A Millennium Message
Dear Compatriots. Fellow Africans both at home and the Diaspora and friends of Ethiopia. Today is unique and momentous day. It is the eve of the beginning of a new Ethiopian millennium. We are about to welcome a new millennium which by the unanimous decision of the African union and the consent of fellow Africans throughout the world is also an African millennium. It is therefore with great pride and pleasure that I wish you all a happy new year, a happy new century and a happy new millennium. More->
Queen of Sheba's Footsteps
Birth of Coffee: There is an old Ethiopian legend that says that a young goatherd noticed his herd becoming unusually frisky after eating some bright red berries. After trying some himself, he found that they had the same stimulating effect on him. A monk from a neighboring monastery also tried these berries after he found the young goat herd in this state, and to his amazement, he also found that the berries helped keep him and others alert during their night prayers and thus spread the use of coffee. More->
Ethiopian Airlines Wins Friends , Influences People: How many of our under 30 generation have read his books, or even know about Dale Carnegie, I could never guess. Yet this one man's simple concepts have changed millions of lives dramatically and positively for generations, not just in North America, but around the world. In my opinion everyone should read at least one of his inspiring books. Like Napoleon Hill, another author who has inspired folks around the world, he leads by example. The management at Ethiopian Airlines has the type of action-based thinking and 'hands on' approach Carnegie talks about on every page of his best seller, "How to Win Friends and Influence People." Speaking of winning friends, the way our group of 11 journalists was catered to during a Tourism Ministry sponsored flight from the USA to Addis Ababa -- and around the country on its regional routes, left its mark indelibly on each of us. Following the Historic Route Tour to Lalibela, Gondar, Bahir Dar-and Lake Tana, I had the opportunity of working at the company's head office for several days, laying the foundation for this issue and an updated (Post Congress) edition of Africa Travel Magazine. That was when I experienced the "Spirit of Ethiopian Airlines" first hand.
Wine and Roses: My inner child loves surprises, and to discover a freshly cut sweetheart rose nestled on one's pillow is a touch that transcends time and space. This was the first surprise the Sheraton Addis reserved for our group, and much more awaited us as we checked the nooks and crannies of this elegant hotel and its spacious, luxuriant, terraced grounds. Later, we discovered ornate vases of roses literally everywhere; in the restaurants, around the lobby and corridors, at the pool-side -- and at a festive wedding we attended. Airports: Nationwide expansion sets stage for tourism More->
Dar, Lake Tana, Blue Nile Falls
A Storybook Land: I've never been to Tibet, but the spiritual presence and views we saw during our corkscrew journey up the hillside would easily fit that image. Small wonder this storybook land has such a spiritual presence, a proud tradition and a way of life that has survived three millennia, despite an outside world of hate, conquest, treachery, trial and turmoil. The thatched villages, shepherd boys, terraced farming methods, simple forms of irrigation and donkey power, attest to the fact that time has stood still &emdash; as well it should. Coming from North America it's hard for us to realize that this is the way it has been in this part of the world since time immemorial.
Rocks of Ages: During my recent African excursions, I have been awed by mankind's glorious creations, offset by a Jekyll and Hyde capacity for evil. While we were shocked by the slave castles of West Africa's Gold Coast and Zanzibar's dungeons, we saw the result of godly forces at work in the 12th century rock -hewn churches that have made the Holy City of Lalibela a magnet for Christian pilgrims and historians.
Many come for the famous church festivals in Ethiopia, such as Timket (Epiphany) and other times of celebration and devotion. Souvenirs of King Lalibela are everywhere, as a continuing tribute to his glory and greatness in creating these wonders of the world. Our official photographer, Robert Eilets couldn't get over the abundance of photo opportunities in Lalibela's streets, at the famous stone churches and around every bend in the road leading to this remote highland community. Next time, we vowed to allow an extra day for photography alone.
Footnote: Back in Addis Ababa, it was our turn to be interviewed -- this time by Ethiopian press, radio and television. To a person, each journalist agreed it was a positive experience with no feelings of concern or anxiety about personal health and safety. The climate in mid February was perfect, and the hospitality of the people was second to none. What a beautiful prelude to the ATA congress, Africa's 1st major tourism event of the new millennium. More to come, including map and photos.
Gondar: Africa's Camelot
As our minibus rolled into Gondar, after a short flight from Lalibela, there was ample evidence that here was an area destined for long range development as a destination resort. Several new industries attest to this growing trend, as did our conversation with entrepreneurs at the airport and later at the hotel. Our modern, government operated hotel, the Goha was perched like a sentinel on a hilltop, with a commanding view of the city and countryside. Gondar was Ethiopia's capital and principal city during the reign of Emperor Fasilidas in the 17th century. Perhaps that's why I expected to find it a shrine to past glories, instead of an active, bustling community, with people filling the streets, shops doing a brisk business, and scores of gaudily painted horse and buggy taxis (garis) scooting every which way, like bumper cars at a midway. Several of our group decided to try this hair raising means of transport, and it became a highlight of their day, trotting through the narrow alleys of this centuries old capital.
Thanks to a massive government initiative, many of the castles, palaces and royal structures built by the early Emperors are being carefully restored. These treasures of Gondar include the stone bathhouse of Emperor Fasiladas and the ruined Palace of Kusquam. We also entered the church of Debre Brhan Selassie, to gaze in awe at its unique murals, which have stood the test of time for centuries. These castles display a richness in architecture that reveals the influence of Arabia as well as Axumite traditions, and are said to be the largest concentration of such structures in Africa.
Bahir Dar, Lake Tana, Blue Nile Falls
A pleasant surprise occurred on day 3 of our Historic Route journey through Ethiopia. Following a short flight on Ethiopian Airlines from Gondar to Bahir Dar Airport, the gut-wrenching condition of the road leading west led me to believe our group of 11 journalists would be staying at some dusty lakeside village. However, like several of my colleagues, I was completely bowled over when tall palms and jacarandas suddenly appeared out of the blue. Like part of a royal procession, we entered a modern, well laid out community with broad, tree-lined boulevards. Bahir Dar would rival many seaside retreats on the Mediterranean or Florida.
En route to Lake Tana, I spotted a huge resort hotel complex nearing completion - a sign of positive things to come. After checking into our hotel, we boarded a motor launch for a spin around Lake Tana, which is Ethiopia's largest lake. We're told there are 37 small islands on the lake, and most of them shelter monasteries and churches, some dating back to the 13th century. On most inland bodies of water of this size, one might encounter powerboats and sleek sailing craft, but on Lake Tana in Northern Ethiopia, leisure gives way to practicality. Here, the waters are alive with a fleet of 'tankwas' , papyrus canoes, carrying charcoal and firewood to market in Bahir Dar.
Nature's Brush, Fields
of Gold and Smoke of Fire
The Ahramic name for the Blue Nile Falls is 'Tissisat' or 'smoke of fire' &emdash; which describes what many claim to be the most spectacular waterfalls in Northern Africa. Here a wide body of water drops over a sheer cliff more than 45 meters deep. In many photos I have seen, that curtain of spray kissed by a brilliant rainbow. Speaking of rainbows and pots of gold &emdash; in September I'm told it's a sure sign of spring, when the 'Meskel" flower turns entire hills and fields to gold.
Our Grand Tour Edition will feature Ethiopia's Southern regions, and we will follow the tracks of Ethiopia's railway, from Addis Ababa to Djibouti on the Gulf of Aden.
Exotic Harar, Ethiopia's Walled City
Within Harar are a bustling 33,000 or so Hararis or Adaris (other groups don't live within the walls) in a square km or two. Despite the numbers, most streets aren't crowded and it is quite relaxed. Just wandering through the narrow pathways bracketed by high whitewashed walls is worth the visit. The special sites in Harar are the House of Arthur Rimbaud, the French poet and arms dealer, the ancient mosque of Abul Bakir, and the gates of the city. There is unfortunately dilapidated mansion in which the Emperor Haile Selassie grew up as well.
The mosque of Sheikh Abul Bakir reminds you of the Moslem heritage of Harar (there are 87 mosques in Harar). Abul Bakirí's mosque is built on ancient remains which reputedly date back 1000 years. It is a holy site for the Moslem population, who visit in large numbers, attended by the current descendant Sheikh. There are seven gates to old Harar, and AABD will show you them all if you give him the time. The most famous is the one you drive through coming into the old town. Many of the others have been bricked in or replaced by modern roads.
One gate our guide will show you is the one through which the explorer Richard Burton passed in 1855. He was reputedly the first European to come to Harar.
Addis Ababa: Africa's Meeting Place
Why did ATA choose Addis Ababa as the venue for its 25th Anniversary Jubilee Congress and 8th Cultural and Ecotourism Symposium? To begin with it's today's political capital of Africa, home of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, (UNECA). More than 95 embassies from all over the world have their missions in Addis Ababa. This makes the capital of Ethiopia a city where one finds the highest concentration of embassies in the world after Washington DC, New York and London. Addis Ababa is easily accessible, having daily flights to and from cities in Europe. Ethiopian Airlines, Lufthansa, Alitalia, Kenya Airways, Egypt Air, Saudia and others serve Addis Ababa. Perhaps what makes Addis unique is that the national carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, serves many cities in Africa&emdash; making it the most accessible city on the continent.
Nations Conference Center: The UNCC is one of the most
modern and sophisticated conference centers in the world,
offering state-of-the-art facilities, including:
Business Center; cafeteria; lounges; delegates dining room; press bar and an exhibition area. Africa Hall: Also in the United Nations compound is the famous and historic Africa Hall where the Charter of the Organization of African Unity was signed in 1963. Many conferences are still being held there. It has a seating capacity for 272 delegates with 100 microphones and 335 seats in the gallery. It has simultaneous interpretation facilities.
Sheraton Addis: The Sheraton Addis offers modern conference facilities with simultaneous interpretation; big tv screens and executive boardrooms. Up to 500 participants can be seated in the main hall. The Sheraton Addis is set in beautiful grounds, overlooking the capital city.
Aside from the conference facilities, the hotel has 3 restaurants; a gazebo for light meals by the swimming pool; a musical fountain; cozy bars, and a health center. This luxury collection hotel is ideal for those who wish to have their meetings and accommodations at the same place.
Hilton Addis Ababa: The Hilton Hotel offers a banquet hall for meetings of up to 500 participants. There are also two meeting rooms that can sit up to 20 people and another two for up to eight persons. Overhead projectors, flip charts, projection screens and video projectors are available. Simultaneous interpretation system is not available as of the present moment.
Adaris are justifiably proud of their houses, which are all solid and square, behind walls in a small compound. They have a large sitting area for socializing over coffee or chat (more on this later)They have loads of colorful baskets and Chinese platters on the walls. They are focused on marriage - there is a rack over the front door which holds a valuable rug or rugs which are the dowry for the eligible young lady in the house. They have a room near the entrance which is kept for newlyweds, who are expected to get acquainted through being kept there for a week after their marriage. A small opening is used to pass in food and other necessities. I always wondered how they went to the toilet.
Apart from the regular houses, AABD will show you places which sell the famous Harar baskets and jewelry. The baskets are a bit pricey, but very nice. No foreign resident of Ethiopia should leave without them as souvenirs. There is an odd shaped tubular basket which they use for covering candles. I rudely call them a Harar condom. They also do nice silver bracelets and earrings. The Adder are amongst the most prosperous and educated of Ethiopian peoples. They are traders. They suffered under the Communist Dergue. They are prospering again. There are also a lot of Amhara people in Harar, but much of the town and all of the surrounding countryside is Oromo.
Outside of the old town, there is still a lot to see in Harar. There are the buildings of the Harar Military College. There are numerous public buildings and churches. My favorite stop, however, is the Harar beer factory. I had planned to go to the beer factory for a long time before I got around to it.
Excerpt from a longer article supplied by John Graham. a Canadian living in Ethiopia. Photo by Karen Hoffman, ATA New York