Ten Famous Ethiopians – A Travel Blog

by | November 24, 2020 |

In advance of Thanksgiving, CBS ran a feature on food. The segment “Celebrating Black Influence on American Cuisine” introduced Marcus Samuelsson. Over two years ago I included  him in my blog Ten Famous Ethiopians. (He’s also now the title image.)

During the pandemic I am reposting blogs that once again become relevant. Here’s what I wrote on June 22, 2018:

After Istanbul we flew to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. When I visit a new country, I learn about their famous people. Ethiopia has produced plenty of famous people.

Biblical Ethiopians

The Queen of Sheba

Top of the List, aka Queen Makeda.

She heard about the wisest king in the world. And went to his court. The rest is history. Literally. She had King Solomon’s son, Menelik I. He ruled around 950 BC. And began a very long Ethiopian dynasty.


Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, painting by Giovanni Demin (1789-1859)


Balthazar was one of the Three Wise Men. He attended the birth of Jesus. And brought Frankincense.


Frankincense is an aromatic gum resin from an African tree.  And it burns as incense.

Zipporah, Wife of Moses

The Bible doesn’t say much about Moses’s wife. But a few verses suggest Zipporah was Ethiopian.


Why should we care about Biblical Ethiopians?

My answer is the following. Christian missionaries paved the way for the arrival of military and political colonists. Everywhere in Africa except Ethiopia. Firstly, Ethiopia was in the Jewish tradition since the Queen of Sheba. Secondly, it became a Christian country by the 4th century AD. In the 18th and 19th centuries, European missionaries had no business in the country. As a result, Ethiopia avoided  colonization.

However, the rest of Africa did not.


The colonial situation at the beginning of the 20th century. The independent Empire of Ethiopia is located in the Horn of Africa

Moreover, the Italians tried twice to invade: 1895-96 and 1935-1941. They failed both times.

No colonization means no foreign disruption. And Ethiopia has retained more of its traditional culture than other African nations.

The Most Important Ethiopian Political Figure

Hands down: Haile Selassie (1892-1975). He was Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 – 1974. And he was also last in the line of the Solomonic Dynasty. (The one beginning with the Queen of Sheba.) Impressive.

A continuous empire in Ethiopia lasted for about 3000 years.

And he merits his own separate blog.

Star Track Ethiopians

Tirunesh Dibaba

Tirunesh Dibaba has three gold Olympic medals. And five gold World Championships. In addition, she holds the world record for 5000 meters.


Abele Bikila

Abele Bikila (1932-1975) has two Olympic gold medals for the marathon. In 1960 he won in Rome. Where he ran barefoot. In 1964 he won in Tokyo. There he wore shoes.


Haile Gebrselassie

Haile Gebrselassie is the greatest long-distance runner of all time.

Here he is winning the Athens 10,000 meters in 1997:

He is amazing.

Ethiopians in the Arts and Culture

Leya Kebede 

In 2007  Leya Kebede was the eleventh-highest-paid top model. She appeared three times on the cover of U.S. Vogue. She also appeared on Vogue’s Italian, Japanese, French and Spanish editions.


In 2008 she launched a clothing line Lemlem. It features hand-spun clothing for women and children. And its name means ‘to bloom’ in Amharic.

Kebede is also involved in philanthropic projects. For instance, maternal health.

Mulatu Astatke

Mulatu Astatke is known as the father of Ethiopian jazz.

Image: Copyright Tore Saetre, 2017

And now listen to Yegelle Tezeta


And , finally … or rather first:

Marcus Samuelsson

Marcus Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia and adopted by Swedish parents. Hence, his name. He is a renowned restaurateur. And, significantly, he was the chef of the Obama White House.


And he owns restaurants in New York City.

See also: Ethiopian Culture: Three Facets

Addis Ababa – A Travel Blog

Ge’ez Ethiopian Script – A Travel Blog

Ten Famous Serbs

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This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen

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