travelling in Ethiopia

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Geneva
travelling in Ethiopia

 

Geneva

[b]Travels in Ethiopia[/b]

DIRE DAWA, eastern Ethiopia -- Several times thought to post a chronicle of our recent travels here, but many Internet cafes (and loads of places have them now) in dusty villages have slo-o-o-o-ow connections and it takes hours just to complete a post, e-mail a few letters etc, and so we just put it off.

But here goes: what a surprise, this part of the country! -- Never expected to first set foot in the Middle East in Ethiopia.

But that impression is inescapable here, what with the long camel trains (carrying split wood, mostly: eucalyptus?), the arid rolling hills (like the West Bank said one companion), the constant foot, truck and mule traffic from nearby Djibouti and Somalia, in fact from everywhere on the Red Sea coastline.

Fascinating old train station in the middle of town: "Chemin de Fer Djibouto-Ethiopien", with at back a veritable museum-full of classic broke train wagons, locomotives, 2и Classe cars and vintage metal-working machinery. Looking closely at one little note stapled to a wooden train car, I could decipher that the station master had sent it back to be repaired in June ... 1906!
-- Service sometimes slow around here.

Anyways, with midday heat soaring, we went to the Harar Cafe, for a cold (well, coolish) St Georges beer -- really, the best in Ethiopia. Loads of French and Italian spoken around town in addition to the ubiquitous Amharic, of which we have just learned the basics: "ferenji"" (ironic term for foreigners), "I-shi" (a sigh like : OK, thanks, right), and a few other terms I cannot keep in mind in this heat ....

[more later from Harar and Addis]

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[ 21 June 2007: Message edited by: Geneva ]

[ 21 June 2007: Message edited by: Geneva ]

Geneva

anyways, back home before I could find another Internet cafe w'out sloooow dialup connections, so just a retrospective roundup on Ethiopia:

- the East is really fascinating, and after the visit to Dire Dawa (above), we continued to Harar, once home of Rimbaud, with museum carefully preserved, but more established as a Muslim citadel town in a largely Christian country

Harar not as fascinating as billed in its walled inner city, although the market really has everything, from wheat flour to cell phones, and the star item for us being "khat";

pronounced "chat" by everyone, it is just everywhere; people chew on it, you are walking on it, kids run up to you with fistfuls of green leaves to offer, sheesh ;
as if in Cochabamba coca leaves were underfoot everywhere, and all perfectly legal and visible;

in any case, avoided it, following Lonely Planet advice that if you want a good local stone, get a Harar Beer, the local variant of St Georges, a good national brew; maybe next time

- Lake Tana probably has the best inland water in the country -- the lakes to the southwest of Addis are plain and overrated; saw a hippo suddenly surface (wow!) en route to the monasteries on the Tana islands there, with tremendous colurful church murals that made me wonder about several biblical stories illustrated, esp the wedding at Canaa ( water to wine very intersting for me!!)

- - Ethiopians are HUGE fans of English Premiership soccer, and we ran into their fandom everywhere, including remote-village buses with "Arsenal is Life" plastered over the backsides, and old men approaching in the market to ask: Chelsea - you like?

spent the evening of the Champions League final in the centre of Addis, where about 30,000 gathered for the big-screen treatment of Liverpool-Milan; loud groans at the misdeeds of the Italians and huge roars for the heroics of the English players

decided to leave at half-time -- an increasingly packed crowd, hemmed in by cars, plus loads of machine-gun armed cops on the perimeter suggest: get to a safer place ...
anyways, wild cheering for late Liverpool goal kept me updated of score even at the hotel several blocks away!

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[ 21 June 2007: Message edited by: Geneva ]

remind remind's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Geneva:
[b]anyways, back before I could find another Internet cafe w'out sloooow dialup connections, so just a retrospective roundup on Ethiopia:

not as fascinating as billed in its walled inner city, although the market really has everything, from wheat flour to cell phones, and the star item for us being "khat";

pronounced "chat" by everyone, it is just everywhere; people chew on it, you are walking on it, kids run up to you with fistfuls of green leaves to offer, sheesh; as if in Cochabamba coca leaves were underfoot everywhere, and all perfectly legal and visible;

in any case, avoided it, following Lonely Planet advice that if you want a good local stone, get a Harar Beer, the local variant of St Georges, a good national brew; maybe next time[/b]


Interesting, thanks for sharing this, a friend of mine has been working her way around the world, and ended up in Ethiopia last year, and she has never shared this with us. When she comes back in July for a visit, I now have something to discuss with her, as if there isn't enough already anyway.

Geneva

oh yes, one more thing (it all keeps coming back now):

2007 is the Millennium by the Gregorian (Julian? could never figure it out) calendar and hence Ethiopia home to the Christian Copts of east Africa, is set to celebrate its year 2000 Millennium this September:
[url=http://www.ethiopia2000.com/index.php]http://www.ethiopia2000.com/index....

[i]Our Vision:
“By using this unique opportunity of the new millennium to create unforgettable memories for the people and friends of Ethiopia, to leave behind a legacy of a united and determined Ethiopia, and lay down a strong foundation for a national shared vision and common platform for the future generation and for the future prosperity of Ethiopia .” [/i]

no hotel rooms left in Addis ($600+/night at Sheraton during that period), but there are oither ways to get lodged there, I am sure

It would be great if this was an image-transfoming event, because for some reason perceptions have trailed realities re Ethiopia by a wide margin. How many people asked us before leaving:
-- [i]Hope you stay safe, watch yourself, eh?[/i]

Sheesh, compared to neighbouring Kenya, which is wracked by violent crime and carjackings these days -- even on the shuttles between hotels in Nairobi apparently --, Addis and Ethiopia are very placid.

People who had lived years in Addis told us they walk everywhere all the time (except maybe the deepest corners of the Merkato). Ethiopians very friendly, but perhaps if it became a tourist destination that would all change, as in Kenya.

As for its image, other countries that suffered great disasters in the 1970s and 1980s -- military dictatorships, famine, foreign invasion, or all of the above -- have been widely recognized for their changed society: Chile as an emerging social democracy, Vietnam for its growing economy, Uganda for a newly vigorous public sector -- while Ethiopia is stuck with the FAMINE image which dates from .... 1984, 23 years ago, and the OPPRESSION stigma, despite long-ago ouster of the Derg.

The military is back in the barracks, there are imperfect elections held irregularly, Addis is building everything everywhere, from office towers to expressways, and yet, we hesitate to take a look.

hey, maybe some ad agency will pick that up ...

[b]Ethiopia -- Worth a Look [/b] [img]rolleyes.gif" border="0[/img]

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[ 17 June 2007: Message edited by: Geneva ]

Michelle

Thanks for this, Geneva. What made you decide on Ethiopia for travels? Do you have family there, or did you just decide to go check it out?

Geneva

part pleasure, part business -- some material may be useful for trade publications

( I have often thought: if more travellers would just take the initiative with paid writing, they could partly subsidize a lot of their trips:
travel articles of course, but also specialized pieces about culture, trade, people, food, you name it, for niche papers and magazines ...
anyways, that is the perspective of a writer)

re Ethiopia:
Africa has come very late on to my radar, as in the 1970s Quebec, western Europe and Latin America seemed most interesting politically to me

but an unexpected trip to central Africa in the late 1990s awakened me to the continent, and now I take the initiative as often as possible, every couple of years it turns out

this time, it was an Ethiopian colleague who retired to Addis, and said: Make sure to come!! after years of : yeah sure, some day ... finally got it together this spring

Africa much closer here than in N.America, and now that it is reviving in some ways -- all the Chinese investment, some good economic news, a more vocal African Union -- it becomes a more interesting destination, esp. for the more adventurous traveller

plus of course the people, who are often fantastic, when not burdened by crime and corruption

[ 21 June 2007: Message edited by: Geneva ]

Boarsbreath

Man, that sounds great. But hey -- no qhat? AFAIK there only are a few totally legal, legitimately psycho-active, and easily available (somewhere) drugs out there, after Uncle Alcohol. Kava here is one (Vanuatu), betelnut another (north of here & the subcontinent), and qat, khat, whatever, [i]chat[/i], is the third.

Kava's wonderful, betelnut's a bore; but I've always wanted to try chatting...

Bacchus

Oddly enough I just read today that Lava causes liver damage. It was a article dealing with harmful effects of herbal remedies.

I had never heard that before and Im moderately versed in herbalism

And the Toronto Star was talking about several drug busts on Khat in toronto as well as the numeroud (and increasing) busts at the airport

[ 21 June 2007: Message edited by: Bacchus ]

Geneva

several Ethiopians told me thay "had relatives in Toronto", so together w Somalis etc for whom this is a normal "medication", expect that kind of seizures to become more frequent ...

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[ 22 June 2007: Message edited by: Geneva ]

Fidel

So do Ethopians keep track of the days and weeks the same way we do ?. 31 days hath September and all that ?.

Geneva

yeah, except somehow it is usually about 7 years off (their 1996 = 2003 etc);
so you have to look very closely at newspaper fronts to know if it is last week's or from years ago

plus they have their own names for months etc.; I will dig up that sort of thing:

good 'ol Wikipedia;
[url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethiopian_calendar]http://en.wikipedia.org/...

[ 23 June 2007: Message edited by: Geneva ]

Geneva

just a week now till the kickoff to the Millennium:

[url=http://www.ethiopia2000.com]http://www.ethiopia2000.com[/url]