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These color photos show Ethiopia back in 1965

Ian Smith

Ethiopia is the place of origin for the coffee bean. It is a land of natural contrasts, with its vast fertile West, jungles, and numerous rivers, and the world’s hottest settlement of Dallol in its north. TheEthiopian Highlands are Africa’s largest continuous mountain ranges, and Sof Omar Caves contain Africa’s largest cave.Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world, as well as the second-most populous nation on the African continent after Nigeria. It occupies a total area of 1,100,000 square kilometres (420,000 sq mi), and its capital and largest city is Addis Ababa.

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Some of the oldest evidence for anatomically modern humans has been found in Ethiopia, which is widely considered the region from which modern humans first set out for the Middle East and places beyond. According to linguists, the first Afroasiatic-speaking populations settled in the Horn region during the ensuing Neolithic era.  Tracing its roots to the 2nd millennium BC, Ethiopia was a monarchy for most of its history. During the first centuries AD, the Kingdom of Aksum maintained a unified civilization in the region, followed by the Ethiopian Empire  circa 1137.

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Ethiopia derived prestige with its uniquely successful military resistance during the late 19th-century Scramble for Africa, becoming the only African country to defeat a European colonial power and retain its sovereignty. Subsequently, many African nations adopted the colors of Ethiopia’s flag following their independence. It was the first independent African member of the 20th-centuryLeague of Nations and the United Nations.  In 1974, at the end of Haile Selassie’s reign, power fell to a communist military dictatorship known as the Derg, backed by the Soviet Union, until it was defeated by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, which has ruled since about the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

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A slight majority of the population adheres to Christianity (mainly the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church andP’ent’ay), while around a third follows Islam (primarily Sunni Islam). The country is the site of the Migration to Abyssinia and the oldest Muslim settlement in Africa at Negash. A substantial population of Ethiopian Jews, known as Beta Israel, resided in Ethiopia until the 1980s, but most of them have since gradually emigrated to Israel.

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Ethiopia is a multilingual nation with around 80 ethnolinguistic groups, the three largest of which are the Tigrayans, Oromo and Amhara. Most people in the country speak Afroasiatic languages of the Cushitic or Semitic branches. Additionally, Omotic languages are spoken by ethnic minority groups inhabiting the southern regions. Nilo-Saharan languages are also spoken by the nation’sNilotic ethnic minorities.Ethiopia is one of the founding members of the UN, the Group of 24 (G-24), the Non-Aligned Movement, G-77 and the Organisation of African Unity. Ethiopia’s capital city Addis Ababa serves as the headquarters of the African Union, the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, African Aviation Training HQ, the African Standby Force, and much of the global NGOs focused on Africa.

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Despite being the main source of the Nile–the longest river on Earth–Ethiopia underwent a series of famines in the 1980s, which was exacerbated by civil wars and adverse geopolitics. The country has begun to recover recently, and now has the largest economy (by GDP) in East Africa and Central Africa. According to Global Fire Power, Ethiopia has the 46th most powerful military in the world.

Photos By: BU Int’l Center for E. Asian Archaeology & Cultural History