How Much Does It Cost To Build A 30-Story Building Ethiopia – Blue Nile & Lalibela

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Ethiopia – Blue Nile & Lalibela

Epiphany: My understanding of the word was that it meant a sudden revelation or realization. This is Oxford Dictionary definition #3. The word originated with the baptism of Christ. And where better to celebrate such an occasion than in Ethiopia, a country that embraced Christianity before Europe!

The country’s rich tapestry of history is woven with fascinating facts and legends: the oft-told story of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba; Journey of the Ark of the Covenant; Rise of the Ancient Axumite Kingdom; Birth of Christianity; Later rise of Islam; The Story of King Lalibela; and the Gonda caste. Recorded history goes back more than 4000 years, and ancient contacts with Greece, Persia and Egypt nurtured and strengthened the culture of northern Ethiopia, creating the Aksumite kingdom that dominated the important crossroads of Africa and Asia for nearly a thousand years. From the 13th to the 16th century, intellectual culture continued to flourish with the establishment of monasteries, the writing of successive royal histories, and the translation of texts into Geese. In line with this development the splendor of the empire grew and eventually grew into the beautiful fortress city of Gander. At the same time the merchant Islamic culture of Ethiopia emerged alongside Christianity. The city of Harar is an excellent example of this alternative strand of Ethiopia’s wide and varied heritage and occupies a pride of place along the historical route.

And so these were some of the places Explore will take us on our 14 day Blue Nile and Lalibela tour. From my notes…

“This is Africa and I am glad to be back in this rich land. …… The Muezzin woke us up this morning with his call to prayer at half past six…… You are no longer in Kansas to take us to the Mercato – market. We got a taxi. Billed as the biggest in East Africa – definitely bigger than anything I’ve seen in East Africa. We knew it would be best to get a guide so our driver came with us and a chap in red volunteered to take us around. We had him. Had to give some instructions because we wanted to go to the food area – lots of spices and what aromas. Smile and don’t be afraid of my camera. Washed my shoes – I thought they would be polished – but the guy used hand soap and a sponge. That’s what I love about Africa. Kari is one of them – expect the unexpected. It’s a wild place and we wandered around for about 2 hours. Lots of interesting things for sale: baskets, sponge mattresses, shawls, metal pipes, beautiful Color bolts are material, and a nation really needs more shoes. Ann said there must be a lot of places to go because there were more shoes for sale than she had seen. Just like walking around and sharing a smile.. People are very friendly and eager to say hello.

It was time for dinner and we went to a very traditional restaurant. It was built as a traditional hut with center poles and struts rising from the walls to the center.

Beautiful painting on panel (between struts) of Ethiopian people doing traditional work. And there were some paintings on those little pieces of Egyptian papyrus paper to cover the lamps. The table (large hollow woven basket) is covered with a lid and a cloth. They remove the cloth and throw away your drink. Then a man brings hot water, soap and a tin bowl. You have to wash your hands! When the food came they moved the drinks to a small side table. It was a large tin plate about 2 feet across. They leave a slice of “Injera” (their word for their local bread) and then spoon out the foods you order on the “bread”. The food (or “wat”) was chicken (a little spicy) and lamb (a little spicy) and some veggie goop which I love. Then you slice the “Injera” into pieces. Cut the pieces into pieces and push them towards your face. And when you get the last bit you eat the bottom layer of injera as well as the food soaked in it! When you’re done, they come back with water, soap, and a bowl so you can wash again! With 2 Sprites, the cost was $7. And when we somehow finished the taxis knew they were back at the door to take us back to our hotel. Quite a first day.

My head is cut. And now as I type this I’m listening to local versions of Stand By Me, Green Green Grass Of Home and If Loving You Is Wrong from the live lobby bar band. Saturday night in Addis. It doesn’t get much better than this.

On the outskirts we went for a walk to see Blue Nile and Tissat Falls. The falls are not what they used to be since the government built a dam about 6 years ago. The neighboring towns have not only lost their tourist attraction and their water supply, the town doesn’t even get electricity! shameful Afternoon boat ride on Lake Tana to see a 13th century church built on one of the islands. pleasant The next town was Gondar which may not mean much to you all but it was the main stop for many of us as that was where we were going to enjoy the Teamcut celebrating the Epiphany of Christ. Each church has a replica of the Ark of the Covenant, and these replicas are assembled by the high priests of each church. A procession moves to the main “baths” of the town and is housed in “tabot” tents; Priests and large crowds spend the night nearby praying and celebrating. The following day the bath water is consecrated starting at 4am and is followed by a church service and communion. The “tabots” are then paraded through town to every church but everyone in the pool jumps in for a swim; There is song and dance; Some people will take a bottle of holy water home with them if they are sick later in the year- this holy water will help them get better. The bread left over from communion is burned and the ashes kept to be given to people a teaspoon at a time the following year….quite exciting to be a part of.

A great drive through the Rift Valley to the next town (Debark) where we were to stay for 2 nights. Good restaurants here – 2 of the best meals on the trip. The day between these 2 nights of paradise is spent in the Simien Mountains. As we drove through the area I felt like I saw a picture of the Grand Canyon. Pretty nice. It was a walking day for the trekkers and for the rest of us we had lunch in a meadow with 1 horse, 2 dozen goats and 6 little boys trying to sell us their woolen hats! I think we had a good time reading and writing postcards. Oh yes, we saw a herd of about 100 baboons digging for roots.

The next day is a very long drive to the city of Axum – home of the Queen of Sheba. Stories abound about her and her romance with King Solomon and her son Menelik. Did he exist? Good theorists and archaeologists are good at their investigations and the feeling is that he did and his kingdom extended from Yemen to Ethiopia to southern Egypt. Axum is considered the birthplace of Christianity and here the Ark of the Covenant is closely guarded by a hermit. Only the eyes of the highest priests have seen the actual ark as it is protected and wrapped and locked in a building on the grounds of St. Mary of Zion Church.

Lalibela is next and was wonderful. It can only be assumed that people have carved 11 of these churches out of the rock cliffs. You can spend 2-3 days walking around the city visiting the churches… St. George’s church (the amazing race they went to for the TV reality show fans) was amazing. The reason why that church in particular was built was because King Lalibela built 22 other churches in the region to honor all kinds of saints. Then St. George (the patron saint of Ethiopia) came riding on his horse and he was very sad. He asked King Lalibela why no church had been built to honor Saint George himself. The king quickly realized his mistake and built this most glorious one. Biet Giorgis Church is carved in the shape of a Greek cross and is passed through a passageway that was also cut from the rock. Another church that you can visit – by mule – is the Ashatan Maryam Church where you are rewarded with stunning views over the highlands. All such fables told here were narrated to us by our guide in each town about the paintings etc. inside the churches. Pretty good fun.

Our last stop with Explore was Harar and it really is an “old” city. Probably one of my favorites so far as it is so alive. Like going back in time….before we know it!!! We did a walking tour this morning and everything here is considered useful… everything is recycled – just one example is car tires that become rubber sandals. The women in the bazaar were all laughing and the kids were running after us constantly calling us “ferengi” foreigners. In the markets here you can buy filigree jewellery, shawls and mats as well as many foodstuffs like spices and grains. This old walled city with 87 mosques and 300 shrines has only 5 gates and explorer Richard Burton entered the forbidding Muslim fortress in 1854 dressed as an Arab merchant. Many consider it the fourth holiest city in the Islamic world. Mosques are filled with whispers of prayer and the click of rosary beads.

The eastern part of the country is mainly Muslim but you know? Being Christian or Muslim is irrelevant in Ethiopia as the religious tolerance and respect of the people is very high. Muslims, for example, do not demand the construction of a mosque in Axum because of the understanding that Axum is a holy Christian city. In fact we saw a Muslim man’s funeral while we were in Axum and the cemetery was quite far outside the city.

Omo Valley was next door when we hired a driver and Land Cruiser to take us south. We got a taste of a few tribal villages in just a few days: Dorje, Seme Mursi and Konso. Lonely Planet writes “The Omo people may lack any form of advanced material culture, but they have developed art forms that allow them not only to be great artistic expressions, but also to serve important social and cosmetic purposes. The practice of body painting and scarification has been developed by tribes like no other in the world.” The most ornate and extravagant seen in place. For most Omo tribes, scarification serves as a distinction for brave warriors; men are not allowed to scarf themselves until they have killed at least one enemy. For women, the raised texture of the skin is considered highly desirable. is and is said to have sensual value for men.” There is a fee to visit the village and a fee for photos but you won’t see traditional culture anywhere else in the country. As Lonely Planet puts it “Some travelers may be dismayed or even shocked by the seemingly mercenary nature of various communities, or the apparent nomadic nature of encounters. Tourism can even help preserve groups and their traditions by supporting them economically”.

And finally for those who need your coffee every day, it was first grown in Ethiopia! They even have a special occasion to serve it….and sometimes it comes with popcorn too.

So back to what I said at the beginning – expect the unexpected and you will love this wild place!

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