Facts on the Ethiopian Highlands

Written by kevin heffernan
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Ethiopia is one of the oldest centres of human civilisation in the world. This is partly because the Ethiopian Highlands, known as the "African Alps," contain roughly 80 per cent of the highest mountains in Africa.

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Humans and their ancestors have lived in and around the Ethiopian Highlands for roughly 4 million years. The highland city of Aksum is one of the most ancient cities in the world and is rumoured by some to be the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. The city of Lalibela is home to churches that were carved out of the mountainside in the 13th century.


Many different types of animals call the Ethiopian Highlands home, including a vast array of unique bird species such as the wattled ibis and the blue-winged goose. The Ethiopian wolf and the gelada baboon are also natives of the highlands, and are found nowhere else in the world.


The Ethiopian Highlands are comprised largely of the Bale and Simien mountain ranges that contain some of the highest peaks in Africa. Cutting through them is the Great Rift Valley, a natural trench that runs through several African countries. The Blue Nile also courses through the northern part of the highlands.


Much of the natural soil in the Ethiopian Highlands region has been destroyed due to the farming of coffee and teff, a local grain that is harvested and eaten with many Ethiopian dishes. Droughts and famines have plagued the area in recent times, making Ethiopia one of the focal points for world starvation.

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