Food & Daily life

A distinctive cuisine & a plate you can tear

Spicy and aromatic stews (wats and alechas) are typical of Ethiopia’s distinctive cooking.


InjeraIn this video... Have a look at how injera is made and what it looks like. Injera is the staple food in Ethiopia and can be eaten at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Made with beef, goat, lamb, fish or hard-boiled eggs, these stews are sometimes spiced using berbere, a seasoning paste made with chillies. Vegetarian stews and dishes which include beans, lentils or chickpeas are also common, since members of the Ethiopian Orthodox church abstain from eating meat, eggs and butter on many days of the calendar.

Meals are usually served on a communal platter. Many dishes are eaten with injera, a pancake-style bread made from teff (a grass grain). The flat injera is used either as a ‘plate’ for stews or torn off in chunks and dipped in dishes and sauces.

Teff is native to Ethiopia and there are three varieties – white, brown and red. The dough made from this nutty-tasting grain is fermented up to three days before baking and the grains need no added yeast for this process. See the 'Teff farm' video for how teff is grown/prepared.

  • Injera
  • Coffee ceremony in Ethiopia

Ethiopian way

Ethiopian wayIn this video… Addisu and Habtam explain why Ethiopia is unique compared to the rest of the world. They talk about their own alphabet, their local time and their own calendar which has 13 months, 12 with 30 days and one with five or six days (depending on if it is a leap year).

Tea is available. But coffee is the main hot drink, made expresso-style from freshly ground beans and sometimes sweetened by honey. Watch the feature video of the coffee ceremony.

Beer and a honey-based wine called tej are popular alcoholic beverages and puréed fruit is often drunk as a soft drink.


When travelling to Ethiopia, many visitors feel as if they are stepping back in time when witnessing centuries-old religious traditions and festivals.

But visitors are also literally going back in time, because the Ethiopian calendar is seven years and eight months behind the rest of the world. So for example, Ethiopia celebrated the start of the new millennium (the year 2,000) in September 2007. The Ethiopian calendar also has 13 months in the year – 12 months of 30 days each and one month of five days (or six in a leap year).

Why is Ethiopia ‘behind’? The time difference goes back to 1582, when much of the Christian world adopted the new Gregorian calendar. However, Ethiopia kept the old Julian calendar.

Is anything the same?

Rounding up the minutes

Minutes are rounded upwards to the nearest five; so for example, three minutes past would be called five minutes past the hour and seven minutes past would be ten.

Ethiopian days are also different. In Ethiopia, the 12-hour cycle of the clock starts at 6am and 6pm. So for example, eight o’clock Ethiopian time is two o’clock Western time.

And if dates and times aren’t confusing enough, Ethiopians also have a different naming system. After the given first name, the father’s Christian name is taken as a surname. However, a woman keeps her maiden name when she marries and the surname is not used when addressing people. So don’t be surprised to be called Mrs Jane or Mr John by an Ethiopian.