Diversity of Cultures
Ethiopia’s population has grown from 33.5 million in 1983 to 93.8 million in 2013. The country’s population is highly diverse, containing over 80 different ethnic groups. According to the Ethiopian national census of 2007, the Oromo are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, at 34.4% of the nation’s population. The Amhara represent 27.0% of the country’s inhabitants, while the Somali and Tigray represent 6.22% and 6.08% of the population, respectively. Other prominent ethnic groups are as follows: Sidama 4.00%, Gurage 2.52%, Welayta 2.27%, Afar 1.73%, Hadiya 1.72%, Gamo 1.49% and others 12.6%.
Afro-Asiatic communities make up the majority of the population. Among these, Semitic speakers often collectively refer to themselves as Habesha or Abesha. The Arabic form of this term (Al-Habasha) is the etymological basis of “Abyssinia,” the former name of Ethiopia in English and other European languages. Additionally, Nilo-Saharan-speaking Nilotic ethnic minorities inhabit the southern regions of the country; particularly in areas of the Gambela Region which borders South Sudan. The largest ethnic groups among these include the Nuer and Anuak.
Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa (after Nigeria.) The vast majority of Ethiopians live in rural areas or small towns; Addis Ababa is the only true major city which is remarkable given the population. Even with this wide diversity, the Ethiopians show a degree of tolerance and acceptance towards other cultures that much of the world would do well to emulate.
While the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Islam are dominant, traditional religions and evangelical Christians make up significant minorities. It is not uncommon to hear the Islamic call to prayer emanating from a mosque’s minaret and then an hour later hear the prayers from a Christian Church on the same street. There is also a strong Judaic influence throughout the country although nearly all of the country’s Jews have emigrated to Israel. Ethiopians from all walks of life are extremely hospitable and welcoming and although you may receive additional attention as a foreigner, this is almost always due to a genuine curiosity about you and your homeland.