Ten Famous Ethiopians – A Travel Blog

by | June 22, 2018 |

After Istanbul we flew to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I like to start travel in a new country by acquainting myself with their famous people. There are plenty of famous Ethiopians.

Biblical Ethiopians

The Queen of Sheba

Top of the List, aka Queen Makeda.

She heard about the wisest king in the world, went to his court, and the rest is history – literally. She had King Solomon’s son, Menelik I who ruled around 950 BC. He 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 who attended the birth of Jesus. He brought Frankincense.


Frankincense is an aromatic gum resin from an African tree and burned as incense.

Zipporah, Wife of Moses

The Bible doesn’t say much about Moses’s wife. However, a few verses, one being Exodus 2:21, suggest Zipporah (Tzipora) was Ethiopian. (Another name for Ethiopian is Cushitic < Cush, grandson of Noah).


Why should we care about Biblical Ethiopians?

My not-fully-informed but intuitive answer is the following. Christian missionaries were often the vanguard who paved the way for the arrival of military and political colonists. Because Ethiopia was Christianized by the 4th century AD, European missionaries had no business in the country. Thus Ethiopia avoided  colonization.

The rest of Africa did not.


This map shows the colonial situation at the beginning of the 20th century. Note the independent Empire of Ethiopia located in the Horn of Africa

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

As a result Ethiopia has retained more of its traditional culture than other African nations.

The Most Important Ethiopian Political Figure

The most important political figure is Haile Selassie (1892-1975). He was Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 – 1974. He was also last in the line of the Solomonic Dynasty that began with the Queen of Sheba. Impressive. A continuous kingdom/empire in Ethiopia lasted for about 3000 years.

He is also the title image for this post and will get his own separate blog.

Star Track Ethiopians

Tirunesh Dibaba

Tirunesh Dibaba has won three gold Olympic medals and five gold World Championship medals. She also holds the world record for 5000 meters.


Abele Bikila

Abele Bikila (1932-1975) won two Olympic gold medals for the marathon. The first was in Rome in 1960 where he ran barefoot. The second was in Tokyo in 1964 where 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 flat-out amazing:


Ethiopians in the Arts and Culture

Leya Kebede 

Leya Kebede was the eleventh-highest-paid top model in 2007. 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, which means ‘to bloom’ in Amharic. It features hand-spun and embroidered clothing for women and children. She is also involved in philanthropic projects, especially maternal health.

Marcus Samuelsson

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


He owns a number of restaurants in New York City. These include Red Rooster Shoreditch and Ginny’s Supper Club, among others.

Mulatu Astatke

Mulatu Astatke is known as the father of Ethiopian jazz.


Listen to Yegelle Tezeta

See also Ten Famous Serbs and Ten Famous Kiwis.

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This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen

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