Amhara People Group

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Religion, and intense pride in Ethiopias past, resonates loudly within most people. To them, Ethiopia has stood out from all African nations and proved itself utterly unique- home to its own culture, language, script, calendar and history. Ethiopian orthodox Christians and Muslims alike celebrate that Ethiopia was the only African nation to thwart European colonial aspirations.

The name Amhara means “pleasing, agreeable, beautiful, and gracious,” and these beautiful people have truly impacted Ethiopia for centuries. The Amhara are a very influential people group who live in north central Ethiopia, close to Adis Ababa. Their descendants probably came originally from what is now Yemen. They trace their lineage all the way to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba; the ancient King Menelik I. They carried that same ancestral line all the way to 1974 with Emperor Haile Selassie.

The Amhara have a strongly Jewish culture because of their roots, and this has impacted much of their life. Also, about 50 % of the Amhara are part of what is known as the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which is an ancient Christian church founded around the 4th century. They were heavily influenced by Syrian and Coptic Christianity, and were able to maintain their Christianity even as Islam penetrated the rest of northeast Africa. Because of the distance between the western Christian church and the Ethiopian church there have been many rituals and customs that have developed which are unique to the Ethiopian church. These include some baptising rituals and fasting. Fasting is extremely important to Amhara Christians; the faithful of which should fast about 250 days per year. In order to be a good Christian you should fast 180 days at least.

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The traditional attire of the Amhara is typically white cloth, worn by both men and women. Their food is known as injera bo wot. Injera is a flat bread and wot is either a meat or beans mixture placed on top. Amharan food takes a long while to prepare, and has a distinct taste that can be either loved or hated.

Marriage is arranged by the family’s and divorce and remarriage are allowed. Right now life is very difficult for the Amhara because of the constant lack of water and deforestation which is taking place throughout the whole country and 85% live a day’s walk from any sort of road. Life in the Amhara farming society is hard. Many Amhara live in the harsh and stark mountains, easy to defend, but making it difficult to travel and gain provisions. The men in the fields, the women around the house and the children at home and watching the sheep–all work very hard. The fields are plowed with oxen, seeds are sown and harvested by hand, and the harvest is threshed by the feet of animals. In the home, the primary cooking fuel is the dried dung of the farm animals. Nothing is wasted. Though their life is hard, the Amhara are proud people, proud of their ethnicity, their religion, their special place in the world. Their culture is strong, developed over many centuries, and it has withstood the incursions of outside governments and religions.

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