Very often over a cup of coffee or at some party we come across this question! So which country you would like to explore? And it won’t be wrong to say that other than Mauritius, Cape town, or Seychelles only a few names will be in our list from Africa. Ethiopia will surely not even be on our list. So, was that the case for me? It was never in my wish list, never thought of visiting Ethiopia, as I was hardly aware of the country. But, my life-changing experience happened, when I visited this beautiful landscape of Ethiopia, along with my few other batch mates for an international conference organized by the Wolkite University, and Addis Ababa University. To my utter surprise, I was mesmerized by the beauty of the land, the culture and overwhelmed by the warmth of the people. We were seven girls, traveling pretty much alone as a foreigner, and nowhere we were bothered or felt unsafe.
Africa is much more than what we can even think of. It is a continent full of surprises. Ethiopia is also one of the most beautiful countries which will surprise you and will leave you with a life cherishing experience. Thankfully, I got the opportunity to explore the beauty and diversity of Ethiopia through my academic journey, which took me there for an international conference. When I hit the land, soon I realized it is one of the most underrated tourist destinations in Africa and people should come out of their closet and experience its beauty. Before visiting this beautiful country, I was given instructions by numerous seniors and schooled people, to be safe, to take care of myself, as it’s a land of poverty-stricken people, land of poor infrastructure. On the contrary, to my astonishment, it was way pretty opposite to that. Very soon I realized, it was way safer, beautiful, and rich in culture and history than I had ever imagined.
The Warmth of People
The first thing which I observed was the warmth of the people of the country. Our host was Wolkite University. Young bright scholars came to pick us from the airport at midnight and welcomed us with a huge smile and a warm hug. Initially, we felt a little awkward, as in India, many times we don’t take “a hug” very positively, and especially if it is not a white-skinned person. However, we soon understood, that is how they greet each other. Throughout our stay, these scholars assured our comfort and took care of our needs. Yes, I am talking about Ethiopia and its people, and their vital stats are not at all 11-11-11, as many of you may have imagined when we think of poverty-stricken Ethiopia. What we see through the eyes of western media, is not always true, or rather we can say it’s an incomplete picture. Only after my visit to Ethiopia, my perception of this country and about its people changed.
The Beauty of Addis Ababa
The capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa is also the country’s political center. It’s the hub of social, political and economic activity of the country. It is also the home of the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. I was also fortunate enough to visit Addis Ababa University. The entrance of the University was mesmerizing for me. The florafauna inside the campus, the infrastructure, the university itself was worth visiting.
Historically Rich Ethiopia
The strongest memory I have, however, is of my visit to the National Museum of Ethiopia, which is ranked among the most important in Sub-Saharan Africa. The highlight is the paleontological exhibition in the basement, which is the home of world-famous Lucy. “Lucy” is a collection of fossilized bones that once made up the skeleton of a hominid from the Australopithecus Afarensis species. The discovery of “Lucy” changed our understanding of human origins forever. Thus, Ethiopia can be a very interesting place to visit, if you have a keen interest in human history.
Other than Lucy, you can also find the fossilized evidence of some amazing extinct creatures, like the massive saber-toothed feline Homotherium and the Gargantuan Savannah pig Notochoerus. Further, there are a wide array of artifacts and a vivid display of Ethiopian art. Few places, which unfortunately I could not make it, but would surely look forward to when I will visit the country next time is Lalibela. It is famous for its rock-cut monolithic churches, large antiquity of the medieval and post-medieval civilization of Ethiopia. 11 medieval monolithic cave churches of 13th-century are situated in a mountainous region of Lalibela. It is one of a kind experience. Ethiopia is the land of thousands of churches, mosques, and monasteries, some of them are enshrined as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Simien Mountains and Gheralta Mountains of Tigray
None of us will consider Ethiopia for trekking and adventure, but our perception changed with our experiences in the Simien Mountains and Gheralta Mountains of Tigray The area surprised with its Utah-reminiscent red rock backdrop, but treks to 1500-year old cave churches like Maryam Korkor and Daniel Korkor is an experience which leaves you spellbound while climbing up sheer sandstone walls and dangerous walks along the narrow cliffs. To be specific, this is not for the fainthearted people or people with the phobia of heights. My partial attempt to explore my adventurous side led me to take medicine. As, it was not meant for a person like me, but my friends who could manage to complete the trekking, they still remember the experience as one of the most memorable parts of the trip.
Though, whenever we talk of African countries, the first thing that comes to our mind is the wildlife safari, which might not come to your mind when you think about Ethiopia. This country’s wildlife safari is very different from what you’d find in Tanzania, Kenya, or South Africa. However, Ethiopia has some truly unique wildlife that you’ll only find here. So, for wildlife enthusiasts, there’s plenty of good reasons to include an Ethiopian safari as an absolute must. Some animals that you can only find in Ethiopia are; Gelada Baboons, Walia Ibex, Ethiopian Wolf, Mountain Nyala, Menelik’s Bushbuck, Swayne’s Hartebeest, Somali Wild Ass, Bale Mountain Vervet, YellowFronted Parrot and Black-Maned Lion.
Cuisine of Ethiopia
Among various interesting things, one of the best thing that I came across was the Ethiopian Coffee. Coffee is the backbone of Ethiopia. If you love coffee and want to experience one of the finest coffees, Ethiopia is surely the destination you must visit. This home to some of the most unique and fascinating coffees of the world. This country is considered to be the birthplace of the coffee plant and the coffee culture. Coffee is an integral part of the socio-economical culture of Ethiopia. One famous phrase of Ethiopia is “Buna dabo naw”, which means “Coffee is our bread”. Like a street shop in every corner of India, you can find numerous coffee shops at every nook and corner of Ethiopia. One of the most interesting facts is that the owner of these coffee shops are mostly ladies. Also, the Ethiopian coffee ceremony is very popular and one must try that. You’ll find coffee ceremonies taking place throughout the country at home, in various cafes, on street corners, and in markets. Ferns are scattered on the ground, incense alight and in a pot, green coffee beans are roasted in a small pan over a charcoal stove, a delicate passing of water through the grounds until the ideal strength is achieved. Local Coffee Shop and the Aroma of Coffee In regards to a typical Ethiopian dish, it consists of ‘injera’ accompanied by a spicy stew, which frequently includes beef, lamb, vegetables and various types of legumes, such as lentils. Being a food lover, I loved the spicy Ethiopian cuisine. Some of the essential dishes and drinks of Ethiopia includes injera’ (sourdough flatbread) much like our “Dosa”, a little softer version though. Tibs (sautéed meat chunks), Shiro be Kibbe (legume stew) which is like our “Daal’ but spicy and hot, Berbere (typical spice blend), Kitfo (Ethiopian beef tartare) and Tej (an alcoholic honey beverage). So, if you want to give a treat to your taste buds, you must explore the authentic scrumptious Ethiopian cuisine. Having Tej at the local club, with local friends with the local ethnic music was one of the finest evenings to remember
Tej Getting Prepared at a Local Club
For me, Ethiopia is like a story untold. A country that’s rich in history, culture, flora and fauna and tourist attractions, yet it trails far behind as a desired tourist destination. The international image of Ethiopia has much to be worked upon. For many decades this country remained a mystery, we have heard a lot, but known very less about this beautiful country. So, it’s time to pack your bags and head to explore the beautiful, mysterious and culturally enchanting Ethiopia.