The Five Biggest Cities in Ethiopia
5. Bahir Dar
Bahir Dar, in north-western Ethiopia, is the fifth biggest city in Ethiopia with a population of 348,429 people. The city is the capital of the Amhara Region and is administratively designated as a special zone. The origin of the city is unclear but the first known mention of it date to the late 16th and 17th centuries when Pedro Páez, a Spanish Jesuit missionary, constructed several buildings in Bahir Dar.
The population composition of Bahir Dar is as follows- Amhara ethnic group (93%), the Tigrayan (4%) and all other ethnic groups (3%) of the population. Almost 90% of population practice Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity and Islam is the second most widely practiced religion in the city. Natural attractions in Lake Tana and the nearby Blue Nile River and Blue Nile Falls render the city an attractive tourist destination in the country. The city also had the honor of being awarded the UNESCO Cities for Peace Prize in 2002 due to the way the city addressed and handled the challenges of rapid urbanization.
Gondar is the fourth largest city in Ethiopia with a population of 358,257 people. Gondar is classified as a woreda in the Semien Gondar Zone which is in the Amhara Region. Located just north of Lake Tana, the city sits on the Lesser Angereb River, surrounded by the Simien Mountains to its southwest. The city was founded during the Solomonic Emperors of Ethiopia, having been founded by Emperor Fasilides in 1635 to be the capital of Ethiopia. Gondar served as the capital until 1885 when Emperor Tewodros II moved the capital to the city of Magadala.
Amharas constitute 90% of the population of Gondar. The Tigrayan make up about 6%, and the Qemant make up about 2% of the population of the city. The remaining ethnic groups make up 2% of the population. 84% of people of Gondar follow Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, about 12% follow Islam, and about 1% of the population follow Protestant Christianity. Gondar hosts the ruins of ancient Ethiopian empires in the Fasil Ghebbi, a popular tourist attraction in the city.
Mek'ele is the third largest city in Ethiopia with a population of 480,217 people. It is the capital of the Tigray Region, and it is classified as a special zone administratively. Mek'ele was founded at some point in the 13th century and started to become a major city in the 1870's. The population of Mek'ele is overwhelmingly Tigray, who make up about 96% of the population, while about 2% are Amhara and the remaining 2% are other ethnic groups. 93% of the people of Mek'ele follow Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity. About 6% of the population practices Islam and all other religious are about 1%. Mek'ele has a reputation as being the political, economic and cultural center of the northern part of Ethiopia. The two major landmarks in the city are the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front Monument, which is visible from any vantage-point in the city and the complex of three castles built by Emperor Yohannes IV in the late 19th century that now serves as a museum.
2. Dire Dawa
Dire Dawa is the second largest city in Ethiopia with a population of 1,274,869 people. It is one of two cities in the country that have the special status as chartered cities, with the other being Addis Ababa. Dire Dawa is located on the Dechatu River in the eastern part of Ethiopia. The city was created in 1902 once the line of the Imperial Railway Company of Ethiopia was established to connect to the site of the former village of Addis Harar, which became Dire Dawa. The population of Dire Dawa is pretty diverse with 45% of people being from the Oromo ethnic group, 25% are Somali, 23% are Amhara, 3% are Gurage, and 1% of the population are Harari. About 70% of the population follow Islam. About a quarter of the population, 25%, follow Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, about 2% are Protestants, and 0.4% are Catholic. The city is known for being an industrial center, having several large market centers and Haramaya University is located just outside of town.
1. Addis Ababa
Addis Ababa is the largest city in Ethiopia and one of the ten largest cities in all of Africa with a population of 4,567,857 people. Addis Ababa is not only the capital of Ethiopia, but it also has a special status as a chartered city. The capital is located at the foot of Mount Entoto and also helps to form part of the watershed for the Awash River. Emperor Menelik II founded the city in 1886 after the site was chosen by his wife, Taytu Betul. In 1889 when Menelik II became Emperor of Ethiopia he declared Addis Ababa as the capital of Ethiopia.
As the capital city, Addis Ababa has great ethnic diversity. 56% of the population are Amhara, 34% Oromo, 16% Gurage, 5% Tigray, 3% Silt'e, and 1% Gamo. About 75% the people in Addis Ababa follow Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, 16% follow Islam, 7% are Protestant Christians, and 0.5% are Catholic. The capital is often referred to as the "political capital of Africa" since it is home to many continental and international organizations, like the African Union, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and many more groups. The capital is also home to many cultural sites like the Imperial Palace, National Palace, Holy Trinity Cathedral and various museums.