Settled agriculture began in Ethiopia some 2,000 years ago. Since time immemorial, coffee Arabica has been grown in the wild forests of the southwestern massive highlands of the Kaffa and Buno district of the country. Ethiopia is the primary centre of origin and genetic diversity of the Arabica coffee plant, earlier known as jasminum arabicum laurifolia.

The story of coffee has its beginnings in Ethiopia, the original home of the coffee plant; coffee Arabica, which still grows wild in the forest of the highlands. While nobody is sure exactly how coffee was originally discovered as a beverage, it is believed that its cultivation and use began as early as the 9th century. Some authorities claim that it was cultivated in the Yemen earlier, around AD 575. The only thing that seems certain is that it originated in Ethiopia, from where it traveled to Yemen about 600 years ago, and from Arabia it began its journey around the world.

Among the many legends that have developed concerning the origin of coffee, one of the most popular accounts is that of Kaldi, an Abyssinian goatherd, who lived around AD 850. One day he observed his goats behaving in abnormally exuberant manner, skipping, rearing on their hind legs and bleating loudly. He noticed they were eating the bright red berries that grew on the green bushes nearby.

Kaldi tried a few himself, and soon felt a novel sense of elation. He filled his pockets with the berries and ran home to announce his discovery to his wife. ‘They are heaven sent,’ she declared. ‘You must take them to the Monks in the monastery.’ Kaldi presented the chief Monk with a handful of berries and related his discovery of their miraculous effect. “Devil’s work!’’ exclaimed the monk, and hurled the berries in the fire. Within minutes the monastery filled with the heavenly aroma of roasting beans, and the other monks gathered to investigate. The beans were raked from the fire and crushed to extinguish the embers. The Monk ordered the grains to be placed in the ewer and covered with hot water to preserve their goodness. That night the monks sat up drinking the rich and fragrant brew, and from that day vowed they would drink it daily to keep them awake during their long, nocturnal devotions.

While the legends attempt to condense the discovery of coffee and its development as a beverage into one story, it is believed that the monks of Ethiopia may have chewed on the berries as a stimulant for centuries before it was brewed as a hot drink.

Another account suggests that coffee was brought to Arabia from Ethiopia, by Sudanese slaves who chewed the berries en route to help them survive the journey. There is some evidence that coffee was ground and mixed with butter, and consumed like chocolate for sustenance, a method reportedly used by the Oromo tribe of Ethiopia, which lends some credence to the story of the Sudanese slaves. The practice of mixing ground coffee beans with ghee (clarified butter) persists to this day in some parts of Kaffa and Sidamo; two of the principle coffee producing regions of Ethiopia, and in Kaffa, from which its name derives, the drink is brewed today with the addition of melted ghee which gives it a distinctive, buttery flavor.

Today Ethiopia is Africa’s major exporter of Arabica beans, the quality coffee of the world, and the variety that originated in Ethiopia, is still the only variety grown there. Coffee Arabica, which was identified by the botanist Linnaeus in 1753, is one of the two major species used in most production, and presently accounts around 70 percent of the world’s coffee.

The other major species is Coffea Canefora, or Robusta, whose production is increasing now due to better yields from Robusta trees and their hardiness against decease. Robusta coffea is mostly used in blend, but Arabica is the only coffee to be drunk on its own unblended, and this is the type grown and drunk in Ethiopia, the Arabica and Robusta trees both produce crops within 3 – 4 years after planting, and remain productive for 20 – 30 years. Arabica trees flourish ideally in a seasonal climate with a temperature range of 59 – 750 F, whereas Robusta prefers an equatorial climate.

In Ethiopia’s province of Kaffa a large proportion of the Arabica trees grow wild amidst the rolling hills and forests of the fertile and beautiful region. At an altitude of 1,500 meters the climate is ideal and the plants are well protected by the larger forest trees which provide shade from the midday sun and preserve the moisture in the soil. Traditionally, these are the ideal conditions for coffee growing.

There are two methods of processing coffee: the wet and the dry. Commercially the wet method is preferred, but the small producer who picks the cherries wild may save time by sun drying the beans after picking, and they sell them direct to customers in the local market.

Some 12 million people are dependent on Ethiopia’s coffee industry, managed by the Ethiopian Coffee Export Enterprise formerly know as the Ethiopian Coffee Marketing Corporation. An independent, profit making organization, trades on the open market and controls about 50 percent of the market following liberalization.

Coffee from Sidamo in the south has an unusual flavor and is very popular, especially the beans from the place known as Yirgacheffes. In many ways Ethiopian coffee is unique, having neither excessive pungency nor the acidity of the Kenyan brands. It is closest in character to the Mocha coffee of the Yemen, with which it supposedly shares a common origin, and it cannot be high roasted or its character is destroyed. The best Ethiopian coffee may be compared with the finest coffee in the world, and premium washed Arabica beans fetch high prices on the world market.

No visit to Ethiopia is complete without participating in the elaborate coffee ceremony that is Ethiopia’s traditional form of hospitality. Invariably conducted by a beautiful young girl in traditional Ethiopian costume, the ceremonial apparatus is arranged upon a bed of long grasses. The green beans are roasted in a pan over a charcoal brazier, the rich aroma of coffee mingling with the heady smell of incense that is always burned during the ceremony. The beans are then pounded with a pestle and mortar, and the ground coffee then brewed in a black pot with a narrow spout. Traditional accompaniments are popcorn also roasted on the fire, and the coffee is sugared to be drunk from small handless cups.

Other Natural Attraction

Yellow Throat Seed Eater . . . Wing 64 – 70 mm

The Yellow Throated Seed Eater is known from a few isolated areas in acacia grass savanna in southern and southeastern Ethiopia. It is a species of questionable taxonomic status since it may be a hybrid between the Yellow Ramped Seed Eater (S. Atrogularis) and the White bellied Canary (S. Dorostritus). It has a grey back and is similar in size to the Yellow Ramped Seed Eater but has streaks on the back and a long tail like the White Bellied Canary.

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Yellow Fronted Parrot . . . Wing 160 – 188 mm

The Yellow Fronted Parrot occurs in Ethiopia from approximately 600 to 3,350 meters (2,000 – 1 1,000 feet) in the western and southeastern highlands, the Rift Valley and the western lowlands in forests and woodlands varying from Saint John’s Wort and Hagenia to olive, Podocarpus and juniper to fig and acacia.

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White Tailed Swallow . . . Wing 100 – 105 mm

The White Tailed Swallow was first introduced to science in 1942 when C. W. Bensoii reported it in southern Ethiopia from Yabello to Mega in short grass savanna with small acacia thorn bush. This endemic, related to the Pied Winged Swallow (Hirundo Leucosoma) of western Africa and the Pearl Breasted Swallow (H. Diniidiata) of southern Africa, is common but restricted to an area of about 4850 square kilometers (3000 square miles) between 1200 and 1350 meters (4000 – 4500 feet).

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White Winged Cliff Chat . . . Wing 106 – 122 mm

The White Winged Cliff Chat is a bird which is locally frequent too common in the highlands of most of Ethiopia where it lives in gorges, on cliffs, on scrubby mountain sides and in open country among rocks and grasslands; it is uncommon in the north. The Chat occurs usually above 2000 meters (6500 feet) and rarely below 1500 meters (5000 feet). Its preferred habitat in the country varies.

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White Billed Starling . . . Wing 151 – 165 mm

The White Billed Starling is frequent to locally abundant in the western and southeastern highlands, being most common in the north. Widely distributed in the country, it usually lives in association with cliffs and gorges near waterfalls.

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White Backed Black Tit . . . Wing 71 – 81 mm

The White Backed Black Tit, wholly black with a whitish mantle, is found in woodlands, thickets and forests in the western and southeastern highlands from 1800 – 3500 meters (6000 – 11,500 feet). It is locally frequent to occasionally common except in Eritrea, where it is uncommon.

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Wattled Ibis . . . Wing 325 – 380 mm

Because of its loud, raucous “haa – haa – haa – haa” call, the Wattled Ibis is easily recognized even from some distance away. A flock of these Ibises rising or flying overhead becomes especially noisy and obvious. In flight a white patch shows on the upper surface of the ibis’ wing, and at close range it’s tolerate wattle is visible.

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Thick Billed Raven . . . Wing 427 – 472 mm

The Thick Billed Raven, closely related to the White Necked Raven (Corvus Albicollis) of East and South Africa, is a bird which is common to abundant from about 1200 to at least 4100 meters (4000 – 13,500 feet). It visits many habitats including alpine screes, cliffs and gorges, giant lobelia, Chemilla, tussock grass, giant heath moorlands, highland grasslands, giant lieath, Saint John’s wort, bamboo, juniper, Podocarpus, olive and lowland subtropical humid forests. It is especially abundant at higher elevations where it is obvious and sometimes bold around camps, villages and cities including Addis Ababa.

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Spot Breasted Plover . . . Wing 234 -240 mm

The Spot Breasted Plover is an endemic usually found above 3050 meters (10,000 feet) in marshy grasslands and moorlands with giant health, giant lobelia, Alchemilla and tussock grass in both the western and southeastern highlands.

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Ruppll’s Chat . . . Wing 85 – 94 mm

The Ruppell’s Chat is one of the poorest known of all Ethiopian endemics and uncommon to locally frequent in the western highlands of Shoa, Gojjam, Gonder, Wollo, Tigray and Eritrea regions. It has not been recorded in the southeastern highlands or in the southern portion of the western highlands.

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Rouget’s Rail . . . Wing 125 – 135 mm

The Rouget’s Rail is common on the western and southeastern highlands, but its presence is not as obvious as that of some other endemics. Once one is able to recognize the bird’s calls, one well appreciates how common this rail is.

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Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco . . . Wing 180 – 184 mm

Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco is known in the literature from two areas in southern Ethiopia in juniper forests with dense evergreen undergrowth: one is at Arero and the other 80 kilometers north of Negele: both localities are 1800 meters (6000 feet) in elevation.

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Harwood’s Francolin . . . Wing 180 – 190 mm

Harwood’s Francolin has been reported from only three localities along about 160 kilometers of valleys and gorges within the upper Blue Nile system extending to the east and north of the Addis Ababa – Debre Marcos – Dejen Bridge; this francolin is a very poorly known Ethiopian endemic.

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Golden Backed Woodpecker Wing 89 – 99 mm

The Golden Backed Woodpecker is a very uncommon, not often seen endemic of the Ethiopian highlands from about 1,500 – 2,400 meters although it has been seen up to approximately 3,200 meters (10,500 feet). It lives in western and southeastern highlands in forests, woodlands and savannas and seems to be more uncommon in the northern than in the southern parts of the country.

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Black Winged Lovebird (Agapornis taranta) Wing 95 – 110 mm

The Black Winged Lovebird is the common, small green parrot of the Ethiopian plateau. It is widely distributed from about 1,500 – 3,200meter in the western and southeastern highlands and in the Rift Valley in forests and woodlands of Hagenia, juniper, Podocarpus, olive, acacia, candelabra euphorbia, combretum and fig.

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Endemic Birds of Ethiopia

The White Billed Starling is frequent to locally abundant in the western and southeastern highlands, being most common in the north. Widely distributed in the country, it usually lives in association with cliffs and gorges near waterfalls. It also inhabits moorlands with giant lobelia, Alchemilla, tussock grass and giant heath and highland grasslands: it rarely travels below 1800 meters (6000 feet). Its square tail and white bill distinguish the White Billed Starling from other Red Wing or Chestnut Wing Starlings. It feeds on the fruits of juniper and fig trees often in groups of five to 40 non breeding birds. It nests in June in crannies high up on sheer cliffs, sometimes in association with the White Collared Pigeon.

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Abyssinian Catbird (Parophasma galinieri) Wing 83 – 91 mm

The Abyssinian Catbird is one of the finest, if not the finest singer of all the birds of Africa, is frequent too common in the western and southern highlands between 1800 and 3500 meters (600 – 11,500 feet) in giant heath, Saint John’s wort, highland bamboo, juniper, Podocarpus and olive forests.

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Banded Barbet(Lybius undatus) Wing 79 – 84 mm

The little known Banded Barbet is very widely distributed throughout Ethiopia between 300 and 2400 meters (1000 – 8000 feet). Although the numbers and abundance of this species have not been determined, it seems to vary from being uncommon in the northwest and cast to locally common elsewhere in the country, living singly or in pairs in trees near water.

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 Black Headed Forest Orole(Oriolus monacha) Wing 128 – 145 mm

The distribution, numbers, time of nesting and life history of the Black Headed Forest Oriole are not clearly understood because of the difficulty of distinguishing it from the Black Headed Oriole (Oriolus Larvatus). The two are separable by the color of parts of wings feathers, features that are not easy to see in the field.

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 Black Headed Siskin(Serinus nigriceps) Wing 74 – 80 mm

The Black Headed Siskin is common to locally abundant in tile western and southeastern highlands from 1800 – 4100 meters (6000 – 13,500 feet). Almost always in flocks, this little-known finch inhabits moorlands with giant lobelia, Alchemilla, tussock grass and giant heath, highland grasslands and the open areas of montane forests, especially St. John’s wort and Hagenia.

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Blue Winged Goose (Cyanochen cyanoptera) Wing 325 – 376 mm

The Blue Winged Goose inhabits plateau marshes, streams and damp grasslands from about 1800 meters (6000 feet) upward. Pairs or small parties of three to five of these geese are common and easily seen at high elevations in small stream valleys and in pools and marshes in the moorlands where giant lobelia, Alchemilla and tussock grass predominate and where they nest in March, April, June and September.

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Western Highlands of Ethiopia

This region is known by its green forest area, more than any other part of the country, it is the lush western highlands, all rolling hills, neat cultivation and dense mountain forest, that subvert preconception about Ethiopia being known by a land of desert and famine.

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Rift Valley Lakes in Ethiopia

Lake Abaya is a lake found in the Southern Nations Nationalities and peoples region of Ethiopia, it was named Lake Margherita by the Italian explorer Vittorio Bottego, the first European to visit the lake, to honor the wife of king Umberto I of Italy, Queen Margherita. This name appears in older publications, and currently is rarely used.

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National Parks in Ethiopia

Here we will try to mention briefly, some of the most interesting Ethiopia’s national parks, those enable the visitors to enjoy the country’s scenery and wildlife, birds and mammals some which exist only in Ethiopia conserved natural habitats and offer opportunities for travel adventure.

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Endemic Mammals of Ethiopia

Endemic to Ethiopia, Walia Ibex, formerly widespread in the northern mountain massifs, but now restricted to the Simien Mountains National Park, where it is uncommon but quite often seen by hikers.

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Walia Ibex

Endemic to Ethiopia, Walia Ibex, formerly widespread in the northern mountain massifs, but now restricted to the Simien Mountains National Park, where it is uncommon but quite often seen by hikers.

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Mountain Nyala

Ethiopia’s one fully endemic antelope species is the Mountain Nyala (Tragelaphus Buxtoni). The mountain Nyala is similar in size and shape to the Greater Kudu but it has smaller horns with only one twist as opposed to the greater Kudu’s two or three. The shaggy coat of the Mountain Nyala is brownish rather than plain grey, and the striping is indistinct. This elegant and handsome antelope live in herds of five to ten animals in juniper and hagenia forests in the southeast highland.

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Menelik’s Bushbuck

Belonging to the same family as the Mountain Nyala, the Bushbuck shares with them the family characteristic of shy and elusive behavior. Over forty races of Bushbuck have been identified, which vary considerably both from the point of view of...

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Ethiopian Wolf

This beautiful animal was once widespread over the Ethiopian plateau lands and was often observed by travelers with its fine red coat shining in the sun, making it easy to spot against the greens and browns of the grasslands. Its frightening decline in numbers is due not only to indiscriminate shooting, but also to outbreaks of rabies, which certainly decimated its numbers in the Simien area. In this part of Ethiopia it is now extremely rare, even rarer than the Walia Ibex, but it has another stronghold, in Bale, which the Walia doesn’t.

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Gelada Baboon

The striking and unmistakable most common of Ethiopia’s endemic large mammal species, with a population estimated by some to be as high as 700,000. The male Gelada is a spectacular handsome and unmistakable beast, possessed of an imposing golden mane and heart shaped red chest patch, which serve the same purpose as the colorful buttocks or testicles found on those African monkeys that don’t spend most of their lives sitting on their bums.

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Swayne’s HeartBeest

Swayne’s Hartebeest lives in open country, light bush, sometimes in tall savanna woodland. These are social animals and are normally seen in herds of 4 – 15, up to thirty. Each herd is under the leadership of the master bull which leads the females with their young. The territory is defended by the male; you may often see them grazing peacefully, with the bull on slightly higher ground acting as sentinel for his herd.

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Giant Mole Rat

Giant Mole rat (Tachyoryctes macrocephalus), also known as the giant root rat, plays a much more serious role in the ecology of the Afro alpine communities of Ethiopia. It is endemic to Ethiopia, where it is confined to high altitude shrub and grasslands in the Afro alpine habitat of the Bale Mountains (3000 – 4377 meter). Their present distribution may be only a fraction of their former range as a result of their specialization to montane habitats, which are shrinking, as well as to increased isolation between populations.

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