Every region of Ethiopia has its own crafts and its own musical and artistic traditions. Baskets, carpets, leatherwork, wood carvings and jewellery are made in many areas of the country, but each region has distinct designs.

Musical instruments found in different regions of the country include the krar, a six-stringed lyre, and a one-stringed instrument called a massinko, which is played with a bow. Church music known as the aquaquam is played with a drum and a tsinatseil (also called a sistrum), which resembles a rattle. Modern Ethiopian music shows the influence of various international styles. Mulatu Astatke is a notable contemporary classical music and jazz composer. Telahun Gesses and Astere Awoke are popular singers. Ali Birra sings in his native Oromo and other Ethiopian languages.

Dancing is very important to most Ethiopians. The most common form is iskista, where the dancers moved their shoulders while keeping their lower bodies stationary. As they move, the dancers breathe in sharply, making a sound like iskista. They may also sing a high-pitched folk song (zefen).

Ethiopian painters developed a style of depicting religious stories in a series of panels, complete with captions. Eventually, secular artists used this style to depict everyday themes. Ethiopia has many modern artists. Afewerk Tekle, the country's greatest contemporary painter, has achieved international recognition for works such as "The Meskel Flower".

Ethiopians have a strong oral culture, which includes thousands of proverbs and stories. Stories teach morality, history and culture. Abbe Gobegna, considered one Ethiopia's best writers, focuses on Ethiopia's feudal social situation. Hadis Alemayehu's novel "Fiker Eske Mekabir" ("Love until Death") is considered a masterpiece.

Important architectural sites are the stelae of Aksum and the churches of Lalibela, located in the north. The stelae-enormous stone columns with elaborate carvings-are the most famous pieces of Ethiopian art. Placed on graves, they were believed to act as gateways for the soul to the next life. The largest one still standing is nearly 21 metres high. The medieval churches of Lalibela were built by Emperor Lalibela as a New Jerusalem. Still in use today, the 11 buildings were carved out of a huge, rectangular rock.

  Did you know?
Artisans in Ethiopia use cattle horns to make drinking mugs and shoe horns, and often use horn in lamps, vases and combs.

  Did you know?
Music is a part of all church services; even the liturgy is chanted.