Happy Enkutatash (that’s እንቁጣጣሽ in Ethiopic) to us all. Ethiopian New Year actually fell on September 11th, but we’re still celebrating in San Francisco.
A group of gorgeous young Ethiopian women (and a couple of handsome guys) who work in the dining room of the geezer house where I live put on an Ethiopian New Year’s festival today, complete with a vast assortment of delicious, spicy dishes I cannot pronounce, a coffee roasting demonstration* (see below,) an exhibition of traditional dance (intermittently joined by a few nontraditional American geezers) and one precious but disinterested two-year-old.
We also got a lesson in international understanding. So herewith, some facts you might not have known about our faraway neighbors:
Ethiopia, founded in 980 BC, is one of the oldest nations in the world, and the only country in Africa that was never colonized. Its citizens had to beat back the Italians twice, but remain independent to this day.
The official Ethiopian language is Amharic, but more than 80 languages are spoken. None of them are easy for English-speakers – although this writer is proud to have mastered the Amharic word for “good morning” (which I cannot spell.) This may be as far as I go. Ethiopia is also the only country in Africa with its own indigenous alphabet, but there are 33 main alphabets with each containing a row of seven different pronunciations . . . The Ethiopians I know speak English with beautiful accents.
Ethiopians are famous for being great runners. Some of us are old enough to remember when Abebe Bikila won Africa’s first Olympic Gold Medal in 1960, setting a world record when he ran the marathon – – barefoot.
While the majority of Ethiopians are Orthodox Christians, the country embraces practitioners of all three Abrahamic religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
*About the world’s most popular breakfast drink – Coffee was discovered in Ethiopia! Legend has it that a sheep herder in the 11th century noticed his sheep having a fondness for a particular bush, and decided to try a nibble. The coffee industry took off from there. Ethiopia is now the largest coffee producer in Africa.
And finally, Ethiopia and Eritrea are about to sign a peace agreement ending a bitter, long-running dispute. Could we learn something here?
Peace and joy and Happy New Year!