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Ethiopia Geography


Situated in eastern Africa, Ethiopia (formerly called Abyssinia) has an area of approximately 1,127,127 sq km (435,186 sq mi), with a length of 1,639 km (1,018 mi) east to west, and a width of 1,577 km (980 mi) north to south.

Comparatively, the area occupied by Ethiopia is about the same as Bolivia or slightly less than twice the size of the state of Texas. It is bounded on the north by Eritrea, on the northeast by Djibouti, on the east and southeast by Somalia, on the south by Kenya, and on the west by Sudan, with a total boundary length of 5,328 km (3,311 mi). The Ogaden region of eastern Ethiopia is claimed by Somalia and has been the subject of sporadic military conflict between the two nations since 1961; the southeastern boundary has never been demarcated. Ethiopia's capital city, Addis Ababa, is located near the centre of the country.

Ethiopia contains a variety of distinct topographical zones. It is a country of geographical contrasts, varying from as much as 116 m (381 ft) below sea level in the Danakil depression to more than 4,600 m (15,000 ft) above in the mountainous regions. Ras Dashen, with an altitude of 4,620 m (15,158 ft), is the fourth-highest peak in Africa. The most distinctive feature is the northern part of the Great Rift Valley, which runs through the entire length of the country in a northeast-southwest direction, at a general elevation of 1,500 to 3,000 m (4,900-9,800 ft). Immediately to the west is the High Plateau region; this rugged tableland is marked by mountain ranges. East of the Great Rift Valley is the Somali Plateau – arid and rocky semi-desert, extending to the Ogaden, which covers the entire southeastern section of the country. In the north, the Danakil Desert reaches to the Red Sea and the coastal foothills of Eritrea. The western boundary of Ethiopia follows roughly the western escarpment of the High Plateau, although in some regions the Sudan plains extend into Ethiopian territory. Also part of Ethiopia is the Dahlak Archipelago in the Red Sea.

Ethiopia's largest lake, Lake T'ana, is the source of the Blue Nile River. This river, which winds around in a great arc before merging with the White Nile in the Sudan, travels through great canyons, which reach depths of more than 1,200 m (4,000 ft). Several rivers in the southwest also make up a system of tributaries to the White Nile.

Ethiopian climate varies according to the different topographical regions. The central plateau has a moderate climate with minimal seasonal temperature variation. The mean minimum during the coldest season is 6°C (43°F), while the mean maximum rarely exceeds 26°C (79°F). Temperature variations in the lowlands are much greater, and the heat in the desert and Red Sea coastal areas is extreme, with occasional highs of 60°C (140°F). Heavy rainfall occurs in most of the country during June, July, and August. The High Plateau also experiences a second, though much milder, rainy season between December and February. Average annual precipitation on the central plateau is roughly 122 cm (48 in). The northern provinces receive less rainfall, and the average annual precipitation in the Ogaden is less than 10 cm (4 in). The westernmost region of Ethiopia receives an annual rainfall of nearly 200 cm (80 in). Severe droughts affected the country in 1982-84,1987-88, and 1991.


Eastern Africa, west of Somalia

Geographic coordinates
8 00 N, 38 00 E

Map references

total 1,104,300 sq km
land 1 million sq km
water 104,300 sq km

Area - comparative
about the same size as Bolivia or slightly less than twice the size of Texas

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