Tag Archives: ethiopia

The Ethiopian Tourist

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I prefer not to do the “tourist thing” and instead just enjoyed hanging out with Haile and Marcos and their wives, meeting family and friends.

We went to the Ethiopian National Museum and met Lucy, the oldest human bones ever to be discovered in the world- 3.5 MILLION years old and 3 and a half feet tall! She was found in 1974 in Hadar, Ethiopia and was named after the Beatles song, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”.

Modern Art Museum of Ethiopia showcased a few local and international artists.

We visited Mount Entoto, which gives a wonderful panoramic view of the city of Addis and atop this mountain sits the first church of Addis Ababa (St. Mary’s) and also the Palace of Menelik II who is the emporer who defeated the Itailians.

Kaldi’s Coffee is like Starbucks but better, way better- considering Ethiopia is where coffee originated! Espressos, Machiatos and Cappuccinos are normal, daily indulgences- which was wonderful.

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Ethiopia is a world of it’s own!

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– Coptic is the primary religion and what distinguishes these women is the beautiful white coptic scarves that they drape around themselves with a stip of embroidery on the edges.

  • – Engira and shiro is to Ethiopia as Kenyans have their ugali and sakuma
  • – When I was visiting, the rest of the world was in March while Ethiopia remained in February 2003. They have 13 months, the last month being only one week long.
  • Amharic has it’s own alphabet
  • “Salamne” is the greeting for a guy, “Salamnesh” is for a girl
  • Coffee ceremonies are a daily occurrence in some homes, especially for the older generation, or for visitors. This process of roasting the beans on the jiko, grinding them finely with a pestle, and then brewing about ten spoons of coffee grounds in a small black pot was so fascinating to me. You then pour the coffee way above the teeny tiny cup you drink out of and then add 2-3 spoonfuls of sugar to counter the bitter coffee taste.
  • Cafes and Italian restaurants are everywhere which is a result of just 5 years of Italian colonization. Saying “ciao” for “good-bye” is another way the Italians left their mark.
  • Ethiopian Crosses are these incredibly ornate and decorative crosses, made of wood of metal and each has significant meaning behind the design.
  • The philospohy of food here- “we eat to finish”, became a wonderful and awful thing at the same time since I loved the food but was stuffed by the end of each meal because they would tell me the meal wasnt finished until all the food set before us was gone.
  • Kaldi’s is the Ethiopian Starbucks, only much better
  • Ethiopia is called “the cradle of civilization”
  • Shiro- a powder made of dried, ground chickpeas
  • Berbere- is an Ethiopian spice, a mixture of approximately 17 different spices, mainly chili powder. Injera- is a bread, similar to a large sourdough pancake.
  • Genfo- made similarly to ugali but using barely flour instead of corn flour. Once made you scoop it into a bowl like mashed potatoes and make a well in the middle for a spiced oil/butter/berbere mixture. This can be eaten for breakfast…

Going to Ethiopia

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The reason for my trip was to renew my visa but if I had to choose a country to travel to in Africa my top 2 were Egypt and Ethiopia. Egypt was out of the question and it just so happened that Gideon has close friends in Addis Ababa and I was able to find a cheap flight out- so Ethiopia became my 1 week of exploration and peaceful rest. When I arrived in Ethiopia at 5:30 am it was fridged, mountains surrounding the airport, and as we rode the taxi back to my friend, Nebiyu Haile’s home I saw many more beggars than Kenya lining the streets wrapped tightly in bright colored shawls. I had not slept the previous night and so before going to visit Haile’s inlaws, his wife, Sergut, and their newborn boy, Laul, he let me sleep a few hours. That first day was my initiation into a full week of engira twice a day at least, followed by lots of shiro, coffee, and one of my new discoveries, genfo.

The next day Haile took me to his home church which was in a European style building, bursting with Amharic songs and a unique sound Arabian style of keyboard music. They actually sung much louder and moved around much more than I expected. I was greeted with warm Ethiopian-style welcomes of kisses on cheeks, men or women made no difference. I enjoyed meeting the many friends of Haile and then Nebiyu Marcos once I moved to his home on Monday. Marcos’s wife, Atunia, had 6 more weeks to go before giving birth to her first-born child and was so hospitable and accommodating to me despite her feeling tired a lot from the baby. It Ethiopia once a woman has a baby she is expected to stay at home with that baby for 3 months, quarantined in the home or her parent’s home, and she is to eat a special diet of genfo, porridge, fruits, and lamb meat. I thought that was a bit extreme.

Marcos works for a child sponsorship program which is part of his church in Addis and Atunia works for an organization called Transformation Love. Because Marcos’s work was mainly in the church I got to know many of the people he works with and the women and children he serves. Many of the people coming to the church live in the dump closeby where they dig for food through the piles of garbage that are regularly delivered in big truck.