This is one of several posts about my recent trip to Ethiopia. The others, so far, are:

The Black Country | Anecdotes | Transport | Religion | Danger

The post on transport was updated recently.

I haven’t looked up statistics about animals in Ethiopia, but there are, without doubt, more than I’ve seen in any other country. Cows, goats, buffaloes. You see them on the roads. The driver gives a hoot and the animals inch away until there’s just enough room for the jeep to get past.

Camels and donkeys carry salt – for internal use only, we were told.

Camels carrying salt

We spotted a baboon

Baboon

and a monkey

Monkey

and a dik-dik.

Dik-dik

We saw vervet monkeys.

Vervet monkey

That’s right – blue.

But most of all, I remember the birds. Our guide and driver for part of the tour (Milli) was very knowledgeable about birds and knew all the names. He’d spot them while driving and stop for us to take photos. When said bird was on my side of the jeep, I’d let the window down and sit back for hubby to lean on me while photographing. The results were definitely worth the slight discomfort.

Birds

All photos in this post by David Drori

Today is a special day for us all and especially for one special person: Ailsa Abraham. Today is the launch of her new book, Attention to Death. You’re invited to join today’s launch party.

I have read and loved both of her previous Crooked Cat books and am looking forward to reading this one. The story leads to an issue that has also arisen for Emma Rose Millar and me regarding The Women Friends: Selina.

And Ailsa herself is here to tell us all about this book, which is new in more ways than one. Over to you, Ailsa.

17101812_770818499736825_885949455_n

Hello, Miriam, and thank you for inviting me to talk about my latest release today.

You’re very welcome, Ailsa, as always.

This is a departure from my previous series in magical realism. Here I take off on murder mystery. Why? Erm… limited attention span? Love of variety?

Attention to Death is available from Amazon: http://mybook.to/AttentionDeath

“In Attention to Death, Ailsa Abraham pulls off something I wouldn’t have thought possible – a steamy romance with a twist of murder and a splash of social conscience. A remarkable book that will have you turning pages as quickly as you can to find out what happens next.”
~ India Drummond, author of the Caledonia Fae series

17093876_770816756403666_459813296_nFinding a murderer among a group of killers is not going to be easy for two Royal Army Military Police investigators, Captain Angus Simpson and Staff-Sergeant Rafael ‘Raff’ Landen, whose Christmas leave is cancelled for an investigation into a suspicious death on a base in Germany. 
The case is further complicated by unhelpful senior officers who make pre-judgements on colour, creed, race and sexuality. Yet the insight of the investigators helps them uncover a sinister plot, although they too have something to hide: their own fledgling relationship.
Will Angus and Raff be able to solve the murder without giving away their secret?
The best and worst of human nature is represented in this story, which is why it is suggested for over 18s only.

I delved into my past life as an officer in the Royal Air Force and my lifelong friendships with gay men to research this book.  Coming right after LGBT History Month in February, it highlights the problems that men who have to be “in the closet” and the sort of bigotry that causes people to refuse to read a book just because there are gay characters in it, although this doesn’t stop them leaving reviews. Me? I’ve never been too sure. I’m gender-neutral which is why the first thing I wonder on meeting new people isn’t “What do they do in  their bedrooms?”

Read it for yourself and decide. Is it an honest portrayal of two men doing their job who just happen to have started an affair?

About Ailsa

17092169_770817006403641_724394489_nAilsa Abraham  is the author of six novels. Alchemy is the prequel to Shaman’s Drum, published by Crooked Cat in January 2014. Both are best-sellers in their genres on Amazon. She also writes mystery romance.

She has lived in France since 1990 and is now naturalized French. She enjoys knitting and crochet and until recently was the oldest Hell’s Angel in town . Her interests include campaigning for animal rights, experimenting with different genres of writing and trips back to the UK to visit friends and family.  She is also addicted to dressing up, saying that she is old enough to know better but too wise to care (pirate gear is her favourite!)

Ailsa’s Links

Web-pageAmazon.ukTwitterFacebookLinked-In

This is one of several posts about my recent trip to Ethiopia. The others, so far, are:

The Black Country | Anecdotes | Transport | Religion

Before travelling to Ethiopia, we read warnings about visiting the country. Ethiopia has good relations with some of her neighbours and not such good relations with others, notably Eritrea. Terrorism is well known in Ethiopia.

Consequently, security is high. At every airport, there are two security checks – one to enter the building and another before boarding the plane. You have to take your shoes off twice. Large hotels also have security checks outside their entrances. Soldiers and police were often visible where we went. I was surprised to see them at tourist lookout points. I felt as if they feel tourists are more important than their own citizens. Fortunately, we saw no signs of terrorist activity.

Driving, in Ethiopia, from what I saw, is good. Our drivers kept calm and didn’t take risks. The roads were not always good, and some busy junctions would have benefited from traffic lights, but I didn’t feel in danger there. This is in marked contrast to India, where my heart was in my mouth each time we overtook.

Danger on our trip came from more natural places. One was Erta Ale, the volcano in the Dannakil Desert. We’d been expecting to be taken to the lava lake, where danger would have come from breathing the sulphur, but views would have been spectacular. Unfortunately, just before we arrived, there was a rare eruption and we weren’t allowed near the lake. We did make the climb, however, and saw the new activity from afar.

erta-ale

Erta Ale (Photo by David Drori)

Then, instead of spending the night at the top and walking back down in the morning, we had to return to the camp at night, due to the danger from the volcano.

All that came after what for me was the most frightening part of the trip, but I did it. I climbed a vertical cliff to reach the Abuna Yemata Guh Church. Here is the proof:

climbingtoabunayemataguhchurch

Climbing to Abuna Yemata Guh Church (Photos by Mira Weinstein)

I got help, as you can see, from above and below. “Left hand here. Right foot here.” You see where my right knee is resting? I had to get my right foot there, and somehow I did. Yes, we took our shoes off before that stretch. They told us that was because all the ground near the church is holy, but I wouldn’t have been able to climb with boots on. I could barely squeeze my feet into the spaces as it was.

The pictures above were not taken by David, who decided not to go up. He made a wise decision; it’s not a place for someone who’s afraid of heights.

I made it! I took pictures from inside the nearby cave and of the church.

abunayemataguhcaveandchurch

I even lived to tell the tale!

descent-from-abuna-yemata-gur-church

Descent from Abuna Yemata Guh Church (Photo by David Drori)

Fifteen years have passed since the day that changed my life. It seems like yesterday and it seems like a century ago. So much has happened since that day – good things, although there’s plenty more I hope for. And yet, I remember that day so well, and the months that followed.

To celebrate, I’m repeating my post from five years ago.

—o—

On 3rd March, 2002, I received an email. It began: “Hi, it’s Gill Balbes (as was) here. Was talking to Jane the other night and she was telling me about how she’d been in contact with you and that you remember me (as I do you) so I thought I’d say hello. Schooldays seem a long way off but it would be nice to hear how you’re doing.”

Schooldays certainly were a long way off. It was over thirty years since I’d walked out of the school gates, vowing never to have any connection with any of the girls I’d known over the previous seven years – a few even longer. It was only recently that I’d added my name to the Friends Reunited site, opening up the possibility of contact, although I didn’t expect anyone to write to me.

But Jane did write and I made a decision: that if I was going to correspond with anyone from school, I would make the relationship meaningful by being open about what happened to me there. If they didn’t want to discuss it, there wasn’t much point in reuniting.

Fortunately, Jane did agree to discuss it. She also apologised for what she did to me, although I didn’t hold her or any of the former pupils to blame as adults for their actions as children. I always knew the bullying (which I called teasing then) had had a bad effect on the rest of my life, but never thought the children were mature enough to understand what they were causing.

Jane soon put me in contact with Gill, who had more time to write. Gill and I corresponded almost daily for a long time, and she became a very special friend to me. It was Gill who told me about social anxiety. I didn’t realise the significance of it at first, but gradually two things became clear. I was not alone in being this way and it’s possible to improve. (I don’t think it makes sense to say there’s a cure, and I don’t think there needs to be one.)

Gill has been the catalyst for many changes in my life – for starting to write, for starting a blog, and much more. We have now met several times. After ten years, I still count Gill as a very special friend.

—o—

Actually, Gill and Jane are both very special friends. Do you have a friend story you want to share?

This is one of several posts about my recent trip to Ethiopia. The others, so far, are:

The Black Country | Anecdotes | Transport

Ethiopia is a country of religion, more than any other country I know. All the residents seem to identify with a religion.

addis-ababa-holy-trinity-cathedral-interior-1

Addis Ababa Holy Trinity Cathedral (Photo by David Drori)

One of the guides informed us that Ethiopia is roughly half Ethiopian Orthodox Christian and half Muslim. This made me wonder why we weren’t shown more about Islam. Is it because there is nothing particularly worth seeing in connection with the Muslim community? Or is it because every one of our guides was Christian?

from-mekele-to-lalibela-128

(Photo by David Drori)

Proof (if we needed it) was all around us, in the crosses hanging in vehicles, in the way one of the drivers crossed himself three times each time we passed a church, in the keeping of fast days. On those days – twice a week – adherents refrain from eating all animal products, including eggs and milk products. There are stricter and less strict versions, but this seems to be the norm.

lalibella-asheten-mariam-monastery-30

Lalibela – Asheten Mariam monastery (Photo by David Drori)

We visited many churches, always having to leave our shoes outside. We saw separate entrances for men and women. All the churches had an area where only priests were allowed to enter. We saw pictures, including many from the Old Testament. Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity treats the Old and New Testaments with equal importance.

lalibella-st-georges-day-ceremony-35

Lalibela – St. George’s Day ceremony (Photo by David Drori)

Apart from churches and monasteries, we witnessed religious ceremonies outside. In Axum, we saw the Timket ceremony, of which the highlight involves jumping into the lake and filling bottles with holy water. In Lalibela, we saw the celebrations for St. George’s Day.

lalibella-church-interior-ceiling-142

Lalibela church interior – ceiling (Photo by David Drori)

Perhaps because of where we came from, the guides were keen to stress the many similarities between Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity and Judaism. They don’t eat pork. They pray in an ancient language called Gez, which is similar to Hebrew. Etc. Jews have lived in Ethiopia for a long time, starting (if Ethopian tradition can be believed) with the son of King Solomon. When Christianity arrived in Ethiopia, most people converted. Recently, during the 1980s and ’90s, Ethiopians Jews were brought to Israel and there might not be any Jews left in Ethiopia.

I haven’t mentioned the traditional, tribal religions, and I promise to do so in another post.

I hope you’re enjoying the lovely photos taken by David Drori. You can view the full set on Flickr.

There’s one church that he didn’t photograph and that’s because… I’ll leave that for next time!

One more thing: in  Addis Ababa’s Holy Trinity Cathedral, shown above, we saw the crypt of Emperor Haile Selassie and his wife. (I mention that because someone said she was particularly interested to read about him.)

This is one of several posts about my recent trip to Ethiopia. The others, so far, are here and here.

Planes

Naturally, we flew from Tel-Aviv to Addis Ababa. In just four hours – less than the time it takes to fly to London – we landed in another world. This shouldn’t have surprised me. I’ve crossed borders to Egypt and Jordan, where differences are also obvious. But Ethiopia is more different; and more friendly.

There were also some internal flights. Security is tight. If you don’t like taking your shoes off, imagine having to do it twice before being allowed on a plane. We got to see some tiny airports. In Arba Minch Airport, the second security check was done by hand, reminding me of the not-so-good old days. A woman rummaged in my rucksack and brought out

freshones

“What’s this?” she asked. “It’s for wiping hands,” I replied, miming the action in case she was still in some doubt. She tried to open it by unscrewing the top – which isn’t how it works – but soon gave up. Some of the Chinese had walkie-talkies, which were taken away from them, hopefully to be returned after the flight.

Then we sat in the airport lounge.

094arbaminchairport

On the left, you can see them rummaging. In the centre, a light hanging from the ceiling is tied to a column. Good thing the hall is “Under mentenance.”

All the flights were as comfortable as flights can be and seemed safe. The views were interesting and varied. This is an aerial photo,  although you wouldn’t know. It was taken before landing at Arba Minch.

32873824415_ac6daf684f_b

Photo by David Drori

Minibus

On good roads, we travelled mostly by minibus. The advantage was that the guide could tell us things on the way.

Jeep

In the desert and other unpaved roads, we were separated into jeeps. They were nice and modern and the rides were as comfortable as they could be in the circumstances. Only once did a jeep get stuck in the sand.

008dannakildesertstuck

Light Railway

Addis Ababa has a light railway system. David (hubby), who is keen on trains, told the guide how he wished he could travel on one of the trains to get a feel for it. “Don’t wish too hard,” the guide replied. “Trains come about once every thirty minutes and they’re extremely crowded.”

Added on 15 March 2017. How did I forget?…

Boats

We were taken on two very different boat rides. The first was to cross the Omo River to reach Wakonos Village, which is arguably in Kenya. They gave us a choice of boats and we chose to travel like the natives in one of these:

Crossing to Wakonos village

Photo by David Drori

It wasn’t comfortable stepping in mud to reach the boat, squeezing in, knees raised, but we made it to the other side and our bottoms soon dried in the sun.

The other boat, from which we viewed crocodiles and hippopotamuses on Lake Chamo, was more comfortable.

084LakeChamo

Last Thursday, my friend and fabulous author, Sue Barnard, launched her new book, Never on Saturday, published by Crooked Cat. She held a launch party and I was delighted to be given a slot in it.

nos2bfront2bcover

During the slot, I announced a competition to win a signed copy of Neither Here Nor There. Contestants had to write a short piece that had some connection with Jerusalem.

Now I can announce the winner, who is…

Ailsa Abraham

Here is her entry:

JERUSALEM

Oh please don’t sing Jerusalem
While puffing out your chest
You don’t care about that place
Cos England is the best.

You make me sick when singing of
Our “green and pleasant land”
Not caring for a second
Of a city in the sand.

While you are belting out the song
The folks out there are dying
But if you shed a little tear,
It’s for patriotism you’re crying

No it was not “builded” here
Your grammar causes guilt
It was in the Middle East
Jerusalem was built.

So think when singing, or abstain
Please, my friend, you choose
But think, if you are singing
Of Arabs and of Jews.

 Isn’t that lovely? Thank you, Ailsa!