If you are old enough, you will remember the images of emaciated Ethiopians that hit our TV screens during the 1980s famine, exacerbated by a long running civil war. Today Ethiopia is slowly being re-discovered by travelers, lured by its historical treasures and ancient cultural tribes. Those that venture to this large country which straddles southern and northern Africa will find landscapes of extraordinary beauty, rock-hewn churches where men still practice their religion as they have for centuries, and endemic baboons with blood-red chests. Ethiopia challenges the traveler with poor transport and overwhelming poverty, but it is truly an adventure into a different world.
What to do:
– Trek the Simien Mountains where wild Gelada Baboons patrol the spectacular cliff tops.
– Eat Shahan ful – a spicy fava bean mix served for breakfast with freshly baked bread.
– Plunge into the earth at the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela where Christianity is practiced in one of its most ancient and raw forms.
– Visit the former royal city of Gondar where crumbling castles and ancient baths lay in enchanting ruin.
– Stay with the diverse tribal groups of the lower Omo Valley and immerse yourself in their culture, challenging the concept of ‘human safari’ tourism.
– Stop in Shashemene, where Emperor Haile Selassie delegated land for the repatriation of Rastafari leaders from Jamaica and other parts of the caribbean in 1948. Today the Lion of Judah flay is still flown with pride.
– Take it slow and drink in the scenery as you wait hours/days for onward transport.
– Visit the ‘hottest place on Earth’ at the Danakil Depression, home to sulphur springs and bubbling magma crater lakes in one of the lowest places on the planet.
– Read: ‘Beneath the Lion’s Gaze’ by Maaza Mengiste
– Watch: A great modern Ethiopian pop song filmed in the historic city of Gondar