February 2017


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.

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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?

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(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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

I didn’t take many photos on our recent trip to Ethiopia. I generally left that task to my husband, who takes much better photos. That left me more time for taking notes. He needs to organise his photos and I don’t want to write about the trip in detail before that.

In the meantime, here are a few anecdotes:

Fast what?

In Bahir Dar (or Bahar Dar) Airport, we saw an interesting advertisement with several mistakes. One of them, in particular, caught our collective eye.

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Stuck…

…in the sand in the Dannakil Desert.

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Surprise

Modern amidst ancient in Lalibela.

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Lemon

There was an enormous run on lemons wherever we went. Lemon with tea, with soda water, with cola, with fish. The “…with lemon, please” always pronounced the o as an o, which is not what we native speakers do. Israelis tend to copy each other. (Perhaps that’s why some of us like folk dancing.) On a previous trip, it was ginger.

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Honey

In one village, we saw honey that was produced on the spot. The local guide dipped his (unwashed) finger into the pot and offered it around the group, for anyone who wanted to lick it. No one did.

Rhythm an’ me

I thought this was a cute slogan. I didn’t realise I’d be in the photo, too!

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Surprise! I’m back and ready to reveal all… within reason.

I’ve just returned from a wonderful and intensive tour of Ethiopia, which means: the black people. It’s an amazing country, full of archaeology and history, volcanoes and lava, camels, donkeys and birds of many sorts, religion and tribes, music, dancing, paintings and much more. Although we were busy every single day of the nineteen, I’m sure there’s plenty we didn’t see. In fact, there were two things we expected to see and didn’t. More about that later.

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This is the notebook (given to me by my friend, Marallyn) in which I recorded activities, impressions, etc. Some of my scribblings are legible, I think. Some of them can probably only be deciphered by me. They were written while bouncing around in a jeep in the Dannakil Desert.

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There’s even some music.

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I plan to find a way of using it all – after writing everything else I have planned. In the meantime, when we’ve sorted out the photos, I’ll post some of them here.

What didn’t we see? The lava at Erta Ale as shown on YouTube. That’s because there was an eruption on the day we visited. (The previous eruption, we were told, was in 2005, although Wikipedia says 2009.) We climbed all the way up, but weren’t allowed to get near enough to see bubbling lava, although we watched the eruption from afar. We also weren’t allowed to sleep at the top, as planned, and had to walk down again the same night. We were lucky, though, because groups arriving after us weren’t allowed up there at all.

We also didn’t see a regular ceremony that includes bull jumping (that doesn’t harm animals, we were told) and dancing. The ceremony didn’t take place that week.

But the trip was amazing and I’ll definitely write more about it. Stay tuned…