Ethiopia - A Stunning Country Full Of History, Culture, Tribes, Nature And Life.


by Pascal Mannaerts , 2011

In early November 2011, we were back in Africa. We flew into Addis Ababa and set our first steps ever in Ethiopia.

We first traveled to Arba Minch in the south, before plunging into the Omo valley and meeting the local tribes: Hamers, Mursi, Karos, Surma, Bume, Galeb, Bodis,... Each of them more fascinating and more beautiful than the other. A thrilling, disturbing trip, even disconcerting at times. Like a fantasy that took shape right there in front of us.

After two weeks that we spent in the Omo Valley, we headed northwards to Lalibela, discovering the Northern part of the country. Upon arrival, we quickly got lost in the medieval and stone-carved world of Lalibela, marched along the fuzzy frontier between the past and present and took part in striking Christian ceremonies that have remained unchanged for hundreds of years. Ethiopia is the Africa of superlatives, the country that breaks itself into the great Rift, with monolith churches that defy our understanding, obelisks and castles from the past, steadfast religious processions, busy markets, tribes, old people, children, noises and smiles... This edge of the world seems so far away, as one moves in an area where any attempt to travel becomes an adventure, that is breathtaking and part of an initiation rite.

We finished our trip in Harar, in Ethiopia’s remote territory. Harar, a walled, grey and ocher city, in the grip of rugged mountains that seem to stifle the breath of life. Behind the old city walls, minarets point to the blue sky, and shared the sound of the muezzin’s call for the second morning prayer with us. Harar is a complex city, proud of its history, far away from all other places - both in space and in time, as it seems to have been frozen in an unreal era. The French poet Arthur Rimbaud once used to walk in its streets, as he lived and worked here 130 years ago, before leading an unfortunate life... In the evening, as the stars rose up in the sky, hyenas descended from the mountains that surround the city which had closed its gates in the meantime. These hideous scavengers rummage bins, laughing, looking for rotten meat.

In Harar, any traveler can't escape to be dragged intp another century: the «Christian market» outside of the city walls near the Shoa gate, offers a dazzling variety of vegetables, fruits, spices and dried fruits. The flamboyant outfit of the Amhara women trembles in sunlight while pedestrians make their way among goats, donkeys and taxi carts drawn by small horses. Today, thirty-three thousand souls live within the walls of this city forgotten by time. Not less than 99 mosques exist in Harar, most of which are small one-floor houses topped by a thin minaret. Harar is considered to be the fourth holiest city of Islam and has been listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO since 2006. We spent one week there and were completely taken away by the magic of its forgotten time...

Ethiopia, an unforgettable trip to a millennium Africa. A country with the cradle of humanity, breathtaking landscapes, thirty centuries of history, the obvious side of Man, in its purest form, at any time and any place...

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