Greek sailors and merchants began emigrating to Ethiopia in significant numbers in the late 1800s. It is likely some were refugees of the Greek Genocide, Greek Civil War, and later the military dictatorship. Nowadays, a small Greek community in Ethiopia is keeping both cultures alive.

By Alice McCool (Al Jazeera) |

ADDIS ABABA―”Did you know that Ethiopia gets its name from the Greek word Aethiopia, first used by Homer?” Greek Ambassador to Ethiopia Nikolaos Patakias says proudly.

Sitting in his office in the capital Addis Ababa, Patakias shows an ancient Greek romantic novel, The Aethiopica. It’s a love story about the relationship between the daughter of the queen of Ethiopia and a Greek descendant of Achilles.

Also in his possession are photographs of relics from the ancient Ethiopian Kingdom of Axum. These include the famous Ezana Stone and some gold coins, both of which have ancient Greek scripture written on them.

“Tradition counts for a lot in Ethiopia and Greece, we follow it by the book,” says businessman Odysseas Parris, 57, sitting in a Greek restaurant close to the ambassador’s residence.

“We’re very lucky because we get to enjoy festivities from both cultures.”

As he sips his frappe – Greek iced coffee – and his wife Anastasia Mitsopoulou smokes and talks expressively with friends, they are unmistakably Mediterranean.

Yet Parris and Mitsopoulou are two of Addis Ababa’s second generation Ethio-Greeks. Both of Parris’ grandfathers were Greek and grandmothers Ethiopian. He, and his parents before him, were born in Ethiopia.

Mitsopoulou’s story is similar, though she is also part Italian. But being part of what are arguably two of the world’s proudest and most ancient cultures isn’t always easy, says Mitsopoulou, a teacher at the Greek Community School.

“Neither country really accepts us as one of them. In Greece we are Ethiopians, and in Ethiopia we are Greeks,” she says with a sigh.

Greek sailors and merchants began emigrating to Ethiopia in significant numbers in the late 1800s. It is likely some were refugees of the Greek Genocide, Greek Civil War, and later the military dictatorship.

In its heyday, the embassy here estimates the Greek community numbered between 5,000 and 6,000 people.

Continue reading this story at Al Jazeera
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