Amhara Region

Coordinates: 11°39′39″N 37°57′28″E / 11.6608°N 37.9578°E / 11.6608; 37.9578
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Amhara Region
አማራ ክልል
Amhara National Regional State
Flag of Amhara Region
Official seal of Amhara Region
Map of Ethiopia showing the Amhara Region
Map of Ethiopia showing the Amhara Region
Coordinates: 11°39′39″N 37°57′28″E / 11.6608°N 37.9578°E / 11.6608; 37.9578
CapitalBahir Dar
 • Chief AdministratorArega Kebede
 • Total154,708.96 km2 (59,733.46 sq mi)
 • Rank3
 • Total23,216,000
 • Rank2
 • Density150/km2 (390/sq mi)
 • Official languageAmharic
 • Other languages and ethnicitiesAwi Agaw, Kamyr, Argobba, Beta Israel Gumuz, Falash Mura, Oromo, Qemant, Weyto
ISO 3166 codeET-AM
HDI (2021)0.477[1]
low · 9th of 11

The Amhara Region (Amharic: አማራ ክልል, romanizedÅmara Kilil), officially the Amhara National Regional State (Amharic: የአማራ ብሔራዊ ክልላዊ መንግሥት),[2] is a regional state in northern Ethiopia and the homeland of the Amhara, Awi, Xamir, Argoba, and Qemant people. Its capital is Bahir Dar which is the seat of the Regional Government of Amhara. Amhara is the site of the largest inland body of water in Ethiopia, Lake Tana (which is the source of the Blue Nile), and Semien Mountains National Park (which includes Ras Dashan, the highest point in Ethiopia). Amhara is bordered by Sudan to the west and northwest and by other the regions of Ethiopia: Tigray to the north, Afar to the east, Benishangul-Gumuz to the west and southwest, and Oromia to the south. Towns and cities in Amhara include: Bahir Dar, Dessie, Gonder, Debre Birhan, Debre Tabor, Kombolcha, Weldiya, Debre Markos, Seqota, Kobo, and Metema.


During the Ethiopian Empire, Amhara included several provinces (such as Dembiya, Gojjam, Begemder, Angot, Wollo, Shewa and Lasta), most of which were ruled by native Ras or Negus. The current Amhara region corresponds to often large parts of the former provinces of Begemder, Dembiya, Angot, Bete Amhara (Wollo), Gojjam and Shewa.[3] With the rise of the Solomonic Dynasty in 1270 under Emperor Yekuno Amlak (born in the Maqdalla region) and until the establishment of Gondar as the new imperial capital around 1600, the Debre-Birhan to Mekane-Selassie region was the primary seat of the roving Wolloye-Shewan emperors. This period is most significant in the formation of the medieval Ethiopian state, the spread and consolidation of Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity (following the example set by the Zagwe kings in preserving the Axumite heritage) and propagating to the core provinces (besides Tigray/Eritrea, and Lasta) of Bete Amhara, Gojjam, Begemder, northern Shewa, Gafat, and Damot[3]

The region's recorded history, in fact, goes back to the early 13th century. For example, St. George's Church in the town of Woreilu (whose Tabot is reputed to have been carried by Emperor Menelik at the Battle of Adwa) was established around 1200.

The parish of Mekane Selassie (መካነ ሥላሴ), near Neded and the home of the cathedral by the same name, served as a favourite royal playground. The construction of Mekane Selassie (meaning: the abode of the Trinity) was begun by Emperor Naod (1494-1508) and completed by his son Emperor Lebna Dengel. This was a year before the church (along with a large number of monasteries in the region) was sacked and burned down in 1531 by the invasion led by Ahmad bin Ibrahim. Francisco Alvarez, who had earlier visited the church, confirms that its size was some 150 feet by 150 feet — wholly covered in gold leaf, inlaid with gems, pearls and corals[4]

21st century[edit]

After the social movements of 2014–2017, Amhara nationalism developed strongly in the region, with a discourse that includes both issues of power balance between elites and territorial claims. Several local politicians, such as Dejene Maru backed by General Asaminew Tsige, were able to control armed factions.[5]

On 22 June 2019, factions of the security forces of the region attempted a coup d'état against the regional government, during which the President of the Amhara region, Ambachew Mekonnen, was assassinated.[6] A bodyguard siding with the nationalist factions assassinated General Se'are Mekonnen – the Chief of the General Staff of the Ethiopian National Defense Force – as well as his aide, Major General Gizae Aberra.[6] The Prime Minister's Office accused Brigadier General Asaminew Tsige, head of the Amhara region security forces, of leading the plot,[7] and Tsige was shot dead by police near Bahir Dar on 24 June.[8]


Water flow[edit]

The Amhara region is home to 6 lakes: Lake Tana, Lake Hayq, Lake Hardibo, Lake Ashenge, Lake zengena and Lake Tirba.

Amhara man riding a boat on the shores of Lake Tana.
The Blue Nile Falls near Bahir Dar

According to the Ethiopian government website, the Amhara Highlands receive 80% of Ethiopia’s total annual rainfall of and are the country's most fertile and climatically hospitable region.[9] Lake Tana, in the Amhara Region, is the source of the Blue Nile—at Bahir Dar. When the Blue Nile's flow is at maximum volume (during the rainy season from June to September), it supplies about two-thirds of the water of the Nile proper. Until the 1970 completion of the Aswan High Dam in Egypt, the Blue Nile, together with the Atbara River to its north (which also flows out of the Ethiopian Highlands), caused annual Nile floods that contributed to the fertility of the Nile Valley, enabling the rise of ancient Egyptian civilization, which in turn enabled the development of Egyptian mythology.

Lake Tana[edit]

Lake Tana contains several islands, whose numbers vary depending on the water level in the lake. (Over the last 400 years, that level has fallen about 2 metres (6.6 ft).) In the early 17th century, according to a contemporaneous report by Manoel de Almeida, a Portuguese missionary, there were 21 islands, which he described as "formerly large, but now much diminished,” and seven or eight of them had monasteries on them.[10] In the late 18th century, James Bruce visited the area and noted that, though the locals reported that there were 45 inhabited islands, he believed that "the number may be about eleven."[10] A mid-twentieth-century account reported 37 islands and said that 19 of were the current or former sites of either monasteries or churches.[10]

Jin Bahir Falls in the Semien Mountains

The lake islands were the home of ancient Ethiopian emperors. Treasures of the Ethiopian Church are kept in the isolated island monasteries (including Kebran Gabriel, Ura Kidane Mehret, Narga Selassie, Daga Estifanos, Medhane Alem of Rema, Kota Maryam and Mertola Maryam). The body of Yekuno Amlak is interred in the monastery of St. Stephen on Daga Island; other Emperors whose tombs are on Daga include Dawit I, Zara Yaqob, Za Dengel and Fasilides. Other important islands in Lake Tana include Dek, Mitraha, Gelila Zakarias, Halimun, and Briguida.

In the late 20th century, the scholar Paul B. Henze reported being shown a rock on the island of Tana Qirqos and being told it was where the Virgin Mary had rested during her journey back from Egypt. He was also told that Saint Frumentius, the bishop known for introducing Christianity to Ethiopia, was "allegedly buried on Tana Cherqos."[11]


Bete Giyorgis, one of the churches in Lalibela.
Semien Mountains in North Gonder

The Amhara region has the most world heritage sites of any region in Ethiopia and is endowed with natural and geographic wonders and ecosystems. The region contains Ethiopia's largest inland body of water Lake Tana, which is the source of the Blue Nile river. In 2015 Lake Tana was recognized as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve for its enormous biodiversity, and national and international importance.[12] The Semien Mountains National Park has been designated as one of the first natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the world, and the very first in Africa in the natural criteria since 1978.[13] Chosen for its spectacular landscapes and global significance for biodiversity conservation. Situated within the Semien Mountains, Ethiopia's highest peaks Ras Dashen reaches an elevation of (4,543 m (14,905 ft)).[14] The park also has Ethiopia's second and third highest mountains, Kidis Yared (4,453 m (14,610 ft)) and Mount Bwahit (4,437 m (14,557 ft)). The park is home to endangered species found nowhere else in the world,[15] examples of endemic fauna include the iconic walia ibex, the gelada baboon, and the Ethiopian wolf (or Simien fox) among others. The wide range of altitudes has given the country a variety of ecologically distinct areas, leading to the evolution of endemic species in ecological isolation.[15]

Fasil Ghebbi in Gondar City

Amhara region also leads in cultural world heritage sites in Ethiopia, with the Rock Hewn Churches of Lalibela jointly added with Senegal's Gorée island as Africa's first World Heritage site by Unesco in the cultural criteria in 1978. Lalibela and its medieval monolithic churches attracts by far the most number of pilgrims annually of any religious site in Ethiopia. The New Jerusalem was built in response to the capture of old Jerusalem by Muslim forces during the Siege of Jerusalem (1187), after which Muslims denied Ethiopian Christians pilgrimages to the Holy land.[16] Unesco also added Fasil Ghebbi in 1979 as a cultural World Heritage Site. The Royal Enclosure of Fasil Ghebbi was the seat of the Ethiopian Emperors in Gondar the royal capital for more than two centuries(1636 to 1864 AD). The Fasil Ghebbi consist of some twenty palaces, royal buildings, the royal library, a chancellery, a banqueting hall, stables for the horses, highly decorated churches, monasteries and unique public and private buildings that was built during the reign of several emperors in the Gondarine period. The complex covers an area of 70 square kilometers.[17]


Amhara children on the streets of Bahir Dar City.

Based on the 2007 census conducted by the Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia (CSA), the Amhara region has a population of 17,221,976. 8,641,580 were men and 8,580,396 women; urban inhabitants number 2,112,595 or 12.27% of the population. With an estimated area of 154,708.96 km2 (59,733.46 sq mi), this region has an estimated density of 108.2 people per square kilometer. For the entire region, 3, 983,768 households were counted, which results in an average for the region of 4.3 persons to a household, with urban households having on average 3.3 and rural households 4.5 people.[18] The projected population as of 2022 was 32,134,988.[19]

Street in Bahir Dar City.
Gondar piazza

In the previous census, conducted in 1994, the region's population was reported to be 13,834,297 of whom 6,947,546 were men and 6,886,751 women; urban inhabitants numbered 1,265,315 or 9.15% of the population.

According to the CSA, as of 2004, 28% of the total population had access to safe drinking water, including 19.89% of rural inhabitants and 91.8% of urban inhabitants.[20] Values for other reported common indicators of the standard of living for Amhara as of 2005 include the following: 17.5% of the inhabitants fall into the lowest wealth quintile; adult literacy for men is 54% and for women 25.1%; and the regional infant mortality rate is 94 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, which is greater than the nationwide average of 77; at least half of these deaths occurred in the infants’ first month of life.[21]

Historical population
1994 13,834,297—    
2007 17,221,976+24.5%
2022 23,216,000+34.8%

Ethnic groups[edit]

At 91.47% of the local population, the region is predominantly inhabited by people from the Semitic-speaking Amhara ethnic group. Most other residents hail from other Afro-Asiatic language communities, including the Agaw/Awi, Oromo, Beta Israel, Qemant, Agaw/Kamyr and Argobba. Gumuz is another community located in parts in Amhara Region, speaking a Nilo-Saharan language.[18]

Ethnic group 1994 Census 2007 Census
Amhara 91.2% 91.47%
Agaw/Awi 2.7% 3.46%
Oromo 3% 2.62%
Agaw/Kamyr 1% 1.39%
Argobba 0.3% 0.41%
Qemant 1.2% N/A
Tigrayan 0.9% 0.65
Mosque in Bahir Dar City
Synagogue outside Gondar City.


Religion in Amhara Region (2007)[18]

  Ethiopian Orthodox (82.5%)
  Muslim (17.2%)
  P'ent'ay (0.2%)
  Other (0.1%)

The predominant religion of the Amhara for centuries has been Christianity, with the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church playing a central role in the culture of the country. According to the 2007 census, 82.5% of the population of the Amhara region (which is 91.2% Amhara) were Ethiopian Orthodox; 17.2% were Muslim, and 0.2% were Protestant ("P'ent'ay").[18] The Ethiopian Orthodox Church maintains close links with the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. Easter and Epiphany are the most important celebrations, marked with services, feasting and dancing. There are also many fast days throughout the year, when only vegetables or fish may be eaten.

Marriages are often arranged, with men marrying in their late teens or early twenties.[22] Traditionally, girls were married as young as 14, but in the 20th century, the minimum age was raised to 18. After a church wedding, divorce is frowned upon.[22] Each family

Orthodox Cathedral in Dessie City.

hosts a separate wedding feast after the wedding.

Traditionally, upon childbirth, a priest will visit the family to bless the infant. The mother and child remain in the house for 40 days after birth for physical and emotional strength. The infant will be taken to the church for baptism at 40 days (for boys) or 80 days (for girls).[23]



There are several industrial parks that are in operation or under construction. The Kombolcha IP was built at a cost of $90 million and employs 20,000 people.[24] Arerti IP and Debre Birhan IP are under construction.[25]


A farmer carrying hay from the fields to his home, Amhara

About 90% of the Amhara are rural and make their living through farming, mostly in the Ethiopian highlands. Barley, corn, millet, wheat, sorghum, and teff, along with beans, peppers, chickpeas, and other vegetables, are the most important crops. In the highlands one crop per year is normal, while in the lowlands two are possible. Cattle, sheep, and goats are also raised. The CSA of Ethiopia estimated in 2005 that farmers in Amhara had a total of 9,694,800 head of cattle (representing 25% of Ethiopia's total cattle), 6,390,800 sheep (36.7%), 4,101,770 goats (31.6%), 257,320 horses (17%), 8,900 mules (6%), 1,400,030 asses (55.9%), 14,270 camels (3.12%), 8,442,240 poultry of all species (27.3%), and 919,450 beehives (21.1%).[26]


Public universities[edit]

There are ten public universities in Amhara Region[27][failed verification]

University of Gonder
Bahir Dar University


The government of Amhara is composed of the executive branch, led by the President; the legislative branch, which comprises the State Council; and the judicial branch, which is led by the state Supreme Court.

Executive branch[edit]

The executive branch is headed by the Chief Administrator of Amhara Region. The current Chief Administrator is Yilikal Kefale, a Prosperity Party member who was elected on 30 September 2021. The current vice president is Alemnew Mekonnen. The other offices in the executive branch cabinet are the Regional Health Bureau (Dr. Abebaw Gebeyehu), Educational Bureau (Yilikal Kefyalew), and 20 other officials.[29]

Judicial branch[edit]

There are three levels of the Amhara state judiciary. The lowest level is the court of common pleas: each woreda maintains its own constitutionally mandated court of common pleas, which maintain jurisdiction over all justiciable matters. The intermediate-level court system is the district court system. Four courts of appeals exist, each retaining jurisdiction over appeals from common pleas, municipal, and county courts in an administrative zone. A case heard in this system is decided by a three-judge panel, and each judge is elected.

The highest-ranking court, the Amhara Supreme Court, is Amhara's "court of last resort". A seven-justice panel composes the court, which, by its own discretion, hears appeals from the courts of appeals, and retains original jurisdiction over limited matters. The chief judge is called the President of Amhara Supreme Court (Yeneneh Simegn).[30]

Legislative branch[edit]

The State Council, which is the highest administrative body of the state, is made up of 294 members.[31]

National politics[edit]

Amhara is represented by 138 representatives in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia House of Peoples' Representatives.

Administrative zones[edit]

Like other regions in Ethiopia, Amhara is subdivided into administrative zones. There are 11 zones and 67 woredas.

Administrative Zones of the Amhara Region
Number Zone Area in km2 Population estimate 2022 Administrative Capital
1 Agew Awi Zone 9,148.43 1,077,144 Injibara
2 East Gojjam Zone 14,004.47 2,351,855 Debre Marqos
3 North Gondar Zone 45,944.63 2.929,628 Gondar
4 North Shewa Zone 15,936.13 1,837,490 Debre Birhan
5 North Wollo Zone 12,172.50 1,500,303 Weldiya
6 South Gondar Zone 14,095.19 2,051,738 Debre Tabor
7 South Wollo Zone 17,067.45 2,518,867 Dessie
8 Wag Hemra Zone 9,039.04 463,505 Sekota
9 West Gojjam Zone 13,311.94 2,106,596 Finote Selam
10 Bahir Dar Special Zone 213.44 474,743 Bahir Dar
11 Oromia Zone 3,470.04 457,278 Kamisse

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sub-national HDI - Area Database - Global Data Lab". Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  2. ^ "Amhara Regional State". 29 March 2022.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ a b Blackhurst, Hector (October 1974). "Church and State in Ethiopia, 1270–1527. By Taddesse Tamrat. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972. Pp. xv + 327, bibl., ill., maps. £5·50". Africa. 44 (4): 427–428. doi:10.2307/1159069. ISSN 0001-9720. JSTOR 1159069. S2CID 146979138.
  4. ^ Beckingham, C.F.; Huntingford, G.W.B., eds. (15 May 2017). The Prester John of the Indies. doi:10.4324/9781315554013. ISBN 9781315554013.
  5. ^ Labzaé, Mehdi, ed. (17 November 2020). "" Tedjemerwal " : ressorts sociaux, enjeux matériels et significations locales d'une entrée en guerre". Politique Africaine.
  6. ^ a b "President of the Amhara region killed". Ethiopia Observer. 23 June 2019. Retrieved 24 June 2019.
  7. ^ Ingber, Sasha (23 June 2019). "Ethiopia Army Chief Killed In Attempted Coup, Government Says". NPR. Retrieved 24 June 2019.
  8. ^ "Alleged Ethiopian coup mastermind shot dead after 36-hour manhunt". i24 news. 24 June 2019. Retrieved 24 June 2019.
  9. ^ The Amhara National Regional State – Ethiopian Government Portal. 2017. [Online] Available at Archived 2 February 2017 at the Wayback Machine. [Accessed 30 January 2017].
  10. ^ a b c C.F. Beckham and G.W.B. Huntingford, Some Records of Ethiopia, 1593-1646, (series 2, no. 107; London: Hakluyt Society, 1954), p. 35 and note.
  11. ^ Paul B. Henze, Layers of Time: A History of Ethiopia (New York: Palgrave, 2000), p.73
  12. ^ "Lake Tana Biosphere Reserve, Ethiopia". 22 October 2018.
  13. ^ "Simien Mountains | World Heritage Site". Retrieved 28 March 2022.
  14. ^ "Mount Ras Dejen | mountain, Ethiopia | Britannica". Retrieved 28 March 2022.
  15. ^ a b Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. "Simien National Park". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 28 March 2022.
  16. ^ Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. "Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 28 March 2022.
  17. ^ "Fasil Ghebbi, Gondar Region".
  18. ^ a b c d Census 2007 Tables: Amhara Region Archived 14 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Tables 2.1, 2.5, 3.1, 3.2, 3.4.
  19. ^ Population Projection of Ethiopia for All Regions At Wereda Level from 2014 – 2017. Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Central Statistical Agency. Archived from the original on 6 June 2018. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  20. ^ "Households by sources of drinking water, safe water sources" Archived 5 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine CSA Selected Basic Welfare Indicators (accessed 28 January 2009)
  21. ^ Macro International Inc. "2008. Ethiopia Atlas of Key Demographic and Health Indicators, 2005." (Calverton: Macro International, 2008), pp. 2, 3, 10 (accessed 28 January 2009)
  22. ^ a b "African Marriage ritual". Archived from the original on 7 May 2017. Retrieved 9 February 2011.
  23. ^ The World and Its Peoples: Africa, North and East, Part 2, Volume 23. Greystone Press. 1967. p. 300. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  24. ^ Asrat, Amare (8 July 2017). "Kombolcha industrial park inaugurated". Fana Broadcasting Company. Archived from the original on 14 July 2017. Retrieved 24 February 2018.
  25. ^ Lifang, Song (13 July 2017). "Ethiopia plans to have 15 industrial parks by June 2018". Xinhua. Archived from the original on 20 February 2018. Retrieved 24 February 2018.
  26. ^ "CSA 2005 National Statistics" Archived 18 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Tables D.4 - D.7
  27. ^ "A-Z list of Amhara Region (Ethiopia) Universities". Retrieved 28 March 2022.
  28. ^ "Mekdela Amba University 2020 Ethiopia". 13 March 2020.
  29. ^ "Amhara Region Announces Appointment of 22 Cabinet Members". Ethiopian News Agency. 23 November 2016. Archived from the original on 5 March 2018. Retrieved 24 February 2018.
  30. ^ "MOU Signing ceremony With Federal and Regional Supreme Courts of Ethiopia to Facilitate Support for Clearance of Backlog Files". Justice For All-PF Ethiopia. 14 August 2015. Archived from the original on 5 November 2017. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  31. ^ Lansford, Tom (2015). Political Handbook of the World 2015. Washington, D.C., United States: CQ Press. pp. 492. ISBN 978-1483371559.

External links[edit]