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The Tale of Two Seasons in Ethiopia

News coverage of the terrible famines in the Horn of Africa during the 1980s, which culminated in the Live Aid concert, led many people to believe Ethiopia is a land of perpetual drought. It is certainly true that the eastern part of this vast country – which is almost five times the size of the United Kingdom – is arid with very low and unreliable rainfall. But much of Ethiopia is at altitudes of between 1,800 and 2,400 metres with the Bale Mountains reaching almost 4,400 metres above sea level. Here, winters can be very cold and bleak. Weather-wise the capital, Addis Ababa, is fairly typical of the western and central regions of the country, with average daily maxima about 20-30C all year round, but surprisingly cold nights, being roughly 2,500 metres above sea level. The low-lying south-eastern part of the country, which extends in a triangular shape towards Somalia, is far hotter and drier than on the high plateau, with summer temperatures often well above 40C for days on end, and virtually no rain at any time of the year.