Mal d'Afrique.


by Roberto Nencini

Mal d'Afrique ... our fathers' companion used to speak about it in a weak voice and dreamy look after their journey back home from the war in Abyssinia, as Ethiopia was then called.

They used to talk about huge and wild ambas, a severe but fascinating beauty where you could hear the bleating of sheep and the silvery chatter of voices of children shepherds ... we were used to be told about the impressive and monumental steles of Axum standing out against the bright sky of Tigrai ... we were used to be told about of incredible markets where camel caravans came from the desert areas and long lines of donkeys left to climb the highlands with their loads of the most varied and unusual goods ... they used to remind of so different people: the serious Amharas from the plateau of the capital city, holders of power, the proud Afars, warriors dressed in a white cloth and with their curly hair smeared with butter but always with a gun in their hand, the Oromos from the rural areas with their horses with embroidered and frilled saddles, the beautiful Tigray women with their hair finely woven and tattoos on their faces ... and what about the sacredness of Ethiopian churches, both the inaccessible rock ones above cliffs and crags and those ones incredibly carved into the rock at Lalibela where by dark altars, amid clouds of incense, the priests came out richly dressed in brightly colored brocades woven of gold to officiate endless Coptic liturgies... and we were told about an incredible Muslim city - Harar - where you were thrown back centuries with costumes and houses unchanged over the time, a Muslim world set in a Christian country.

With these suggestions, with the legendary and unique guide from the Italian Tourist Confederation in East Africa we left for the trip to Ethiopia ... and came back with many more amazing memories and emotions than we had been told ... even for us a little bit of Mal d'Afrique!

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