Roughly 40 percent of Ethiopians belong to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC), which was founded c.340 AD by Emperor Ezana of Aksum following his conversion by Syrian monks. The EOC is classified as an Oriental Orthodox church, a category that also comprises the Armenian and Syrian churches, the Malankara Church of India, and the Coptic Church of Alexandria. What all these relatively obscure – to Westerners at least – churches have in common is a centuries-long adherence to the miaphysite doctrine (known as Tewahedo in Ethiopia), which asserts the united divine and human nature of Christ, and was outlawed as heretical by Rome and Constantinople back in the fifth century.

Because the EOC developed in virtual isolation prior to the arrival of the Portuguese Jesuits in the fifteenth century, its rituals are infused with all manner of singularities. The EOC has long maintained that the original Ark of the Covenant rests in Ethiopia, and the consecration of any church depends on a tabot – a small replica of the Ark – being placed in its Holy of Holies. Other archaic customs, many with Old Testament roots, include the separation of sexes during church services, strict menstruation taboos, and a ban on wearing shoes inside a church. Also unique to the EOC is the use of an otherwise obsolete proto-Amharic language called Ge’ez in the liturgy and other spoken or chanted texts.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Ethiopia features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

17 striking portraits of Ethiopia's Omo Valley tribes

17 striking portraits of Ethiopia's Omo Valley tribes

Renowned the world over for its decorated tribes, the Omo Valley is a stop on many a tourist route in Ethiopia. But visits to the area can cross ethical boundar…

20 May 2016 • Tim Draper insert_drive_file Article
Ethiopian Christmas celebrations in pictures

Ethiopian Christmas celebrations in pictures

Today Ethiopia is celebrating Christmas. Following the Julian calendar, this East African, Orthodox Christian nation celebrates Christmas on the 7th January eac…

07 Jan 2016 • Karoki Lewis insert_drive_file Article
Exploring Bale Mountains National Park, Ethiopia

Exploring Bale Mountains National Park, Ethiopia

In preparation for the new Rough Guide to Ethiopia, the book’s editor, Edward Aves, travelled to the remote and little-visited Bale Mountains National Park.…

18 Sep 2014 • Edward Aves insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month