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An Ethiopian woman's musings on Africa, the world and everything in between

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        Friday, April 21, 2006
        Happy Ethiopian Easter

        It is Easter Friday in Ethiopia – so melkam fasika to all! My mouth is watering thinking about what people are going to whoof down on Sunday. This city doesn't even have an Ethiopian restaurant, and I have no intentions of making some fake Ethiopian dish. Viva pizza delivery!

        For everybody else who may be wondering why Ethiopia celebrates Easter now, read on about Ethiopian calendar. And while you’re at it, enjoy reading about Ethiopian time, alphabet, numbers and food. Just for the record, most Ethiopian Orthodox Christians fast for 55 days before Easter.

        Ethiopian calendar
        The Ethiopian Calendar has more in common with the Coptic Egyptian Calendar. The Ethiopic and Coptic calendars have 13 months, 12 of 30 days each and an intercalary month at the end of the year of 5 or 6 days depending whether the year is a leap year or not. The year starts on 11 September in the Gregorian Calendar (G.C.) or on the 12th in (Gregorian) Leap Years. The Coptic Leap Year follows the same rules as the Gregorian so that the extra month always has 6 days in a Gregorian Leap Year.

        Ethiopian time
        Being close to the equator, days and nights in Ethiopia have almost the same hours throughout the year. Dawn breaks roughly at 6:30am and night falls around 6:45pm. Therefore, logically (I have been trying to convince people that it is logical), the day starts at 1:00am for Ethiopians (7:00am for the rest of the world) and ends at 12:00pm (6:00pm) and 7:00pm for the rest is 1:00pm for us. Just subtract 6 hours and you’ll get it.

        Ethiopian alphabet
        The Semitic languages of Ethiopia are related to both Hebrew and Arabic. The Ethiopian languages of this family are derived from Ge'ez, the language of the ancient Axumite Kingdom, which was also the language of the country's literature prior to the mid-nineteenth century, as well as part of most present-day church services. Here is a quick look at what the letters look like.

        Because I have such a loooong name, people in the US feel sorry for me thinking that it must have been so difficult to learn how to spell my name as a child. I always tell them (with some degree of pride and snootiness) that I first had to learn 238 basic Ethiopian letters, spell my name in those letters, then learn the English alphabet. After 238 letters are drilled into me, I am sure learning the 26 English letters was a breeze.

        The simplest explanations for the large number of letters in the Ethiopian alphabet are:

        1. There are more than one way of writing some letters.
        2. The alphabet doesn't not have separate vowels. We add symbols on the root letter to show the seven vowels. There are 34 root letters (going down the alphabet)and seven varieties of the root (horizontal).
        3. There are different letters for explosive sounds.

        To complicate matters further, there are additional 19 special letters representing compound nouns. You can read some cool history of written language here. You can down load Amharic fonts here, and if you need help spelling your name or writing something in Amharic, let me know.
        Here is a history of Ethiopian writing system. Here are all the letters and numbers

        Language age
        Greek (2800 years old)
        Hebrew (2800 years old)
        Latin (2250 years old)
        Ethiopic (1650 years old)
        Phoenician Arabic (1650 years old)
        Armenian (1550 years old)
        Georgian (1550 years old)
        Cyrillic (1050 years old)
        Old English (900 years old)
        Thaana (Dhivehi) (400 years old)

        Ethiopian numbers
        The numbers are as unique as the alphabets. I found an old (2005) blog post about converting Ethiopian numbers into Indian/Arabic numbers here. It is interesting.
        The evolution of numerals Some fascinating stuff.
        The history of zero
        Ethiopian festivals
        The 75 Ethiopian languages Semitic languages
        Ethiopian culture

        Nothing to do with this topic, but just because it is a brilliant idea
        A donkey library
        posted by Fikirte @ 3:14 PM   Digg!
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