ABOUT Ethiopia is truly a land of contrasts and extremes, a land of remote and wild places. Some of the highest and most stunning places on the African continent are found here, such as the jaggedly carved Simien Mountains, one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites and some of the lowest, such as the hot but fascinating Danakil Depression, with its sulphur fumaroles and lunar-like landscape. Ethiopia is old beyond all imaginations. As Abyssinia, its culture and traditions date back over 3,000 years. And far earlier than that lived "Lucy" or Dinkenesh, meaning 'thou art wonderful', as she is known to the Ethiopians, whose remains were found in a corner of this country of mystery and contrasts. Many people visit Ethiopia - or hope to do so one day - because of the remarkable manner in which ancient historical traditions have been preserved. And, indeed, the ceremonies and rituals of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, open a window on the authentic world of the Old Testament. In no other country is it possible to find yourself so dramatically transported back in time or to participate with such freedom in the sacred rituals of an archaic faith.

CLIMATE The mean minimum during the coldest season is 6° C, while the mean maximum rarely exceeds 26° C. 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. 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.

BEWARE There is a general threat from terrorism in Ethiopia, attacks could be indiscriminate including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. Visitors and expatriates should remain vigilant at all times, especially in crowded areas and places frequented by foreigners, including hotels, restaurants and bars. There is security around all major hotels, key government offices and major Western Embassies in Addis Ababa. Security is occasionally increased around these sites, reflecting spikes in the threat. Petty theft and mugging is common and on the rise in Addis Ababa and other areas. You should exercise particular caution when visiting crowded public places and keep valuables, particularly cameras and passports out of sight. Be aware of bag and jewellery snatching, pick-pocketing and opportunistic snatching from vehicles stopped at traffic lights in Addis Ababa.