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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