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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Ethiopia: It's About Time

Every time again, I am amazed at the things you learn when you travel.

For instance, did you know that Ethiopia has its own calendar? And even its own time?!
Orthodox Church and bougainvillea

Our western calendar and our manner of counting days, months and years is the Gregorian calendar. It dates back to Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, and features 12 irregular months. Some of our months have 30 days, other 31 and then we had to make up the difference by calling a leap year every four years.  

Ethiopia, however, did not change to the Gregorian calendar but stayed with the system that was used before: the Julian calendar. The Julian calendar has 12 months of always 30 days, and then one month of 5 or 6 days. Because of this difference, the years add up differently, too. So I am discovering that it is not 2015 here but 2007 or so..

And not only are the days, months and year different, Ethiopians have a different way of keeping time!
They use a 12 hour clock with 2 cycles. One cycle starts at 7 AM, or sunrise. That is the first hour. After 12 hours, or at sunset (they are close to the Equator so a day and a night are pretty much 12 hours) they start counting again. So 7 AM is 1 AM and 12 noon is 6, while 6 PM is 12 in local time… 
If you ask for a wake up call, or set a meeting time, you need to emphasize that you mean Western time or you might have to wait a few hours… 

Donkeys transport heavy loads, even in the capital city
Confused yet? Add to this a 13 hour flight and an 8 hour time difference with home, and I’m not sure how old I am anymore.
HOWEVER, I was delighted to be told that I am now 7 years younger here than before I left. I think I shall return to Ethiopia many times until I'm 21 again…

If you want to learn more about Ethiopean time keeping, check out these web sites:

New buildings are made with concrete but still supported by a scaffolding system of bamboo...

Addis Ababa has 4 million people and is at an elevation of over 2,300 meters.
Surrounded by volcanic summits it is on the edge of the Rift Valley where Lucy, the oldest human bones were found.
They are now in the museum here.

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