Although Ethiopia lies within 15 degrees North of the Equator, overall the country enjoys moderate temperatures and a pleasant climate, with average temperature rarely exceeding 200C (680F), owing to the moderating influence of high altitude. The more sparsely populated lowlands tend to have sub–tropical and tropical climates; and parts of the Afar regional State in the east of the country which lie below sea level are considered to be the hottest place on earth with temperatures regularly reaching 500C (1200F) or more.

At approximately 850mm (34inches), the average annual rainfall for the whole country is considered to be moderate by global standards. In most of the highland areas, rainfall occurs in two distinct seasons: the “small rains” (belg) during February and March and the “big rains” (kremt) from June to September. In the south east lowlands the rainy seasons are from March to May, the longer season (gu), and the short rainy season from October to December (deyr).

Calendar and time

Ethiopia uses its own calendar which divides the year into 12 months of 30 days each, with the remaining five (or six days in a leap year) constituting a short 13th month of Pagme.  The Ethiopian New Year commences on the 11th or 12th of September in the Gregorian calendar.

There is a 7 or 8 year difference from the Gregorian calendar, seven years from September to January 1, and eight years from January 1 until September 10/11. The current Ethiopian year is 2004, running from September 12, 2011 to September 10, 2012. Meskerem 1, New Year’s Day 2005, will fall on September 11th 2012.

 Ethiopian month      Gregorian month    Gregorian dates 2011-2012
 Meskerem  September September 11 – October 10
 Tekemt  October October 11 – November 9
 Hedar   November November 10 – December 9
 Tahsas  December December 10 – January 8
 Tir   January January 9 – February 7
 Yekatit   February February 8 – March 9
 Megabit  March March 10 – April 9
 Miyazya    April April 10 –  May 8
 Ginbot  May May 9– June 7
 Sene   June June 8 – July 7
 Hamle   July July 8 – August 6
 Nehase    August August 7 – September 5

Ethiopia is in the GMT +3 time zone. Business hours vary according to the nature of the business. Normally government offices and most other office hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. from Monday through Thursday. Working hours on Friday are 8:30am to 11:30am and 1:30pm to 5:30pm.

Banks are open from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Monday through Thursday. Working hours on Friday are 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 3: 00 p.m. and Saturday 8:30 to 11a.m.

Ethiopians also use a 12-hour clock, with one cycle of 1 to 12 running from dawn (6am) to dusk (6pm) and the other cycle from dusk to dawn. The start of the day is dawn, rather than midnight. Thus, 7:00 AM in East Africa Time (EAT) corresponds to 1:00 daylight in local Ethiopian time; 12:00 noon EAT is 6:00 daylight hours; and 6:00 pm EAT is 12:00 local time.


Ethiopia is in the +3 hrs GMT time zone. It is worth bearing in mind, however, that in addition to this Ethiopia also has its own time. This is based on the conception that the Ethiopian day is constituted of roughly 12 hours of daylight, starting at 6.00am and roughly 12 hours of darkness, starting at 6.00pm. So, 7.00am is 1.00am Ethiopian time.

Urban Ethiopians often use both systems as appropriate. Nevertheless, in general, when asking about dates and times, it is always worth checking which system is being used!