Ethiopia is the only country in the entire African continent that was never colonized, although it was occupied by Italy for five years during World War II. Its civilization is recorded in unique ancient languages back to the time of the Queen of Sheba of Biblical times, and it carries its unique religion of Coptic Christianity from then into modern-day society, attracting special interest from modern-day religious scholars.
Isolated by a formidable geography and completely landlocked, Ethiopian society has developed largely uninfluenced by other post-Biblical societies and cultures, and as a result, has matured into a remarkably unique and colorful civilization. Its principal languages, writing, music and even food, as well as its social cultures, are found nowhere else on earth.
The country is twice the size of Texas and is surrounded by dangerous deserts and imposing mountains, the reason for its geographical isolation. Although several famous early missionaries did make it into Ethiopia, there were far fewer early visitors than elsewhere on the continent. The geographical isolation that protected Ethiopian society from the outside world also sheltered many birds and a few animals, which are found nowhere else. The unique ecosystem is nonetheless extreme in its variation, including some of Africa’s highest snow-covered mountains, its most dangerous deserts, rainforests and great rivers, including the beginning of the Blue Nile.
More than 80 million people live in Ethiopia, and except for the modern capital of Addis Ababa, they are mostly farmers living very traditional lifestyles. For the vast majority of its history, Ethiopia was a feudal and somewhat backwards society ruled by emperors who validated their authority by espousing Biblical ties to the Hebrew King David and later, the Queen of Sheba. Not until Italy invaded the country in 1936 was this two-millennia rule disrupted, and even then delayed by the famous appeal of the last emperor, Haile Selassie, before the League of Nations.
Selassie was finally toppled by a military junta in 1974, and the “Red Terror” began as Ethiopia sided with the Soviet Union and China throughout the Cold War. A series of more and more violent wars were fought with neighboring Somali, which was supported by the United States. The “Red Terror” regime fell in 1991 to a coalition of rebel forces, and a constitution was adopted in 1994. The country split into two, with the small northern portion of Eritrea gaining independence from the larger Ethiopia. There has never been complete peace between these two neighbors as they continue to dispute their border area.