Ethiopia’s most visited tourist destination, we expected Lalibela to be a pretty developed place. Wrong again! We were taken aback by the squalor and slum like dwellings that line the road up to the “city center”. Only the two mile road that connects the hotels down the hill up to the “town center” is paved with large cobble stones. Everywhere else, only muddy trails! Between the wooden shacks, you find a few stalls selling textiles and men sewing raggedy clothes on ancient Singer machines. Children enjoy chasing each other around the ditches running along the road. Continue Reading →
Lalibela’s Friday market offered a nice break from churches spotting. Cramped with stalls selling vegetables, fruits and clothes – it was huge. Nearly everyone was selling red onions, some merchants only a handful, some seating next to a small hill, some skillfully stacking them, others just spilling them on the ground. Continue Reading →
Our dream image of Lalibela on Easter Sunday? Swaying among white-clad worshippers and chanting priests. Reality hit hard! Worshippers, having fasted for three days, covered every inch of the churches’ floor, sleeping off their hunger and thirst. Wrapped into their large white shawls they looked like corpses. So Sunday evening there was no way to get in. The churches may look huge from the outside, the inside is very compartmentalized and some parts are strictly reserved for priests. Continue Reading →
Endless caravans of farmers with their goats, cows, sheep and what not were passing by the Queen of Sheba Pool. Some walking with only one animal, others had small herds. To control the goats more easily, many were tied together around one leg, making them to move rather awkwardly. We quickly figured that it must cattle market day and joined the procession. Continue Reading →
One morning we hung out at the Queen of Sheba Swimming Pool. Not that the very queen ever did her laps here. The huge basin full of rain water has always served the locals for washing clothes and bodies, as an elderly woman perfectly described through gestures. Continue Reading →
What has put Axum on the tourist radar goes beyond Christian times. Superbly carved Stelae from those times still point 35 meters into the sky. Then they marked the tombs of royalty and nobility. Continue Reading →
Listen to Ethiopians and you come to believe that pretty much everything started and happened in Aksum…
- The capital city of the Queen of Sheba? Aksum!
- The present hiding place of the Ark of Covenant? Aksum!
Driving back to Gonder from the Siam Mountains, we passed through a former Falasha Village, a reminder of Ethiopia’s black Jews. Nowadays, only two of the Falashas live in the village. The old synagogue is mainly for the few tourists passing by, together with the many souvenir shops selling kitsch made from clay displaying King Solomon in love with the Queen of Sheba and the omnipresent Star of David. But these have to be covered by plastic sheets, otherwise they would become one with the dust carried from the nearby road. Continue Reading →
Most tourists travel Ethiopia through pre-arranged tours. The lack of infrastructure, like reliable public transport, good roads and often the sheer impossibility to make a reservation from abroad are real shortcomings. Add eMails that bounce back, incorrect phone numbers and few people who speak English! Continue Reading →
Walking the streets of Gonder all day we found them surprisingly void of foreigners. Like in Bahir Dar, we only encountered tourists at historic landmarks or at certain restaurants and hotels. In Gonder, the Faranji hangout was nice Hotel Quara, with its huge terrace overlooking the Piazza. This is basically a huge roundabout without hardly any traffic, Gonder’s very center. Continue Reading →