For the first few days in Ethiopia I assumed that all the watches and clocks I had seen needed new batteries. Compared to my time keeping, their clocks were off by several hours. Then I found out that Ethiopia has its own way of telling time which is unlike any nation, or timezone in the world.
I knew a few things about Ethiopia. I knew, like most, that it has a terrible famine in the 1980’s. My idea of Ethiopia was only through pictures of swollen baby’s stomachs with flies swarming on their dry faces. The other thing that I knew was that Ethiopia was the only nation in Africa that was not colonized. Not that they didn’t try, but they didn’t succeed. The Italian’s tried a brutal takeover of the country, but failed. Because of that, there are many unique things about Ethiopia which other nations around the world do not have.
First, is the language: Amharic. This is the official language of Ethiopia and is the only African language which still has its own script. All other languages, nearly 10,000 of them, have either been eliminated in favor of English, French, Arabic colonizers or some other European language. Expect for Amharic, the few surviving African languages are written in with English characters.
The other great surprise to me was their calendar. I saw a new poster stuck on a wall advertising a concert, yet it said it would be held in 2002. In fact, in Ethiopia, it is 2002! Ladies, if you ever want to get younger instantly, you can move to Ethiopia and be eight years younger! I have experience weird timezone changes in previous travels like flying from Taiwan to the US on a 12 hour flight and arriving 20 minutes before you left. If you are confused with that, just try flying to Ethiopia and arriving eight years earlier!
Back to the time issue: They calculate time based on when the sun comes up. So they still have a 24 hour clock, it just starts at 12:00 or 00:00 when the sun comes up and then you work your way up from there. So lunch comes at about 6:00am and by noon it is already evening! I assure you, the only ones that are confused are all the non-Ethiopians! They can calculate back and forth between the Ethiopian times and “International times” at will. I found myself counting numbers on my watch to try and figure it out.
Another interesting thing is that they don’t have twelve months, they have thirteen. Their new year is around September. But of course, they don’t call it “September”. I didn’t even bother asking what it is called. Twelve months are each exactly 30 days long and the 13th month is the filler month to make up for extra days. Most years it is 5 days in the 13th month, but on leap year, they have six days in the month. So in Ethiopia, they are blessed to have 13 months of sunshine a year!
I used to think that it was good to have everyone conform to a single standard for the sake of simplicity, however, I think it is much more honoring to how God created people to allow for the creativity. In can be helpful however to have some standardization. Ethiopia has in fact, been a Christian nation for nearly two thousand years and it was the Queen of Sheba who had connections with King Solomon in the Bible. As their civilization is much older, I think it is wonderful that they have a unique system of counting days and hours.