Ethiopian food has a stream of local items in its kitty; some of the popular dishes are Doro Wot — Chicken Dish;Wot –Ethiopia’s version of curry;Beyainatu — vegetarian dish;and Shiro – vegetarian dish.

Injera

Wot

Beyainatu

Shiro

Ethiopia is predominantly a Christian country, and Christianity was introduced to the country in 4th century. Normally, during Lent, the Christians practice Abstinence; they follow a strictly vegetarian diet though people feast on Easter. Ethiopian Christians also fast during Lent, and the above vegetable dishes are the ones they consume during such abstinence, renouncing meats temporarily. There are also Indian, Italian and other European restaurants in Addis Ababa.

Medhane Alem Cathedral, Addis Ababa

Have you ever wondered how come a poor country like Ethiopia produces Olympic gold medal winners in long-distance running? The answer lies in its altitude. Ethiopia is located at 4132 to 9843 ft above the Mean Sea Level. So atmospheric pressure in Ethiopia is lower than the standard atmospheric pressure, with central Ethiopia clocking 15% less. It is difficult to do strenuous exercise at such high altitude because as atmospheric pressure is low, air is thinner, so it is a challenge for our body to extract oxygen from air into our blood stream. Ethiopian athletes train in these arduous conditions;they have higher stamina as a result and find it easier to run faster for longer distances at the standard atmospheric pressure. Hotels in Ethiopia have notice boards warning tourists to not engage in strenuous exercises as it can lead to death. Such unfortunate deaths happened to a few tourists while playing basketball, I was told by a hotel staff.

There was a time when people used to mention Ethiopia while talking about hunger and starvation-deaths. A deadly famine impacted Ethiopia during 1983 to 1985, killing around 1.20 million people and internally displacing more than 2.50 million people. Ethiopia walked past that past! Today, it is doing better than many of its sub-Saharan counterparts. My last visit to Addis Ababa was in 2018 and could see a lot of progress in the city. 

Ethiopia is fast emerging as the next big destination for sourcing garments. Many Indian, Turkish, Chinese and Bangladeshi companies had set up  production bases in Ethiopia, a country with 114 million population that offers cheaper labor compared to India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Besides, Ethiopia is also a producer of cotton, with 2,697,640 million hectares of land suitable for growing cotton. Many clothing giants like H&M source from Ethiopia. Ethiopia is a land-locked county and uses the seaport of the neighboring country, Djibouti. 

With a GDP growth of 7.4% in 2019, Ethiopia is marching ahead to progress. I look forward to see a more progressed Ethiopia during my next visit.

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