For the majority of people, the country of Ethiopia conjures up World Vision-inspired images of famine stricken children living amidst poverty and arid, inhospitable third world conditions. While the country has certainly suffered its share of misfortune and difficulty over the years, its a shame this nation it isn’t more well known for its positive aspects: medieval castles hidden throughout the beautiful lush green highlands, amazing friendly relaxed people, incredibly unique culture (as one of the only countries in Africa never to be colonized, Ethiopia has never adopted the standard 12 month Gregorian calendar, for example), delicious food and drink (as the original birthplace of coffee) , breathtaking scenery throughout the central plateaus and a mysterious mythology that permeates the cities and towns. As the world’s second oldest Christian county, Ethiopia is a fascinating place where Arabia, Asia and Africa converge. Poets from Rimbaud to Patti Smith have long been held captive by the allure of Abyssinia - the former having spent the last ten years of his life living in Harar’s haunting ancient walled city - and while some internal infrastructure and roads may have not improved much since that time, this is a country worth seeing despite a few minor inconveniences. From the atmospheric pilgrimage site of Lalibela with its carved-into-the-rock cave churches to the spectacular Simien mountains and to the medieval castles of Gonder, Ethiopia is a unique place just waiting to be discovered. Search out volunteer opportunities if you’d like to stay awhile and help benefit the local population while promoting sustainable travel, get your yellow fever vaccinations, slap on some strong mosquito repellent and experience a country that deserves to be known beyond the stereotypes. - Julia Totino


 Full name: Federal Democratic Republic of  Ethiopia

 Population: 93.82 million (CIA, 2012)

 Capital: Addis Ababa

 Largest city: Addis Ababa

 Area: 1.10 million (424,712 sq. mi.)

 Major languages: Amharic, Orominga,  Tigrigna, English, Arabic, Several Others

 Major religions: Orthodox, Muslim,  Protestant, Other

click here  Monetary unit: Birr

 GDP per capita: US $1,100

 Internet domain: .et

 International dialling code: +251

 Source: CIA World Factbook