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Islam in Ethiopia

Ethiopia looks and feels like a Christian country, at least if you travel in Addis Ababa and through the highlands. But at least 25% of the population is Muslim and some say more then 50%. Islam and Ethiopia dates back to the year 615 when the first Moslims, among them Mohammed's wife, came to Axum as refugees and settled in Negash.

Because of this Mohammed warned his followers never to harm Ethiopians. Nevertheless around 1528 a Muslim leader Ahmed Grang (Ahmed the left-handed) invaded Ethiopia. See Ethiopian History. To visit a Coptic church or Monastry anywhere is easy, they charge you an entrance fee and are very willing to show you around. How different it is with Mosks. I have been talking to the Supreme Counsel for Islamic Affairs in Addis Ababa. They are thinking about making the special places of the Islamic religion open for tourism.

With the help of a friend, Muslim, I was allowed to visit the Anwar Mosk in Addis Ababa. The leaders of the Supreme Counsel as well as the leaders of Islamic Affairs in the 14th district (Addis Ababa) seemed surprised that a non-believer wanted to do so. After I explaned that this Website would not be complete without a chapter about Islam they granted me permission to make photographs in the Mosk.

In the middle of the Merkato it is a haven of tranquility and contemplation. Young boys are sitting around a teacher and others are walking reading the Koran. It's dark inside and glimps of sunlight falls down on a group gathered around one of the many pillars.

Traveling around the country I cannot help noticing that even in predominantly Islamic areas every small or big town has a Coptic church. Harar has one, dominantly inside the city walls next to the main gate. When Menelik's army conquered the south and east, it seems that the Coptic Church got it's place. On the other hand it seems that religion is not or has not been a political issue recently. To get a overall picture of Ethiopia, Islam is part of it's cultural heritage. There are important places of pelgrimage like the Sof Omar Caves and the Tomb of Sheikh Hussein and of course the 4th most important city for Islam Harar with it's 90 Mosks.

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