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Ethiopia, Land and Resources

Ethiopia covers an area of 1,133,380 sq km (437,600 sq mi). The heart of the country is a high tableland, known as the Ethiopian Plateau, that covers more than half the total area of the country. The plateau is split diagonally in a northeastern to southwestern direction by the Great Rift Valley. Although the average elevation of the plateau is about 1,680 m (about 5,500 ft), it is cut by many rivers and deep valleys, some of which are 600 m (2,000 ft) below the level of the plateau. The area is capped by mountains, the highest of which is Ras Dashen (4,620 m/15,157 ft). These heights and indentations occur in northern Ethiopia, in the region surrounding Lake T’ana (the lake in which the Blue Nile rises). The northeastern edges of the plateau are marked by steep escarpments, which drop some 1,200 m (about 4,000 ft) or more to the Denakil Desert. Along the western fringe the plateau descends less abruptly to the desert of Sudan. Along the southern and southwestern limits, the plateau lowers toward Lake Turkana (formerly called Lake Rudolf).

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