May 3, 2013
Ethiopia confounds every expectation. I arrived expecting a vast featureless desert and instead find myself overwhelmed by majestic landscapes and climatic abundance. I found myself immersed in a culture besot with itself and its history, and marked by a lovely sense of pride. Ethiopia is truly a revelation, a very welcoming and enjoyable place to visit.
I visited Axum, which was from the 1st to the 7th centuries AD, the center of an empire that stretched from the Nile River across the Red Sea to Yemen. Where I am writing from now, Lalibela, boasts a cluster of monolithic rock-hewn churches regarded by many as the unofficial eighth wonder of the world. I totally agree, they are amazing. When I figure out how to put photos on this blog, I will upload some. We also went to Gonder, the site of the five 17th-century castles built by King Fasil and his successors. And all around the country are monasteries and other rock-hewn churches, many of them over 1000 years old and still in active use. I have never been to a country before where the churches were so regularly full. It is Holy Week though, people fasting every day until 3:00 pm and spending their time in worship and prayer. They are on a different calendar that we are on - in fact I am 8 years younger here as it is only 2005!
I will write more later. The internet connections here are challenging and there has not been much time for reflection and writing. For those of you on Facebook, you have seen a number of photos though.
Would I recommend a trip here to others? Yes, although it is not for the faint of heart. The narrow dirt and gravel roads with sheer drop-offs to see the sites are not comfortable in any way. You can't brush your teeth with the tap water. Some hotels turn the water and electricity off at 9:30 pm to conserve. But yes, tourism will increase and so well the amenities. The people are so friendly and wonderful. You have to see it for yourself!