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Historic Route

Most tourists’ first impression of Ethiopia is by travelling on what is commonly known as the Historic Route, and indeed many of them believe that this is Ethiopia in its entirety. Certainly the six-stop itinerary of this well-travelled tour gives fascination and interest abundantly. Addis Ababa, the capital city, in the central highlands at an average altitude of 2400m, which makes it the third highest capital in the world; natural scenery of Bahar Dar and Lake Tana and its fascinating and colorful monasteries; the impressive castles of Gondar; the unimaginable wonders of Lalibela's rock-hewn churches; the ancient city of Axum; and the walled-city of Harar make this route.

Axum

The past glory of Christian Ethiopia is best represented at the ancient city of Axum. For most of the first seven hundred years AD Axum was metropolis of what one researcher has described as ‘the last of the great civilizations of Antiquity to be revealed to modern knowledge’. It was heir both to a cultural tradition of South Arabian origin that had been established for several centuries previously on the African side of the Red Sea, and also to much older local traditions whose economies were based on indigenous cultivation practice. In its heyday Axum displayed great prosperity, organizational power and technological sophistication. Sections of its population were literate in Ge’ez and or in Greek. From the third to the seventh centuries it issued a tri-metallic coinage which is without parallel in Sub Sahara Africa. Wide-ranging trade contacts were maintained through the Red Sea port of Adulis with the Mediterranean lands and, in the opposite direction, as far as India and possibly China. On occasion its rule extended over part of what is now Yemen, on the Asian side of the Red Sea. The king of Axum adopted Christianity during the second quarter of the fourth century. Although Axum had declined in prosperity by seventh to eight centuries, it has remained a major religious center, dominated by the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Zion. Here, according to the traditions of Ethiopian Orthodox Church, is the last resting place for the Ark of the Covenant, brought to Ethiopia by Menelik I, the son of King Solomon and Queen of Sheba.

The spectacularly rise of Islam in the seventh century was the main cause for the decline of Axum. Axum’s dramatic end was caused by the rebellion against the Axumite Kingdom and Christianity led by Queen Yodit or Gudit who destroyed much of the ancient city overthrew its last king and killed the royal princess, thus, interrupting the Solomonic line.

After the decline of the Axumite realm the city remained Ethiopians religious capital as well as the place where several medieval emperors made their way to celebrate their coronation rites. The town is full of archaeological remains including the graves of kings, the ruins of palaces, the stone inscriptions, and great carved stelae.

Axum, besides its huge granite stelae, is also home to the church of Saint Mary of Zion.
There are in fact two such churches one old and one new, both located in the same compound, directly opposite to the stelae park. The older one is a rectangular battlemented building, was put up in the early seventeenth century by Emperor Fasiledes, the founder of Gondar. Whereas, the much more modern structure was erected nearby by Emperor Haile Selassie, who inaugurated it in the company of Queen Elisabeth II of Great Britain in 1965.
The older structure, by far the more interesting of the two, is the guardian of many crowns of former emperors and kings of the country.

The church courtyard also contains ‘the Throne of David’ on which monarchs of the past were coroneted.

There is a small museum nearby which houses a remarkable collection of antiquities. There are several stones bearing Sabean and Ge’ez inscriptions, as well as many other artifacts, including clay figurines that reveal the hair-style current in ancient city. A short walk from museum takes you to the ruins of the original church of saint Mary of Zion, which according to tradition, was erected soon after the advent of Christianity as the state religion in the early fourth century. This, or a later edifice in its place, was described twelve centuries later by a visiting Portuguese priest, Francisco Alvares.

The best time to travel
Although Axum is worthy of a visit at anytime, the town is particularly interesting during the time of church festivals. The most notable include Christmas (7 January) Epiphany (19 January) as well s at the end of November when the festivals of Maryam Zion to whom the great church of saint Mary is dedicated.

Lalibela

Once a thriving populous capital city of a medieval dynasty, Lalibela, is now referred to as a small village. It is scarcely visible against a horizon dominated by the 4,200 meters peak of Mount Abune Yousef. But this secrecy is a deceiving camouflage because in this remote highland settlement some 800 years ago, safe from the prying eyes and plundering hands of hostile interlopers, a noble king fashioned a secret marvel.

This remote place in the mountains of Lasta was formerly known as Roha, and it was the capital of the Zagwe Dynasty under their King Lalibela, who reigned in the early thirteenth century and after whom it was renamed. Lalibela is remembered as a ruler of great piety who sought to create in his native mountains a symbolic counterpart of Jerusalem. There are eleven rock-hewn churches in Lalibela, together with complex and extensive associated works: their contribution to a single reign is based entirely upon historical tradition. In fact, the rock-churches display so much variation in architecture, workmanship and preservation that a much longer period of construction seems highly probable. It has even been suggested that two of the churches may originally have had a different function, being subsequently converted at a time when Lalibela’s overall symbolism was being imposed. If that is so, it would presumably mean that the carving of the Lalibela churches extended over a long period - perhaps several centuries – and that the complex took its final form and symbolism during the thirteenth - century reign of king Lalibela.

With one exception, the Lalibela churches fall into two close-knit groups, located on either side of a canalized watercourse known, as part of site’s biblical symbolism, the Jordan River.

The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela are in fact the top destination by the number of visitors they attract. One of the first Europeans to visit these churches (in 1520s) Portuguese priest, Francisco Alvares was so amazed by what he saw, and wrote: “I weary of writing more about these edifices, because it seems to me I shall not be believed if I write more… I swear by God, in whose power I am, that all I have written is the truth.”

The best time to travel
Although it is always a place of unparallel fascination, Lalibela is particularly interesting during religious celebration, notably Ethiopian Christmas (7 January) Timket (19 January) and Easter when christens pour into the area from regions far and near.

Gondar

You have only to stroll through the banqueting-halls and gaze down from the balconies of the many castles and palaces here to imagine the intrigue and pageantry that took place back in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This is when Gondar, Then the Ethiopian capital was home to a number of emperors and kings.

Gondar became the capital of Ethiopia during the reign of emperor Fasildas (1632-1667). Emperor Fasilidas is responsible for the building of the first of a number of castle–like palaces still found in the region. He established tradition that was followed by most of these successors whose buildings greatly enhanced the grandeur of the city. The city retained its preeminence until the middle of the nineteenth century, when emperor Tewodros II moved his seat of government to Debre Tabor and later to Mekedela. As a result Gondar declined in importance and was subsequently looted in the 1880s. By the early nineteenth century the city was a mere shadow of its former self. More recently several buildings were damaged by British bombing during the Ethiopian liberation campaign of 1941 most of Gondar famous castles and other imperial buildings nevertheless have survived the ravages of time and together constitute one of Ethiopians most fascinating antiquities.

The best time to travel
Gondar like all Ethiopians historic sites can be visited at any time of the year. The city is however a particularly good place to witness Genna Ethiopian Christmas on 7 January and especially Timket (epiphany) celebrations on 19 January.

Harar

Harar is founded in 9th century. However, came into formal existence in 1520 when a local Amir, Abu Beker Mohamed, moved his capital there from Dakar to the site of an older nearby settlement. His rule, nevertheless, was soon cut short, for he was murdered five years later by Ahmed lbn Ibrahim al Ghazi better known as Ahmed Gragn or Ahmed the Left Handed. Gragn left his homeland in 1530-1531 to begin a jihad or holy war against the Christian Ethiopian Empire. He was successful in overrunning much of it but as a result of Portuguese intervention was defeated and killed in 1543.

The city impoverished by war and faced many difficulties. The Oromo advances into the surrounding country side, isolating Harar caused Gragn nephew and successor, Nur Ibn al-Wazir Mujahid to erect strong encircling wall which, ever since that time, have been one of the city most dominant features

For the next three century, Harar remained independent, inward looking, and often militantly theocratic city state. However the town was an important trading center issuing its own currency. Its many inhabitants included merchants who traveled far and wide particularly to Egypt, Arabia, and India. Others where engaged in agriculture and grew excellent coffee as well as a mild stimulant called chat.

Harar also was, and still is, well-known for its handmade crafts including weaving, basket making and book-binding. The town was also renowned for its Islamic teaching and scholarships. Harar ceased to be an independent city state in 1875 when the Egyptians, wanted to establish an east African Empire, occupied and killed its ex-ruler, Amir Abd Al-shakur.

But, the Egyptian occupation lasted only a decade, after which another Amir, Abdullahi, took over only to be defeated later by MenelikII in 1887. This is when Harar became an integral part of the Ethiopian empire. In the period that followed many foreigners settled in Harar, among them the famous French poet Arthur Rimbaud is an exemplary.


The first ruler of Harar after Menelik’s occupation was his cousin Ras Mekonnen, a progressive aristocrat interested in modernization. He was responsible for introducing the country’s first hospital and leprosarium. Despite such development Harar was adversely affected by the construction of the Djibout-Addis Ababa railway. The line was originally planned to pass through the city but for economic reasons diverted to Dire Dawa. Hence, much of Harar’s trade moved to Dire Dawa.

Today, Ras Mekonnen is best remembered as being the father of Emperor Haile selassie. The latter which was born in the vicinity of the city, was brought up in Harar and subsequently served as one of its governors. He long afterwards appointed his second son, Prince Makonnen as governor of Harerge region and gave him the title of Duke of Harar.

The best time to travel
Harar can be visited anytime of the year.

Natural Attractions

Ethiopia, which covers an area as large as France and Spain combined, is situated in the northeastern Horn of Africa, equidistant between the equator and the Tropic of Capricorn. It is a country of immense geographical contrasts.
 

Bahar Dar

Bahar Dar for centuries has been a place of commercial importance, and visited by Tankwas (papyrus canoes) made by lakeside people called the Woyto. Who work these craft across the waters of the lake. Open at the back end the boats appear dangerously fragile as they slide over the surface, but they continue to carry passengers, cattle and goods to and from the many islands in the lake as they have done for centuries.
Bahar Dar is best-known for its colorful market and as a base to explore the areas two major attractions: the Blue Nile falls and Lake Tana.

Blue Nile Falls

Known locally as Tis Isat- ‘Smoke of Fire’- the Blue Nile Falls is the most dramatic spectacle. The area can get up to four hundred metres wide when it floods, and drop over a sheer chasm more than forty–five meters deep, the falls throw up a continuous spray of water which drenches onlooker up to a kilometer away. This misty deluge produces rainbows, shimmering across the gorge, and a small perennial rainforest of lush green vegetation, to the delight of the many multicolored birds that inhabit the area.

The site overlooking the waterfall has had many notable visitors over years including the late eighteenth–century Scottish explorer, James Bruce.

However, today much of the water is diverted to the dam for electric production making the falls not as magnificent as it used to be. But, the beauty of the countryside and the little falls are still worth visiting.

Lake Tana

Rivaling the attraction of the Blue Nile falls are the thirty- seven islands scattered about on the 3000 square kilometer surface of Ethiopia’s largest body of water, Lake Tana. Some twenty of these islands shelter churches and monasteries of historic significant and cultural interest. They are decorated with beautiful paintings and are the repository of innumerable treasures.

Simien Mountains National Park

Rosita Forbes, in From Red sea to Blue Nile A thousand Miles of Ethiopia, said this about the Simien mountains:
‘The most marvelous of all Abyssinian landscapes opened before us, as we looked across a gorge that was clouded amethyst to the peaks of Simien. Thousands years ago when the old gods reigned in Ethiopia, they must have played chess with those stupendous crags for we saw bishops miters cut in lapis lazuli, castles with the ruby of approaching sunset on their turrets an emerald knight where the forest crept up on to the rock, and far away, a king crowned with sapphire and guarded by a row of pawns. When the gods exchanged their games for shield and buckler to fight the new men clamoring at their gates, they turned the pieces of their chessboard into mountains. In Simien they stand enchanted, till once again the world is pagan and the titans and the earth gods learn down form the monstrous cloud banks to wager a star or two on their sport.’

These gigantic chess pieces are actually hard cores of volcanic outlets from which the surrounding materials has eroded away over the centuries - one of the most distinctive characteristics of these highlands, which constitute one of the major mountain massifs in Africa. The region includes many summits above 4,000 meters and culminates in the highest point in Ethiopia, Ras Dashen, which at 4,543 meters is also the fourth highest mountain in Africa. It is not difficult to climb and can be reached by traveling thorough the park.
Covering 179 square kilometers the Simien Mountains National Park lies between 1,900 and 4,430 meters. It is in the Afro alpine zone and the temperature regularly falls below freezing at night.

There are various campsites and routes to follow and the park is breathtaking. Climbing up form Debark on mules through extensive farmland, the visitor is unaware of the dramatic scenery about to unfold. The land forms various small plateau areas, and the edges of this plunger dramatically to the lowlands to the north and east. The edges of these gorges form the perfect habitat for the animals that this park was set up to protect -Walia ibex, Ethiopian wolf and Chilada baboon. Birds from the area are also a delight to watch as they provide spectacular aerobatic displays off the shirr cliffs, using the currents indigenous to the terrain.

The best time to travel
The best time to visit is the dry season, form December to march. Travel is difficult during the long rainy season between June and September when several rivers may be flooded and difficult to cross Trails also become slippery and fog frequently obscures the view throughout the day October, November and December are the coldest months

Awash National Park

Awash National Park is situated in the lowlands to the east of Addis Ababa, on the main Addis-Djibouti highway, which bisects the park. Its southern boundary is in part, one of the major rivers of the country, which swings north soon after living the park and eventually disappears into the wastes of the Danakil region.
 


The park covers an area of 827 square kilometers, most of which lies at an altitude of around 900 meters. Temperatures in the park are hot during the day and cooler through the night

Lake Basaka, located in the park, is a bird sanctuary which supports cormorants, herons, and other water birds. The area is visited by pelicans and flamingos from other areas of Ethiopia.

In the middle of the park is a dormant volcano called Fantale, reaching a height of 2,007meters on its rim. On the southern flank of the volcano a notable dark scar can be seen of the latest lava flow of 1820. The slopes of the mountain hold evidence of former sixteenth century dwellings, seen as remains of walls and settlements of considerable proportion. The interior of the mountain- top crater- where the wispy white breath of steam vents can be seen is still used by the local people the kereyu for grazing their livestock on a used by the local people, the Kereyu, for grazing their livestock on a seasonal basis.

Hot springs
Another feature of the park is the hot springs or Filwuha situated in the extreme north of the park. These can be reached by either one of two scenic routes, which start opposite the main gate. The water of these springs and rivers can easily reach 36 and is used by the local people for providing water to livestock. The unbelievably clear blue pools surrounded by palms invite the dusty travelers to wash- off the dust of the day.

Animal life
The plains to the south of the main road are excellent for game viewing and are bordered to the south by the spectacular Awash Gorge plunging 250 meters to the river.

The wildlife of Awash reflects its dry nature. The Beisa Oryx is seen on many of the more open areas and greater and lesser kudu in the bushed areas. Semarang’s gazelle have distinctive white rumps and are often seen with the Oryx .Other wildlife that live in Awash include Swayne’s hartebeest through only a handful, Salt’s dik-dik, Defassa waterbuck, baboons, and Colobus monkeys. Fantale crater provides a diffent habitat supporting mountain reedbuck and klipspringer. Crocodile and hippopotami are seen both in the Awash River and in the cooler parts of the hot springs and river in the north. Lion, leopard, several, caracal and wildcat are all parts of the hot springs and rivers in the north. Lion, leopard, serval, caracal and wildcat are all seen infrequently.
There are more than 300 species of birds on record in Awash. A checklist is available at Go Ethiopia Tours.

Rafting
Bordering the park a twenty-eight kilometer stretch of the Awash River offers a superb one-or two-day rafting trip, if the water level allows it, featuring a lot of spirited rapids, wildlife and impressive rugged cliffs and side canyons. The trip starts at the Awash falls and ends at the beach below the town of Awash Station with an optional overnight stay at small hot springs sacred to the kereyu people.

The best time to travel
All times of year are suitable for a visit but the plush green growth after the start of the rains (February and June) marks a particularly good time.

Bale Mountains National Park

Bale Mountains area is described by many visitors as the best-kept secret of Ethiopia. Bale mountains national park is 2,400 square kilometers in area converting a wide range of habitats and ranging in altitude form 1500 to 4,377 meters at the highest point in southern Ethiopia. The area of the park is divided into two major parts by the spectacular Harenna escarpment that runs from east to west. North of this escarpment is a high –altitude plateau, which is formed of ancient volcanic rocks. It is dissected by many rivers and streams that have cut deep gorges into the edges over the centuries that in some places have resulted in scenic waterfalls. The southern part of the park is heavily forested with a variety of exotic vegetation.

Temperature during the dry season are cold at night and hot during the day while the wet season has more moderate temperatures the rainfall is high and usually falls between March and October.

Wildlife

The park can be divided into three main regions. The centre of the park is a high plateau of 4,000 meters with many small peaks including the highest point in southern Ethiopia Tullu Deemtu(4,377m). The plateau is home to the Ethiopian wolf which the park was originally established to protect, along with the Mountain nyala. The north is the riverine plains, bush land, and woodland, where many animals can be seen. The Mountain nyala are best seen in the in here at Gaysay grassland along with other wildlife including Menelik’s bushbuck, Bohor reedbuck, Grey duiker, Warthog, Serval cat, Colobus monkey and Anubis baboon.
The forest of the south harbors: warthogs, bush pigs, giant forest hogs, lions, leopards, spotted hyenas, and rarely the African hunting dog.

The birds of Bale include six endemic species many of which are easily seen. Namely, Black-headed siskin, Abyssinia catbird, Abyssinia long claw, Golden-backed woodpecker, Yellow-fronted parrot, and Spot-breasted plover.

The other attraction of Bale includes the thirteen mountain streams and many ice-cold tarns that have thousands of fat and beautiful brown and rainbow trout. Stocked with fry from Kenya in the 1960s, these fish have flourished and offer a challenge few fly fishermen could resist.

Sof Omar

The Sof Omar caves are some of the most spectacular and extensive underground system of caverns in the world. Formed by the Web River as it changed its course in the distant past and carved a new channel through limestone foothills, the Sof Omar system is an extraordinary natural phenomenon of breathtaking beauty.

This underground world with its arched portals, high eroded ceilings, and deep vaulted chambers, is now and important lsamic shrine. It is named after Sheikh Sof Omar, who took refuge here many centuries ago. As you enter the dry, cool caves, you can see how nature has worked a marvel of architecture, there are soaring pillars of stone twenty meters high, flying buttresses, fluted archways, and airy vaults. Finally, when the river itself is reached, the unique sunless sea flows through a deep gorge. The large central hall, named the Chamber of Columns, is dominated by colossal limestone pillars and is one of the highlights of the cave system.

Animals
Inside the caves, the only living creatures are bats (which do not usually trouble the visitor), fish, and crustanceans. Crocodile are found in the river nearby but seem to shun the caves themselves. The countryside around abounds with wildlife including dilk-dilk, kudu, serval cat, rock hyrax, giant tortoises, snakes, and lizards, as well as more than fifty species of birds.

The Rift Valley

Ethiopia is a journey of beautiful scenery, a chain of sparkling lakes, abundant wildlife and bird life and a kaleidoscope of colorful cultures that combine to make this country unique. Of course, it is the topography of the remarkable Great Rift Valley itself that adds much to appeal of this region. Funneled between two dramatic escarpments, this representation of the last great massive movement of the earth is home to a marvelous string of lakes that stretch from Ethiopia south into Kenya, Tanzania, and beyond. In addition, the Ethiopian section of the Rift also boasts several national parks including Abijatta- Shalla, Nechisar, Mago, and Omo, each with lakes that have their own unique character.

A journey south, out of Addis Ababa, will bring you past the man-made Koka Lake which is home to many hippopotamuses and many bird species. Further along you will reach Lake Ziway which abounds with fish and attracts a considerable number of water birds including the knob-billed geese, pelicans, and saddle bill stork.

Abijatta-Shalla Lakes National Park

An easy side trip directly across from lake Langano, is the Abijatta-Shalla Lakes National park. Lake Abjatta is very shallow at only fourteen meters deep while Lake Shalla, by contrast, is the deepest in the Ethiopian Rift valley at 260 meters deep. Bird life is significant in this area and includes the yellow masked weaver, the red-billed buffalo weaver, the red–billed hornbill, the African fish eagle, the Didric’s cuckoo, the Abyssinian roller, and the superb starling.

Lake Awassa

To the south is the capital of Southern Nations Nationalities Regional State, Awasa, situated on the shores of beautiful Lake Awasa. Enclosed by a gentle chain of mountains, the lake provides an ideal spot for fishing and boating. The lake-twenty –one meters ( 69 feet) deep, with a circumference of sixty-two kilometers (38 miles) –boasts good hotels and campsites, as well as an interesting countryside featuring coffee plantations, fruit groves and the Bale Mountains rising away in the east. The town is also the site of an agricultural research station.

The lake waters carry fish, including barb us, tilapia, and catfish in great numbers. A fair-sized local fishing community uses small boats and simple nets to lure these stocks, as do many species of birds. This lake is known for its grassy dike built to contain the lake’s steadily rising water level is convenient for walks, sightseeing, and bird watching. The abundant storks and herons mingle with kingfishers, darters, plovers, wild ducks, Egyptian geese, crakes, and cormorants, creating a colorful spectacle, in a four-wheel –drive vehicle, it is possible-and pleasant-to drive all the way around the lake , where you will see a myriad of birds as well as picturesque Sidama villages. The town of Awasa itself is an interesting attraction, with a bustling and attractive outdoor market that gives something of the flavor of the life and commerce of the region.

Senkele Sanctuary

West of Shashemane, heading south after thirty kilometers (19 miles) leads to the largely undeveloped Senkele sanctuary, fifty –four sure kilometres (33 square miles) of savannah and wooded grassland that was established to protect its resident population of Swayne’s hartebeest, one of Ethiopia’s endemic subspecies, the sanctuary is also home to about twelve other species of mammal-including oribi, Bohor reedbuck, and greater Kudu-and ninety-one species of birds.

Sixty kilometres west of shashemene is the village of Alaba kulito, where a turn to the left –of south –west-leads to Sodo, another seventy kilometres (43miles) farther on. Often referred to as Wolay’ta Sodo after the district in which it is situated, the town is the site of a huge and very colorful open –air market, which is well worth a visit. Kaffa is thought to be the original homes of the coffee plant.

Nech Sar National park

Many of Ethiopia’s picturesque Amharic place names conjure up in stant and colorful images of their location , and Necdhisar National park is no exception, ‘Nechisar National park.

The park is 514 square kilometres in area, 78 of these being water , altitude ranges from 1,108 to 1,650 metres 93,634 to 5,412 feet and temperatures between 11*and 26*c(52*and79*f Rainfall overages 880 mm ( 34 inches) and mainly falls from march to may and September to November.
In Arba Minch, the Bekele Mola Hotel enjoys a spectacular position of the edge of bluff-looking out to the lakes and the mountains beyond-but suffers from lack of maintenance and negligent management. In Nechisar National park there is no hotel or lodge accommodation, but camping is permitted.
Lakes Abaya and Chamo, lies just to the south; the two lakes are ringed by savannah plains and smoky mountain crests.
Crocodiles
A good place to view crocodiles is on the shore of Lake Chamo, just south of the town, at a place popularly referred to as the ‘azzo gabaya’ or crocodile market. This spot offers one of Africa’s most impressive displays of big crocodiles. Population in the lakes are3 ringed by savannah plains and smoky mountain crests.
Crocodiles
A good place to view crocodiles is on the shore of Lake Chamo, just south of the town, at a place popularly refereed to as the’azzo gabaya’ or crocodile market. This spot offers one of Africa’s most preserve displays of big crocodiles. So great is the crocodile population in the lakes that they are now being hunted commercially, but some of the lake shore is with in the park to protect their breeding grounds.
The crocodile farm is an unusual attraction close to the Abaya port at the northeast sector of Arba Minch, where visitors can see at close range these primeval creatures at various stages of growth.

Much of Nechisar National park can be enjoyed in a full day’s drive from the Bekele Mola hotel, (or from your own campsite) in the fig tree forest near the park headquarters. If you want to explore the park fully you would need to camp a second night near the hot springs in the east. In any case, a four-wheel –drive vehicle is a must to cope with the steep rocky inclines and the rainy –season mud.
The park’s vivid contrasts will linger long in your memory –a swath of white grass against the backdrop of clearly defined, deeply cut hills and mountains. From the escarpment on which Arba Minch stands you look down on the clear blue waters of Lake Chamo and the sandy beaches of its northern shores, covered by crocodiles lounging in the sun
When to go
It is best to avoid the rains, as roads can be impassable at this time due to the black cotton soil in many areas.

Yabello Sanctuary

Ninety kilometers south of Arba Minch is the village of Konso, which is on the sidamo border. A turn to the west here will take you ,155 kilo meters later, to the town of Yabello, where a turn south eventually leads to Moyale on the Kenya border, some 200 kilometers (124miles) away. Just to the north and east of the yabello junction is the 2,496-squarekilometre yabello sanctuary. Originally established for the protection of Swayne’s hartebeest, Yabello has now become an important sanctuary for birds and features some 194 species, these include the endemic Stresemann’s bush crow and white-tailed swallow . the sanctuary itself is a dry savannah/acacia bush area with some low hills as well as an area of juniper woodland nearby. In addition to Swayne’s hartebeest, its red soils are home to twenty-four others species of mammal, including greater and lesser kudu, gerenuk, as well as Burch ell’s zebra.
Although there are no visitor facilities in the sanctuary, visitors can find hotel accommodation in the town of yabello nearby.

The Omo

Rising in the highlands south-west of the capital of Addis Ababa the Omo river courses south for almost 1,000 kilometers but never reaches the sea . it is the sole feeder of Lake Turkana, East Africans fourth largest lake , which the river enters just north of the Kenya border.

As it tumbles off the escarpment, the Omo passes from an afro-alpine environment and rain forest on into savannah country, and finally into searing desert lands, through the millennia its flood-swollen waters have cut stupendous gorges. Wild game roam in abundance on both banks, while unique and colorful birds dart in and out of the lush vegetation.

Reckoned by enthusiasts to be one of Africa’s premier location for the sport of while water river rafting, its early fury takes it through gorges hundreds of meters deep and over formidable cataracts before it later snakes more peacefully amidst dense jungles and finally across the colorful desert terrain. Its waters boil with fish and the huge shapes of crocodile and hippos.

On the final leg of its journey south to Turkana , the Omo forms the border between kaffa and Gamo Gofa regions. It’s here that Ethiopia’s largest nature sanctuary, the Omo National park , is located, it is one of the richest unspoiled areas of game and yet one of the least visited areas in east and central Africa. Another sanctuary, the Omo National park, has also been established on the east bank of the river. A land of endless, distant horizons. In the dense acacia scrub of the park, close to the river-and in the broad rolling grasslands and deserts that surround it –the traveler enters a lost world, across which few vehicles have ever traveled and which few foreign eyes have ever seen.

Both parks can offer in credible spectacles of Oryx, giraffe, zebra , hartebeest, gerenuk, and gazelle as well as lion, buffalo, and elephants. Both, also have the reputation of being off the beaten path, virtually unexplored, and thus are places in which game can be seen in their natural state. Increasing poaching by the locals is beginning to threaten this previously undisturbed habitat.

Along this southern stretch of the Omo, far away from’ civilization’ indigenous peoples such as the Burne and the karo practice a combination of cattle keeping and flood-retreat agriculture, which has replaced what was once-as little as several decades ago-pure pastoralism .Mago national park and Omo National park are the two major parks in this area.

People

Though the landscape of Ethiopia is varied and fascinating, it is the people of this country that make it one of the most amazing places on Earth. Ethiopia, like most countries in Africa , is a multi-ethnic state. Although the original physical differences between the major ethnic groups have been blurred by centers of intermarriage, but, the people remain distinct and unique.

Ethnic differences may also be observed from the great variety of languages spoken I the country of which there are an astonishing eighty-three, with 200 dialects. These can be broken in to four main groups: Semitic, Cushitic, Omotic and Nilo –Saharan.

The Semitic languages of Ethiopia are related to both Hebrew and Arabic . The Ethiopian language of this family are derived from Gee’ez , the language of the ancient axumite kingdom . Ge’ez was also the language of the country’s literature prior to the mid-nineteenth century, as well as parts of most present –day church services.

Ethiopia’s Semitic languages are today spoken in the south and east of Addis Ababa: Guraginya, used by the Gurage in a cluster of areas to the south of the capital, and Adarinya, a tongue current only with in the old walled city of Harar and used by the Adare, also known as Harare, people .
The Cushitic languages, which are less closely related than the Semitic are found mainly in the south of the country. The most important tongue this group in Afan Oromo. It is used in a wide stretch of country including Welega and parts of lllibabor in the west, wollo in the north shewa and Arsi in the centre, Bale and sidamo in the south and Harerge in the east.

The Omotic group of languages, which comprise considerably fewer speakers than either the Semitic or the Cushitic, are spoken in the south –West of the country, mainly in GamoGofa. They have been given the name in recent years because they are spoken in the general area of the Omo River.
Dress of the christen highland peasantry was made almost entirely of white cotton cloth.

Since the time of Tewodros, men have worn long, in many cases jodhpur-like trousers, a fightly fitting shirt, and a shamma or loose wrap, often with coloured stripes at either end; women wear a full skirt surmounted by a shamma.

Noblemen and women used to wear silk cloaks, which in the case of people of the highest status were decorated with silver or even gold, while warriors would sport short lion-skin capes. In cold mountainous areas men and women might wear a burous or black woolen cape, and shepherd boys a woven wollen cap.

The Muslims of Harar by contrast wore much more colorful dress. The men were often dressed in short style trousers covered with a coloured wrap; the women wear fine dresses usually of red, purple, of black.

The lowland Somali and afar wore long, often brightly coloured cotton wraps, while some of the cattle-herders in the Lake District had some clothing made of animal skins.
Traditional dress may still be seen throughout much of the countryside, especially in areas far removed from towns in more recent years. Modern or ‘European’ clothing is being worn in most urban areas. National dress, however, is widely worn for festivals, particularly by women.

The Amhara
Speakers of the official tongue, Amharic, the Amhara are traditionally farmers.
In rural areas, the Amhara house consists of a circular wall of thin poles stuck into the ground , with cross withies laced to them that are then plastered with mixture of mud, dung and teff straw, which is applied in layers, when it hardens, it provides a weatherproof barrier, which lasts for many years. However, many houses, especially in the mountain, are stone built . The conical thatched roof is supported by a central pole. There are small storage areas for cooking utensils, and the main area serves as sleeping and living quarters.

The Tigray
The Tigray people who inhabit the region around the semienhighlands speak a Semitic language called Tigray, originating from Ge’ez, the ancient tongue of Ethiopia. Though they have experienced frequent and sever famine conditions, they remain hardy and resili8ent farmers wherever soil conditions permit.
Rural Tigray houses are usually square and stone built, though some are round, with flat roofs of wood covered with sod and wide overhanging eaves. Outside, stone steps lead to the roof where the family goats are kept at night . some times there are added towers and grain stores.

The oromo
The Oromo are divided in to six main groups and about 200 subgroups, in each of which you may find slight variations on the dominant cultural structure. The gadda system-or government by age –groups-is universal throughout the groups.
The men wear traditional Ethiopian white togas, called away, and in addition to clothing made of cotton .The women often wear leather ,decorating the skins with embroidered beadwork, and lavish beads, copper, and heavy brass jewellery. The Arsi Oromo are true herdsmen. Ownership of cattle is a status symbol: a man who owns more than a thousand is entitled to wear a crownl.
Oromo houses are built by the men, although the women help with the thatcfhing. There are three main types of dwelling: the first two are more common, circular structures. Their main difference is in the shape of the roof, one being steeply domed, the other latter with and overgang, the third type is also domed, but the rafters are planted in the ground and form both the walls and the roof.

The Bete Israel
About one kilometer north of Gondar limits, lays the tiny village of Wolleka, which was formerly inhabited by Judaic Ethiopians.
The Bete Israel practice the ancient form of juddism, which was the dominant religion of north-western Ethiopia for thousands of years. After the coming of Christianity and its adoption as the state religion, leaders from the north-east gradually converted most of the Bele Israel.\recent research has shown that it may have been bete isra;el artisans who physically built the Gondor castles and provided any of the other artifacts that supported the Gondaring culture.
After amass evacuation to Israel in 1991 , only a few individual still live in Ethiopia. Examples of their artifact, earthen ware pots and figurines made by their Christion neighbours who have remained behind can still be found at the village or in Gondar itself.The falasha figurines made of black or red piottery are indigenous to the region and in grea t demand. Visitors can also see the old synagogue and former Bete Isra’el homes.

The Sidama
The Sidama people who inhabit the area around Awassa play a major role in Ethiopia’s Coffee export trade but are especially known for their beautiful beehive-shaped woven houses. Bamboo is used for the frame work, which is then covered with houses. . Bamboo is used for the framework, which is then covered with grass and enset (fake banand0 leaves as the rainy season approaches. a small front porch shades the entrance. Inside, the family utilizes the right side of the house and the livestock utilizes the left. Furniture is simple, usually just wooden bedsteads and stools. Near the main hut, a fence of woven bamboo or euphorbia surrounds the vegetable plot. The main hut, a fence of woven bamboo or euphorbia surrounds the vegetable plot. The men build the huts and grow vegetables surrounds the vegetable polt. The men build the huts and grow vegetables surrounds the vegetable polt. The men build the huts and grow vegetab;les with their wives; help, and the women go to market, clean , and cook.

The wolayta
Skodo stands on eh border between gamo Gofa, sidamo. And Kaffa-one of Ethiopia;s main coffee-growing regions,
in this part of Ethiopia east of the Omo river. Hundreds of stone monoliths bear witness to the long time habitation of this area by early humans. The people who live here today have a very indigenous look. Many people have light brown complexion with traditional Ethiopian features and are typically short stature.
The Wolayta belong to the vast Ometo language group. The people are traditionally Muslim or Christian religion, although traces of the old pagon religions still survive in variojs places. This is combined with ancient near-forgotten Christian traditions difficult to distinguish. Celebrated in temples hewn from the rock are similar to those found in Tigray.
The Wolayta cultivate most of the cereal crops as well as cotton, enset 9 fake banana), and tobacco. Their huts are large and beehive –hsaped, built in the midst of gardens, with one or more ostrich eggs perched a top the roof as fertility symbols, viewed from inside, the plaited structure and concentric rings of the roof frame work appear wonderfully intricate and neat. These astonishingly roomy houses are divided into several compartments by sc reens of bamboo. The cattle, sheep, and goals who share the house are not only safe from predators but provide a form jof ‘central heating’ on chillier nights.

The Dorze
Twenty-six kilometress to the west of Arba Minch is the old village of Chencha. Picturesque houses, accompanied by the magnificent back drop of the lakes in the rift far below, give glimpses of ancient Ethiopia.
The nhabitants of tehis village are known as the dorze, one of the many small segments of the great Orneqp language grouop of southern Ethiopia. Once warriors, they have now turned to farming and weaving to earn aliving. Their success in the field of weaving has been phenomenal and the dorze name is synonymouns with the best in Woven cotton cloth. Chencha, in fact, is famous for the fine cotton gab;bis or shawls that can be bought there.
Each amazing Dorze bamboo house has its own small garden surrounded by ellset, beds of spices and cabbage, and tobacco (the dorze are passionate smokers). The main house is a tall-up to twelve metres ( 39 feet)- bee-hived shaped building withanaristomcratic’nose:which forms a reception room for guests and is usually furnished with two benches. The vaulted celling and walls of the spacious and airy houses are covered with an elegant thatch of enset to form a smooth and steep un broken dome.
When a Dorze house starts to rot or gets eaten by termites, the house is dug up . Bamboo is sewnround it to maintain its shape, and neighbors rush to help carry it. With poles poked horizontally through the building, men, women, and children all join in the effort-with a fine complement of signing-to move it to its new site. A house lasts for about forty years and it then abandoned.

The konso
To the south of konso and yabello the area is inhabited by the knoso people. Except for trading with the neighboring borena for salt or cowries shells, outside influence had, until recently, virtually passed by the konso . a pagan society, they erect wooden totems replete with phallic symbols over the graves of the dead and have numerous cults based around the breeding and veneration of serpents. The konso have adopted a complex age- grading system similar to that of the Oromo. Sacred drums, symbolizing peace and harmony, are circulated from village to village according to a fixed cycle and are beaten in rituals that mark the transition from one age – grade to the next.
The cornerstone of Konso culture, however, is a highly specialized and successful a gricultral economy . through rerracing butteressed with stone, enables the people who live in the Konso region to extract a productive living. The stone shoring employed in these extensive and intricate terraces is echoed in the dry-stone walls that surround most Konso villages and that protect low-lying fields from flash floods and mrauding catle, this stone is also used for grinding grain, sharpening knives and spears, making anvils and constructing dams.it is as much apart of Konso life as soil.
This material is also evident in the beautiful small stone and wood houses, tightly packed with roofs touching and overlapping in their crowded componnds. The konso are experts on wood of all kinds and know the durability of the massive timbers that keep houses standing for eighty years or more. Inside each house there is a short wooden entrance tunnel. Any visitor would have to enter on their hands and kness. In this process, the occupant determines whether it is friend or foe.
The konso men build the houses, spin and weave, and carve wood, and ivory. The women do gardening and, surprisingly, build stone walls.
The konso men build men build the houses, spin and weave, and carvewood, and ivory. The women do gardening and , surprisingly, build stone walls.
Konso industriousness finds its vehicle in a cooperative ethic that enables farmers to enlist the support of communal work jkparties from their own and surrounding villages to build walls and terraces. This cooperative ethic enables groups to sow and harvest the principal crops-sorghum, potatoes, and cotton. Konso weaving, also a communal activity is highly productive and the thick cotton blankets ( called bulukas) for which this region is famous are much prized throughout ethiopoa.
Not all of Konso liofe is dominated by hard work. Evening is a jparticularly a time of relaxation, when young men and women sing and dance.
In recent years, the all-weather road-and various missions passing through Konso, the people are no longer as isolated. One sigh of assimilation occasionally seen is Konso ploughing their fields with oxen, as is done in other parts of Ethiopia. The konso also meet up with the neighboring Borena to trade for salt or cowries shells.

The Borena
The Borenal. Probably the most traditional of all ethiopia’s Oromo groups, are semi nomadic pastoralists whose lives revolve exclusively around the million or so head of cattle they own. They live to the east of the Konso on the low hot plains of the southern savannah. They work all day, year round in the long dry season just to keep their vast herds watered every three days. There is a distinctive art that goes in to calculatingt precisely the number of men needed to haul the water, and the number of cattle a well support. This could be as many as 2,500.
The famous wells are an extraordinary feature of the culture. Approached by along cutting, slanting down to ten meters’ below the surface of the earth, just wide enough for two columns of livestock to pass each other is the top of the well and the drinking troughs. Every two meters’ down there is a stage where the men and women toss the water in giraffe hide buckets to the person above them. The deepest well recorded has eighteen stages.
The Borena people have semi-permanent villages or family groups of huts that are attached to the same well. the houses they live in, more permanent than the true nomadic hut, are made of grass kover a wooden frame work, often with the lower part of the walls reinforced with a screen of branches. They remain surprisingly cool in the heat of the day. Around the houses are the cattle enclosures, built as protection against lions.
Talll, kthin-lipped, and graceful with elegant manners, the Borena are essentially peaceful people who believe that angry words are dangerous and violence is not a concept they comprehend.
The Borena and the Konso are just two of the fascinating peoples who live in eh wildernesses of southern Ethiopia. Many more in habit the remote Omo valley.
Fascinating tribes of the Omo
The lower Omo is home to a remarkable mix of small, Contrasting ethnic groups including the Burne but not limited to the Karo, Geleb, Bodi, Mursi, Surma, Arbore, and the Hamer, just to express their artistic impulses. Both the Surma and the Karo, for example, are experts at body painting, using clays and locally available vegetable pigments to trace fantastic patterns on each other’s faces, chests, arms, and legs . These designs have no special symbolic significance but are created purely for fun and aesthetic effect, each artist vying to outdo his fellows.
Cicatrizing, on the other hand, which is also popular amongst most of the peoples of the lower Omo, does contain a number of specific symbolic messages. For example, Mursi warriors carve deep crescent incisions kon their arms to represent each enemhy that they have killed in battle. Elaborate hairstyle are another form of personal adornment. Hamer women wear their hair in dense ringlets smeared with mud and clarified butter and topped off with a head-dress featuring obligation of gleaming aluminium;geleb and Karo men sculpt and shave their hair in to extravagant shapes, with special ochre ’caps’of hair usually containing several ostrich feathers. Jewellery tends to be simple but striking-colorful necklaces, chunky metal wristlets and armlets, shiny nails appended to skirts, multiople earrings, and a variety of other jewellery.

The insertion of wooden and terracotta discs in to the ear lobes is a widespread custom, and mursi and surma women also progressively split and stre3tch their lower lips to make room for similar discs there, too. Though these ‘lip plates’ may appear bizarre to outsiders, the Mursi and surma regard them as signs of beauty –generally speaking, the larger the lip plate the more desirable the wearer. At certain seasons, a visitor may be lucky to witness these colorful and dramatic traditional ceremonies, periodically young men of both Mursi and the surma tribes engage in ritual stick fighting. These duels are conducted with the utmost vigour since the winners, and those judged to have shown the greatest bravery, are much admired by nbile girls.
Another important event, seen by few tourists, is the Hamer’jumping of the bull’ ceremony. In this ritle of passage, youths are required to jump on to the backs of a line of thirty or forty cattle, run the whole length of this formidable obstacle, jump down kon to the other side and then repeat the entire procedure three more times with out falling. Finally they walk out of the arena through a special gatewayl, after which they are judged to have passed form boyhood to man hood.

A trip along the wild and wonderful Omo River offers many opportunities to meet the colourful local people, as well as an experience such indigenous the country .

Mekelle

Though not as famous as many of the other sites in Ethiopia it is form Mekelle that you can visit nearby rock-hewn churches in the region of which there are around two hundred. Often perched on cliffs or carved into rock crevies these fascinating churches are beautifully decorated and some house impotent religious artifacts.

Located in the North-Eastern part of Africa, the Horn, Ethiopia is bounded on the East by Djibouti and Somalia, on the North and north-east by Eritrea, on the south by Kenya and on the west by the Sudan.
Ethiopia is a county of great geographical diversity. It has high and rugged mountains, flat-topped plateax called Ambas deep gorges river valleys and rolling plains its altitude ranges form the highest peak at Ras Dashen (4620) meters above sea level) down to the dalol depression which is 148 meters below sea level. A lage part of the county comprises of high plateaux and mountain ranges with precipi
tous edges dissected by rushing streams that are tributaries of bigger rivers.

Resources
Ethiopia is a county endowed with a vast array of resources. It is a land of great rivers, which flow beyond its boundaries to neighboring countries with billons of cubic meters of water and rich alluvial soil.

Its immense and untapped have the potential to produce 60 billion KWH of electricity. Recent projects have begun to tap this huge source of energy.
Ethiopia has an agriculture-friendly climate and rich fertile soil. Agriculture is the primary occupation of over 80 percent of the population. It provides 45% of the country GDP and 90% of export items.

The county also has the largest number of heads of cattle in Africa along with a vast number of goats sheep and poultry.

Studies have shown that Ethiopia has a significant amount of base rare and precious metals. in addition the country possessive vast deposit of construction minerals such as marble, limestone and granite and other impotent industrial minerals.

Major Cities
The capital city of Ethiopia is the relatively young city of Addis Ababa. Other major twons includes bather Dar. Mekelle, Awassa, Assosa, Arba Minch, Gondar, Jimma, Dire DAWa, Harar and Nazareth All these towns are rapidly developing and their infrastructure has improved greatly over the lost few years. Miles of tarmac road connect the major cities and wons in the country and all have transport facilities that are pretty reliable that connect them to the capital of Addis Ababa.

Addis Ababa

Wide tree-lined streets. Fine architecture and glorious weather make Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, a great populace to explore it is a city characterized by remarkable diversity and contrasts

Abundant eucalyptus tree and crisp, clear mountain air endow Addis Ababa with the bracing atmosphere of a highland summer resort its casy espresso rbars and patisseries are reminiscent of Rome and the Mediterranean, and its busint outdoor markers are colorful reminder of more traditional was of life. The people the bursts of music form cafes or shops the oromas of spicy cooking of coffee and incense, form a unique Ethiopian pastiche.

Vibrant Addis Ababa is as cosmopolitan as any of the worlds great metropolises and the architecture is as varied as the city itself. Tall office buildings elegant villas functional bungalows and glass vie for attention with more traditional houses.

Set in rushing county side between 2,300 to 2,500 meters Ethiopian largest city has grown at astonishing speed since it was founded just over a century ago.
Despite its proximity to the equator istsl lofiy altitude the third highest capital in the world means that it enjoys a mid climate all year round

The story of the city may be said to have begun in 1878 when the then king of sehewa.Menelikll moved south form his old capital Ankober and established camp on wuchacha mountain a strategic position to the west of the present capital. He later transferred his camp to the nearby entoto mountains.

The Entoto foothills where fertile land sand were the site of hot springs which gushed out of the ground at a spot known as filwoha meaning bolling water meneliks consort, Queen Taytu and many of ht ecouriers spent much of ther time traveling to these springs where many of them camped for days or even weeks on end. The Queen one day asked her husband for land on which to build a house, menelik agreed and selected a place of some eleation as the site and and allotted large stretches of land around it for the camps of his principal courtiers.

In the same year,1886 Taytu gave the settlements its name Addis Ababa which means new flower for several years Menelik and his coutiers divided their time between the two settlements but by around 1891 Addis Ababa had definitely replaced entoto as the more important of the two and thous emerged as the capital of the realm.

During the reign of Menelik the city witnessed the establishment of many other new institutions among them the country’s first modern school and hospital the first bank and printing press and the first hotel and racing course as well as the first modern roads and bridges the first steam roller the first two motor cars one from Germany and one form Britain.


The city’s modernization increased greatly after the establishment of the Djibouti railway which reached Dire Dawa in 1902 and the vicinity of the capital in 1951. The reign of Empress Zewditu and the Early part of Haile Selassie`s reign where characterized by the erection of many more new buildings.

In the later 1950 Adddis Ababa entered the skyscraper age and was recognized as the unofficial capital of Africa Haile Selassies pan African diplomacy was crowed with success when the city was chosen as headquaters of the UNECA in 1958 and of the OAU now the African Union) in 1963.

Todays Addis ababa Which bears the imprint of many of the se past developments is a major meteropolis with and estimated population approaching 5 million.

Located in the center of Shewa region the city stands at the very heart of Ethiopian enjoys excellent connections with all the county economic zones. Addis Ababa is the unchallenged diplomatic capital of Africa with more than seventy embassies and consular representatives.

Addis Ababa is a cultural mosaic with each of the county multitude of ethnic groups represented somewhere in the capital. A largenumbr of foreign resident’s form all parts of the world contribute to the city’s cosmopolitan atmosphere.

There is much to do and see within the capital whether at night at the variety of nightclubs offering all manner of music form traditional Ethiopian to modern pop as well as dancing or by the day.

Addis Ababa also has a flourishing cultural life the institute of Ethiopian Studies, The Alliance Françoise and the German and Italian cultural institutes are all centers for this. There are many opportunities to experience Ethiopian music, song and dance and to go to the Ethiopian theatre, performance of which are mainly in Amharic.

Clinemas are also a good way to spend time and recently, Ethiopian film has been increasing in production and popularity.

There is a delicious assortment of restaurants in the city-French, Italian, Georgian, Amerion Indian, Chinese-not to mention theatre, performances of which are mainly in Amharic.

Clinemas are also a good way to spend time and recently, Ethiopian film has been increasing in production and popularity.

There is a delicious assortment of restaurants in the city-French, Italian, Georgian, American Indian, Chinese not to mention the unforgettably tasty Ethiopian cuisine
The national language Amharic with its unique script is widely spoken throughout the country and is predominate in Addis Ababa. The principal foreign languages are English Italian, French and Arabic. 

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Lo  Zee was our tour guide for a visit to Ethiopia. Our group had a fantastic experience and we recommend Zee to other travelers. Dave Dionisi, President of the Teach Peace Foundation (USA)  

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