I am happy that my 50th country is one of the only nations in Africa never to be colonized. It makes it just that little bit more ‘special’ and ‘unique’.
Ethiopia is also the spiritual homeland of the Rastafari movement, which globalized its flag colours worldwide via pop culture and Reggae music. They even have their own religion (Ethiopian Orthodox) which believe in Saint Mary more rather than focusing on Jesus.
Addis is a very poor city with a lot more people than Kenya and I could tell. The streets were full of people but they were very friendly and one person took me for a walk all through the markets explaining as we went – for free too! The guy just liked to chat..
My first stop was after a 14-hour bus trip, to Bahir Dar. I watched the stunning scenery go by and the may people hard at work in the land. I got talking to the only other faranji (foreigner) on the bus, a German lad called Gustaf, and we ended up sharing a room at a hotel we came across in Bahir Dar. This helped massively with costs. We cruised around the next couple of days going on a boat trip on Lake Tana to the islands where there are some of the world’s oldest churches and monasteries. We also met some other cool people and had the first, of many, coffee ceremonies.
We also went to the Blue Nile Falls and walked through the local villages buying some scarves and chatting tot he locals along the way.
As a group of four, we caught a bus to Gondar and again shared accommodation.
I explored Gondar with two British women, a Russian and a couple of Germans (even caught up with a German lad I met in Uganda!). Gondar had some cool ruins including a UNESCO World Heritage site of Fasil Ghebbi (Royal Enclosure). We had many coffees (it is the origin of the coffee bean of course) and walking around the old town witnessing a funeral ceremony, crowds of people leaving a massive church ceremony and chatting with the locals in the markets.
From Gondar I had a flight to take me to Lalibela where I had sorted out a walking trek up the Lasta Mountains around and above Lalibela, with Highland Trekking. It was me, a couple of Rasta boys, a cook and a donkey.
The walk was amazing, and as it was a main through-fare for the locals living up top of the mountains, we saw quiet a few people. No cars could possible make it up as it was purely a donkey track. We made it to a village where we sat on the edge of a cliff to watch the sun set – magical. Again, these local villages had no electricity or running water and cooked everything over a fire.
It was freezing!! Luckily I was able to borrow a warm jacket off them as we were staying with a local family in their traditional homes. These homes were quite big with a fire pit in the middle for cooking (and warmth) and a pen around the outside where the animals slept (inside for extra warmth). The family were great and even though there was the language barrier, we got along well and the Dad was quite the comedian making plenty of jokes and laughing when they tried to teach me the local dance. They did another, very traditional, coffee ceremony for me here and as sugar is a luxury, I had my coffee with salt! Interesting.
Back down from the mountains the next day, the Rasta boys took me out for lunch of the local delicacy of gored gored (raw beef cubed and left unmarinated) kitfo (raw beef minced marinated in spices) and tibs (cooked meat with sautéed vegetables) all served with injera – yum!!
I went to another UNESCO World Heritage site of the Lalibela churches. These are amazing and what Lalibela is most well-known for!! There are 11 Rock-Hewn Churches that date back to the 12th and 13th centuries. Now these are impressive. A guide is necessary here and I had him explain it all to me which was fascinating. The Rasta boys then took me out for dinner after I had a very ‘traditional’ coffee ceremony at one the boys’ house, by his sister (it is a women’s job). I got up super early to witness morning prayer at the churches. This, again, is an incredible experience. Lalibela is one of Ethiopia’s holiest cities.
From Lalibela I had a flight to Dire Dawa (via Addis Ababa) for my destination of Harar. I purely went to Harar as I had seen pictures, and heard of, feeding the wild, spotted-hyenas!
From Dire Dawa I met a local (who had just flown in from living in America for the past five years) who took me to his hotel so I could use the wifi. He took me on a little tour of the city of Dire Dawa and dropped me off at the bus station where I went to Harar.
I spent the day wandering around the old town which was quite interesting and they had a school parade happening down the main street with children everywhere. Now this was a town where I hardly saw any other faranji (tourists) at all.
At nightfall I was back at my hotel (after stopping for some samosas by the lady selling them on the street – delicious) and the owner took me to where the hyena feeding happens. We were one of the first to arrive and many of the locals joined around as well. There were two men whistling and calling out the hyena’s names for them to come. And come they did, very shyly though and cautious of all the people around.
Once there was a few hyenas (about ten of them!), my guide pushed me to the front (being the only female there -only a couple of other faranji) and I was to sit down on my knees with a stick in my mouth. As soon as the hyena-man put the meat on the edge of the stick, all I saw was a hyena’s face come towards me and chomp it off the end – talk about up close and personal!!! This happened a few times and then my go was over. I stood there fascinated for a while watching the timid animals going back time and time again for the meat and even heard them laugh (the typical hyena laugh), before we left. Amazing.!
I had an early morning bus back to Addis Ababa (another 14-hour bus trip) which I didn’t mind as the scenery was amazing. There are usually only one or two toilet stops and one lunch stop, so you have to be prepared. No toilets on the busses!
I had a day or two left in Addis to wander around and pick up some last-minute presents – it was time to leave Ethiopia and the incredible African continent.
It was time to head home for the first time in over two years, but not before an extended stop off in Malaysia of course..!
I loved my time in Ethiopia..