Fossils of modern human’s earliest ancestors from up to 4.2 million years ago have been found here, in the Cradle of Mankind. Ethiopia has, therefore, the longest human history of any place on earth, with earliest records coming from ancient Egypt and ancient Greece. Legend has it that the kingdom of Sheba was located in Ethiopia, and Ethiopian monarchs derived their legitimacy from tracing their ancestry back to the alleged tryst between the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. The Axumite Empire (approximately 100-940 BCE), one of the world’s greatest powers of its era, provided a key link between Rome and the powers to the east, and oversaw the people’s conversion to Christianity.
In the late fifteenth century, near the end of the Solomonic period, the first Portuguese missions arrived in Ethiopia. But although they helped defend Ethiopian territory against new Muslim rivals in the southeast, they did not succeed in subordinating Ethiopia to European control. In 1769, the deposition of the Emperor Iyoas ushered in a chaotic period known as the Zemene Mesafint (“Era of the [Warring] Princes”). It was not until 1855, when Tewodros II was crowned negusa nagast (King of Kings), that Ethiopia achieved its modern, unified character. The last decades of the twentieth century saw increased interest in Ethiopia from Great Britain and Italy, the latter of which suffered a resounding defeat at the Battle of Adwa in 1896—the first instance of an African nation successfully repelling a European attempt at colonization.
In 1930, Haile Selassie I was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia, and although he was forced into exile during the Italian occupation from 1936-1941 (the only instance of extended European occupation in Ethiopian history), he ruled until his deposition in 1975. Ethiopia then became a one-party communist country under the Derg, led by Mengistu Haile Mariam, who carried out a brutal, genocidal campaign known as the Red Terror. After the fall of the Derg in 1991, Ethiopia achieved its modern government, led by the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), with first Meles Zanawi and now Hailemariam Desalegn as prime minister. Today, any visitor to Ethiopia is immediately struck by the independence of the Ethiopian spirit, and its nine World Heritage Sites and abundance of natural, cultural, and historical/archaeological attractions make it an ideal adventure destination.