Interesting Facts About Amhara People, Language and Culture

Occupying the north-western parts of Ethiopia and speaking the native language of the Amhara people is Amharic. Keep reading as we explore some interesting facts about Amhara people, culture, religion and language.

Amhara People

The Amhara people are culturally and politically one of the most dominant ethnic groups in Ethiopia. The Amhara, Oromo and Tigre constitute more than a third of the Ethiopian population. Amhara people have a unique dressing code where men wear blankets and white shawls wrapped over the shoulders whereas the women wear white robes and white dresses also wrapped around their shoulders.
Their tradition trace their roots back to Menelik I who was the son of king Solomon and Queen Sheba.

Amhara Culture

Every member of the Amhara people performs specific duties assigned to them. Men work in the fields, women work around the kitchen while children are responsible for feeding the animals. They use the oxen to plow the fields, plant and harvest using their bare hands and animal’s feet are used to thrash the harvest.

The Amhara use dried cow dung or firewood to cook their food thus nothing goes to waste. Injera is their stable food and is made from tiny indigenous grains commonly known as teff. Deforestation and lack of clean drinking water is a major problem among the Amhara people. This is one of the major contributors of famine in their lives. One of the major famines to hit the Amharic people was back in 1974 and 1984.

Credit: Dmitri Markine
Credit: Dmitri Markine

Though children look after the livestock, they also attend classes in public schools. Most of their homesteads are built on hilltops which protects them against floods. The sons build houses in their fathers compounds and can marry from the age of 17 while girls get married at a tender age of 14 years.

Marriages are negotiated by both families and a civil ceremony is held to seal the contract. The presence or absence of a priest is also determined by both families. The Amhara people allow divorce after a series of negotiations. They also have temporary marriage that involves word of mouth in front of witnesses. In temporal marriage, The woman is paid the housekeepers wages and is not eligible to any inheritance. Any children born in a temporal marriage are recognized and can inherit property and as for Amhara priests, they can marry but are not allowed to divorce or remarry.

Traditionally, Amhara people breast feed their children for two years and receive little discipline until they attain an age of five to seven. Boys take the role of herding cows and sheep while girls help their mothers in watching over babies and fetching wood for cooking. [Read: Facts About Oromo People, Language and Tribe]

Amhara Religion

The majority of Amhara people are Christians that practice ancient roots of Aksum. Christianity is believed to have first come to  Amhara land in 1500s when an emperor converted to Christianity. This seem to have been responsible for the hold Christianity has on the land today. However, Amhara people also base most of their Christian teachings on tradition and western ideas are met with a lot of skepticism especially innovations that are based on religion.

The Amhara boys are baptized on the fortieth day after their birth while girls are baptized on the eightieth day after they are born. This marks their entrance into the church as Amhara people believe that the church represents salvation while their daily life is defined by their faith.

Amhara have a very strong belief in fasting. Faithful Christians fast up to 250 days per year. The Amhara are very proud of their religion and culture but unfortunately most of them do not have access to a bible.

Their fear for any foreign ideas has limited the Amhara people from outside missionaries of ether christian denominations. Though the bibles are limited, all the available bibles are translated into Amharic. Ten percent of the Amharic people are Evangelical Christians.

Most of the Amhara people have no access to a church because many live in remote mountains with poor or no means of transportation. Most of them focus on the teachings of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC). The EOC is an ancient church that was formed in the beginning of the 4th century AD. The Ethiopian Orthodox church was hugely influenced by the Syrian Christianity.

Amhara Language

The Amhara people speak the Amharic language which is also a Semitic language of the Ethiopians and is also the second most spoken Semitic language in the world after Arabic.

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