Geography of Ethiopia

Situated between the Red Sea and the Great African Rift Valley, on the eastern flank of Africa, facing Arabia, lays Africa Cradle of Humanity - Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is a landlocked country in the northeastern African region known as the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, Somaliland, and Djibouti encompassing an area of 1,104,300 sq km (426,372 sq miles).

Ethiopia has high central plateaus, with some mountains reaching more than 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) - the highest point at Ras Dashen in the Simien Mountains (4,543m) (14,905 ft.). The Great Rift Valley (which starts in Palestine, runs down the Red Sea and diagonally southwest through Ethiopia, Kenya and Malawi) splits the plateau diagonally. The northern part of the Great Rift Valley in Ethiopia known as the Danakil Depression is about 125 meters below sea level. To the west of the plateau ranges lays the gorge of the Blue Nile River and Lake Tana - Ethiopia's largest lake and the source of Nile River.

To the south, the landscape is generally flatter and much of the east and southeast is taken over by semi-arid scrubland.

Temperature in Ethiopia is likewise most varied. The high mountains, with frost can at night be icy cold. Most of the highlands, on the other hand, enjoy a temperate, balmy and most pleasant climate while the lowlands have warm climate. The Afar region has been described as being one of the hottest regions in Ethiopia as well as in the world where the temperature climbs up to 57 degree Celsius.

Difference in rainfall is also great. The highlands have two rainy seasons a year, while the lowlands tend to be parched, and in some areas almost waterless. Such variations in climate have led to considerable variations in vegetation.

Tropical forests in the south west give ways, in much of the country, to fertile plateaus ideal for cereal cultivation, while the lowlands tend to consists of scrub country, suitable for pasture and the still drier desert areas.

Ethiopia has a long, but still not fully established history of agriculture. At least three important local food grains are assumed to be native. They are the widely diffused teff (Eragrostis teff), nug (Guizotia abyssinica) , and the remarkable false banana enset (Edulis edule).

Most people reside in the western highlands as does the capital, Addis Ababa - the highest capital city in Africa at 2,400 meters (8,000 feet).

Economic activities in the country ranges from booming industrialization and modern agriculture in and around Metropolitan cities such as Addis Ababa, Bahir Dar, Mekele and Nazereth to Shifting cultivators and Nomadic Pastoralists in the peripheries. The distribution of socio-economic infrastructure and amenities is also like wise very variable with some parts of the country relatively well served and others barely reached.

Ethiopia is the tenth largest and the second most populous state in Africa after Nigeria and surpassing Egypt.



Ethiopia hosts 279 mammal species, 201 reptiles specious, 150 fish species, 63 amphibian species and over 800 bird species. Of those animals 31 mammals, 21 birds, 9 reptiles, 4 fish, 24 amphibians specious are endemic animals. In addition, of Africa’s 10 endemic mainland bird families eight are represented in Ethiopia.

Though a number of Ethiopia’s endemic species are endangered, The Simien Mountains and Bale Mountains National Parks hosts the rarest animals - the Simien fox, the Ethiopian wolf, the gelada baboon (Theropithecus gelada), the Walia ibex (Capra walie), mountain Niyala, Meniliks’ bush bucks together with 16 endemic bird specious.

Lion, leopard, cheetah, gurezza or colobus monkey, grivet monkey, anubisbon, all three African jackal specious black backed jackal, Asiatic jackal, bateared fox are all present in Ethiopia. Buffalos, elephants, Menilik’s bushbuck, Greater and lesser Kudu, Grant’s gazelle, klipstringer, soemmering’s gazelle, reedbuck, Swayne’s hartebeest, dik diks, giraffe, buffalo, hippos, crocodiles, burchell’s zebras are few animals to be mentioned among the wide and abundant wild live.

And from the bird family Ostriches, Abyssinian roller, red cheeked cordon bleus, Arabian secretary are few examples of bird lives in Ethiopia.


Lakes and rivers

The overall land mass of the country is hydrological divided into 12 Basins. Eight of these are River Basins, one Lake Basin and three Dry Basins. Ethiopia has nine major rivers and twelve big lakes. Lake Tana, the largest lake, for example, in the north is the source of the Blue Nile. Four of the River Basins, Abbay, Baro-Akobo, Mereb and Tekeze are part of Nile River System, flowing generally in the Western direction toward Sudan eventually terminating in the Mediterranean Sea. Five Basins namely, the Omo-Ghibe, Awash, Rift-valley Lakes, Danakil and Aysha can be categorized as the Rift-valley system as all of them drain their water in the Great East African Rift-valley. The remaining three, Genale-Dawa, Wabishebelle and Ogaden are part of the Eastern Ethiopian Basin that generally flows in the South-easterly direction toward the Somali - Republic and then to the Indian Ocean.

Almost all of the basins radiate from the central ridges that separate the Rift Valley from the highlands of Ethiopia to all directions out of the country.

There is very big variation in the size of these Basins. The Wabishebelle Basin is the largest basin in Ethiopian with an area of 202, 220 km followed by the Abbay Basin covering an area of 199,812 km. The smallest basin is the Aysha Basin with an area of 2,223 km followed by the Mereb that has an area with in Ethiopia of 5,900 km. Currently, less than 5 percent of surface water potential is used for consumptive purposes.

The following are the lists of major rivers in Ethiopia

  • Blue Nile River
  • Omo River
  • Baro River
  • Awash River
  • Tekeze River
  • Wabi-Shebelle River
  • Angereb River
  • Mereb River

And the following are list of major lakes of Ethiopia

  • Lake Tana
  • Lake Ziway
  • Lake Hawassa
  • Lake Abjiata
  • Lake Shalla
  • Lake Langano
  • Lake Abaya and Lake Chamo
  • Lake Turkana
  • Lake Bishoftu
  • Lake Wenchi
  • Lake Hora
  • Lake Kuriftu
  • Lake Ziquala