A Shift in Time

Clock face

image by judepics

What time of day do you normally get out of bed? Around six or seven am (or later if you’re lucky)? How about getting up every day at twelve or one o-clock? Some people do, and usually they’re shift workers. But can you imagine a country where almost the entire population starts their day at 1am, or perhaps even earlier? And not a small country, but a nation of more than 80 million people?

There is one country where the day begins at around 1am. The country is Ethiopia.

The notion of that many people—an entire society—getting up routinely in the middle of the night is implausible. But then Ethiopia isn’t known for people getting up en masse in the middle of the night. So what’s going on here?

Map of Ethiopia

Map of Ethiopia: University of Texas Libraries

Ethiopia operates to a unique clock, or system of time. The clock starts approximately at the break of day, which means that 1am occurs not long after sunrise, equivalent to 7am anywhere else. The sun is at its highest point in the sky at 6am (midday for the rest of us). The time of day we would call 6pm is 12 o-clock in Ethiopia, and one hour later it’s back to 1 o-clock again. It’s a twelve hour clock operating from dawn to dusk, to dawn again.

It may sound confusing but on the positive side, if you travelled to Ethiopia from Brazil, Uruguay or Argentina (or the Eastern Seaboard of North America during Eastern Summer Time), you wouldn’t have to change the time on your watch!

Archived under Geography.

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