Weather: Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia

The horn of Africa has seen more than its share of agony, including decades of civil war and devastating drought. Visitors to Ethiopia may be surprised, then, at how agreeable its climate can be. The nation's western highlands escape both the sizzling heat of the northeast's Danakil Desert and the nonstop mugginess of the southeastern lowlands. Winters bring dry northeast flow from the Arabian peninsula, so that highland nights can be as cool as anywhere else in Africa – frosts are frequent above 2200m/7200ft, although daytime highs often reach 21°C/70°F in mid-winter. The coolest afternoons tend to be in July and August, when thunderstorms prowl the highlands almost daily. Small hail is common, and on many days sunshine makes only a brief appearance between morning clouds and afternoon storms. These “big” rains can be torrential toward the Southern Oromo peaks, which intercept a stout monsoon flow from the Indian Ocean. March into May brings a shorter period of “little” rains to the eastern highlands. The formation of an El Nino can intensify the little rains but pinch off the big rains, raising the risk of drought; the opposite pattern (weaker little rains, heavier big rains) often prevails during a La Nina. One of Africa's strangest climatic quirks is the scrubland desert that extends from eastern Ethiopia to the coast of Somalia. Although there's plenty of moisture around, the prevailing upper winds tend to suppress rainfall, outside of modest showers as the ITCZ passes by. The Indian Coast waters can be surprisingly cool due to seasonal upwelling, with plenty of fog and mist during the summer. The Gulf of Aden and Red Sea are more like bathwater. The coastal towns of northern Ethiopia,  s well as those of Djibouti and Eritrea, tend to simmer year round. A few rainy spells in winter are induced by a narrow zone of converging winds along the coast. Otherwise, imagine Saharan heat combined with tropical humidity and you get the picture.