An excellent guide for Tigray
Getachew Gebrewihet is an excellent guide, a fine person, very professional but also pleasant and helpful! I recommend him. His mobile is 0912-041225. He has his own van and he is a a very careful driver.
We hired him for a two day tour around the Tigray villages in order to see the rock-hewn churches. This is difficult to do by bus as the churches are scattered around and the public transport is almost non existent. So the best way is to hire a private vehicle.
Getachew is not only a driver he is also an official guide. He took us to every place we liked, stopped anywhere we liked and even satisfied our little vices, like getting drunk in the middle of the day in a local tej house! That was a great experience!
Tour to the South: FOURTH DAY
The fourth day was unforgettable indeed! In the morning we visited the Key Afar market, one of the most colorful and very interesting markets of Ethiopia. All the tribes of the area go there to sell their products, vegetables, fruit and handmade items for everyday use. They have wonderful honey and nice handicraft you can buy for souvenirs.
They might look ferocious and savage but at heart they are really nice and warm. If you want to take a photo of them please give them a couple of birrs. They then become friendly and pose for you as many times as you like. If you “steal” a photo they may try to intimidate you but don't be afraid. They do it for fun and for money of course... In reality they are good and open people.
We also had the chance to see some other tribes on the way . We saw Hamer, Bana, Karo and Arbore, all dressed in the elaborate traditional costumes or just naked but with their bodies painted with imaginative designs and with the hair done in their own peculiar way. Very impressive! The children did everything to attract our attention, they jumped up and down, they shouted , they were standing on stilts..., they ran after the cars shouting “highland! Highland!” which means bottled water or they just wanted us to give them the empty bottles which are used in the daily life in many different ways. In the evening we started our difficult trip to Jinga.
We tried to find a place in a beautiful camping site with lush vegetation and beautiful views, but it was completely full. So we ended up in a dull hotel which nevertheless had good beds, private bathrooms with hot water and views over the city, but I was too tired to ask for info so I remember nothing more about it......
For Key Afar Market go to my Key Afar TravelogueRelated to:
- Road Trip
Tour to the South - FIFTH DAY
On the fifth day we visited the territory of Mursi, deep in the jungle of Lower Omo Valley on the way to Mago National Park. Their fierce look and their hostile behavior froze us. They demanded a lot of money just to let us enter their territory and they got very wild when we took a photo of them without asking them. They asked for two to five birr for each photo for each one of them. This is not a lot of money for a Western tourist and it's logical for them to ask for it since they have no other way to survive. But the way they did it with their big guns in their hands made all the tourist freak out. I saw a middle-aged woman crying and many others wanted to leave immediately.
Anyway we have to remember that these people are in extinction and they will be deprived from their natural environment in a few years when the national highway to Kenya is finished. We have to understand this.
Only the wild beautiful nature of the Mago National Park sweetened our hearts and we left with the most contradictory feelings. However, one thing is certain.. this was the most impressive thing I have seen in Ethiopia.!!!
We slept in Dimeka after enjoying another breathtaking sunset!! No doubt sunsets in the South of Ethiopia are amazing!!!
If you want to see more view my Mursi, Omo Valley TravelogueRelated to:
- National/State Park
Maryam Zion festival - Aksum
People from all parts of the country come in thousands every year, sometimes even as many as 50.000-70.000.
They all wore white clothes, men and women, and most of them, even people of Aksum spent their night in the huge church yard. It was a very emotional sight to see all this congregation who defied the bitter cold and the tiredness of the journey and came to express their faith. I woke up very early to catch the light of dawn with the candles and their beautiful white shawls.
Some were teaching the word of God, others were sitting on the ground. The very poor ones received help by the less poor , which were grains of their crops or a few small coins.
The priests were dressed in their best colorful clothes and young children who belonged to the church as helpers or young religion students were dancing along the way until they reached the central point of the festivities, where the high rank priests and city authorities were. There, if you dropped a pin it would not reach the ground.. Then they formed circles and danced and sang religious tunes, two or three of them dancing in the middle, giving the rhythm with their big bongos in their hands. It was a very colorful circle because of the very bright colors of their costumes?
If you really want to attend a celebration like this, please make sure you have booked a good room with a private bathroom several days before. You don't want to know what you will suffer with common bathrooms.....!
View my Maryam Zion Festival TravelogueRelated to:
- Religious Travel
You will regret it, I am sure, if you leave Ethiopia without having visited Lalibela. The enormous churches carved in the rock deserve to be considered one the World Miracles. They are declared a world Heritage which nobody can deny... I arranged to be there just before Christmas when thousands of locals had come to show their faith. The place was really packed but I liked the picture. Thousands of locals wrapped in their “shamma”, a white cloth used for many purposes, had flooded the streets and the surrounding area of the churches. They had arrived many days ahead and had brought several cooking pots and other things that would help them to survive for a few days. They slept on the ground under the trees and waited for the big day.
Lalibela is privileged with scenic views, as it is built on the rims of high mountains. And also attracts a lot of people for its history and its miraculous churches...... but I'll let the photos tell the rest....Related to:
- Religious Travel
- Historical Travel
Bati is a small village near Dessie. It is considered worthy of a visit because of its market where one can see authentic Afar people coming from remote places of east Ethiopia to sell their products.
Actually everything else in this place is unimportant and deterring especially the behavior of the people who made me go away as soon as possible. They were rude and very indiscreet. Disappointing. The best hotel in the village was awful, full of cockroaches and expensive for what it offered, no hot water and disgusting food... I ran away!Related to:
- Road Trip
Timkat - Dire Dawa
I happened to be in Dire Dawa during Timkat, Ethiopian Epiphany, one of the major celebrations in Ethiopia. Timkat is celebrated with great vigor. All people come to take part in the great religious festivities. Timkat is usually celebrated near a pool of water or river since it symbolizes John Baptist's blessing of Christ in the river Jordan.
In Dire Dawa they gather in a huge area and get the “holy” water from the hands of the people of the church who throw water on the crowd using small jugs. Then the people return to their churches, singing and dancing.Related to:
- Religious Travel
Nazret has nothing to attract tourists but it is a cool and comfortable city to have a break between your trips to the north, south, or east. You can avoid the hustle and bustle of noisy and dirty Addis. You can find a pleasant hotel to spend a couple of days doing ...nothing...but relax!
The city is very big, but it is quiet and easy. There is dust in the main street but there is a lot of green in the rest of the city.
Restaurants with more “Western” dishes are not plenty. There is one in Palace Hotel in a nice ambient with live music on weekends and holidays. Very pleasant place. The food is not so good but it is not easy to find food that is not too spicy and too oily in the city...
I stayed in Adama Makonnen Hotel, one of the most pleasant hotels in Ethiopia which owns the best restaurant in Nazret according to the local people and to my taste....
the River in Dire Dawa
A really picturesque place in Dire Dawa is the river, as the locals call it. Actually it had almost no water when I visited it. We had to walk for about one hour from the street where the taxi driver left us. We passed beautiful verdant nature and walked along small paths. All the way local children escorted us and kept us company with their happy attitude.
When we arrived in the river we saw many locals who live along the river or in more remote parts along the banks while they were going on with their daily chores. Washing themselves or their clothes, taking care of their animals, carrying their products to the city...
Some of them were open and smiling, others were even hostile to my camera. But most of them were beautiful in their traditional colorful clothes! The picture of them coming down the river with their camels is still very vivid in my mind!!!
Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud's house - Harar
Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud, the French poet who lived in the 19th century, chose to spend a part of his life in Harar. A nice two storey restored house, said to be the place he lived, is now an interesting museum. In the central room you can find evidence of his life and work. I opened one of the big books and took some pictures of his drawings.... In another room you can see photos depicting the history of Harar, like Ras Mekonen's and Ras Tafari's photos --father and son.
I liked the view from the upper floor. You can see a big part of the old city including the old market.
I should not end this without mentioning the most interesting things about Rimbaud... He had created most of his famous work, which influenced literature, art and music, worldwide, before he was 21...! Rimbaud was a phenomenal child, he lived an adventurous life and he unfortunately died very young at the age of 37...Related to:
- Arts and Culture
Merkato, Addis Ababa
A very picturesque open market, perfect for photographers and good for travellers who want to catch the breath of the city. But they should all be careful, very careful ! I saw a lot of thieves stealing in front of my eyes. I saw policemen chasing, catching them and beating them up. I heard hundreds of stories about the various ways the thieves invent to attract your attention or trap you so that you can't move and their friends can grab your things very easily. A friend told me they lay on the ground and held his legs so he couldn't move.
However you should not leave Addis without even a short visit in Merkato. Take a local “guide” with you to protect you and make way for you. They usually do their job well and are easily found around Piazza.
All kinds of products are sold in this huge market. Fruit and vegetables, spices, clothes, handicraft, household goods, even animals. There is every colour, smell and shape in this huge Market!!! You will like it!
For more beautiful photos in Merkato go to my Travelogue.
Fiche-(for Debre Libanos)
Fiche is a small impersonal town, two hours by bus from Addis Ababa. Built along the main drag it has nothing to write home about..
We stayed in Bahir Dar Hotel II (30b)– 0111351459. The rooms were around a small sunny yard where we could pick some sun during the day but in the night the cold was unbearable, at least in November when we were there.
There is a bus going to Debre Libanos in the morning. (10b)
The problem is there is no bus station so when we wanted to move on with our trip we had to undergo a painful experience.. We got up at 5.00, packed our things and stood by the road shivering in the bitter morning cold for more than one hour. We tried to get a lift with anything that had wheels, even big trucks. But they were all packed and asked for a lot of money. Finally we managed to negotiate with a passing jeep with few passengers and had a pleasant trip to Bahir Dar. We paid about 200 birr each for that and 60b for the negotiator, a local boy who does this job, as it is impossible to stop anybody yourself. They simply ignore you.
The views of the countryside were amazing! The fields formed green and blond geometrical shapes spreading as far as the eye could see. The tall dark green trees scattered between the fields and the winding road with local people walking by the side was really a wonderful picture!Related to:
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
It is easy to visit the beautiful waterfalls by bus. You should go to the bus station in Bahir Dar and take a bus for Tis Isat village. You arrive there after one hour. From the village you have to walk for half an hour as far as the waterfalls, something I really enjoyed. The views of the valley where the river flows to its fall is an unforgettable sight.
We were there in November and we were lucky that the water was enough to satisfy our eyes, although a hydroelectric project has lessened the water of the river a lot.
We took the short way that brings you in front of the river but there is another way that leads very close to the waterfalls crossing the river by a motorboat and finally arriving to the point where the water comes down roaring...! This should take you about an hour and is much more interesting!
Boats are rented that can take you to the islands with the monasteries in Lake Tana. You can arrange which ones you want to visit or let the boatman arrange the route. You can have a 3-4 hour ride or a much longer one if you want to visit the more distant islands. We paid 300b for the two of us for a half day ride and we visited almost five monasteries.
In Debre Iram we had the luck to attend a celebration which was not a touristic show but authentic! Very colorful! People prayed, danced, and sang, mixing christian religious songs with their own traditional singing. They even cooked around the small church.
One thing none of the tourists liked on the islands - I even saw some tourist get hysteric - was the money the monastery people asked, sometimes double or triple the money due.
On the dock of one island, there was what we call a tourist trap. There was a gang of young men with big intimidating muscles and tried to “persuade” tourists that the only way to visit the island was to pay them the money both for the monastery and for them. They said it was not permitted for tourists to go alone, which we believed for a moment, until we saw a young woman who was well-informed fighting and shouting to them so fiercely that we realized that was a big lie. So we went on trying to forget their big muscles....
We even saw some hippopotamuses in the lake!
There is a public boat that goes to the opposite side of the lake in two days.
For more photos of the celebration go to my Lake Tana TravelogueRelated to:
- Religious Travel
- Budget Travel
In Gondar you will probably be interested in seeing the historical sites and also you may want to book a tour for Simien mountains. As for the sites you can do it yourself, if you have a guide book. If, however, you prefer to book a tour just to save time you can come in contact with the official guide office. You can call them or go to them in person in their permanent headquarters inside the Royal Enclosure, opposite the ticket office.
The Royal Enclosure is an idyllic place which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. After you have finished your exploration of the site I am sure you will like to sit there by the beautiful old castles and enjoy the quiet atmosphere....
There are also unofficial young guides who offer cheaper prices and sometimes they are also good. Only, the information they will give you are not guaranteed to be accurate or correct. The tour is usually in jeeps and they can take you to all sites and other places of interest..
-The Holy Trinity Church
[Fasiladas' Bath is filled with water in Epiphany celebrations on January 19th, called Timkat in Ethiopia, and people bathe in it to purify themselves.]
These sites are in a distance from each other. Of course you can do it by taxi.
Hiring unofficial guides also harms these young boys because they are urged to leave school, which hurts the people of Gondar in the long run...
Gondar is 3,5 hours by bus from Bahir Dar (45b)
If you are prepared to walk on the Simien Mountains, which I recommend, it's better to wait in Gonder for a better offer from the local guides or go to Debark and book the trip yourself. If you are a good negotiator you can take it down to 100$, joining another group of course. The hotel and the food in Simien Mountains are not included in these cheap tours.Related to:
- Religious Travel
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