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Ethiopia is as large as France and Spain combined and has an estimated population of 102 million, over 50% of whom are under 20 years of age. The country’s population is highly diverse, containing over 80 different ethnic groups. The official language is Amharic; however English, Italian and Arabic are also spoken in the capital and altogether there are 90 individual languages spoken in Ethiopia.

Ethiopian elevation ranges from 125 metres above sea level at the Danakil Depression to 4,550m, Ethiopia’s highest peak Ras Dejen in the Simien Mountains.

Addis Ababa is situated at approximately 2,600 metres above sea level. It has an estimated population of 4 million. Sometimes referred to as the capital of Africa, Addis is a buzzing hub of economic, social and political activity and home to the headquarters of both the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

Lufthansa, Emirates and Qatar Airways all have flights linking Europe with Addis Ababa. The national airline, Ethiopian Airlines, which has been flying to international destinations, including Europe and the US, since 1951, flies to more cities in Africa than any other carrier. There are also regular services to the Middle East, India, Thailand, China and North America.

Throughout most of the country there are two seasons: the dry season prevails from October through to May – temperatures rising from October; the wet season runs from June to September. The altitude of Addis counters the effect of being between the Equator and the Tropic of Cancer. In all seasons the nights can be cool (around 10 degrees Celsius) and the days are comfortably warm.

Ethiopia is in the GMT + 3 hour time zone. The country follows the Julian calendar which consists of 12 months of 30 days each and a thirteenth month of 5 or 6 days. Thus the Tourist Office Line ‘Ethiopia – the land of 13 months of sunshine’. As a result of the differences in the Western and Ethiopian calendars, religious holidays like Christmas and Easter are between 7-14 days later in Ethiopia. At Sandford School, both Ethiopian and Western holidays like Christmas and Easter are observed, along with Muslim and National holidays.