Has anyone recently travelled to Ethiopia, one of the earliest Christian kingdoms in the world? In particular, did you visit the town of Aksum, said to be the home of the Ark of the Covenant? Now that there are a lot more posts on the LL Community about travel to Africa, my wife and I are turning our thoughts to a possible extended vacation there (for our first time ever visit to this amazing continent). We like the idea of perhaps combining a tour of Egypt with one of Ethiopia. We both enjoy seeing historic sites as well as visiting areas of exceptional natural beauty. Any suggestions?
Not only have I never been to Ethiopia I don't believe I have encountered anyone who has, it is certainly often the well-beaten track! I'd love to hear about your plans. I have, however, been to Egypt and spent a lot of time researching and planning the trip. Do a search for Egypt in the message boards and you'll find some good information on Nile cruises and Cairo hotels. If you are interested in any more specifics as you are planning your trip, please let me know as I'd love to share details!
Ethiopia's finally emerging out of the troubles caused by years of famine, economic hardship and political strife. Lately, improvements to all aspects of its society, and particularly to roads, airports, hotel availability and other necessary infrastructure, especially in the nation's capital Addis Ababa, has made it an increasingly attractive travel destination. Hopefully, someone on the LL Community has actually visited the land of much-revered Emperor Haile Selasse and will have travel ideas and suggestions to share. In the meanwhile, I'll do as you suggest and take a look at the posts on Egypt here at the LL Community. Thanks.
I've been to quite a few places in Africa but Ethiopia isn't one of them (yet!). The rock churches of Lalibela (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) look spectacular -- carved from a single block of stone with their roofs at ground level. I've also heard that the Bales Mountains area is the best place for seeing the highly endangered Ethiopian wolf.
I found the website you provided on the Lalibela rock churches fascinating. This fabulous place in Ethiopia is but one of the many amazing and often unique potential travel destinations for world travellers. Like you, folks who have been to Africa may not have thought of heading to Ethiopia, mainly because of the political, economic and social unrest and instability that has plagued the country for a number of years in the past. These problems now seem to have been resolved to the extent that people are again beginning to think of Ethiopia as a viable tourist destination. As such, I'm sure interest in this off-the-beaten-path location in north-eastern Africa is likely to increase over the next few years.
Ethiopia -- what an unusual and thought provoking topic for the "Luxury" crowd....
I am probably among a very small group in the community who have been to Ethiopia, not just to Addis Abeba. Although my last trip was in 2001, I dont think that it has changed much since then (it hadn't changed much in the 5 centuries since my arrival, so a few years wont have altered it much). Globe Trekkers did an episode a few years ago on Ethiopia, after I had visited, and it looked just as 'off the beaten track' then, as it was for me. If you can get your hands on that episode, it is instructive. The other series to watch before you make up your mind is the series by Sir Bob Geldof (Live Aid concert fame). He wandered in Ethiopia a few years ago, and did a grand job of showcasing the challenges in Ethiopia with compassion and evident frustration at the appalling conditions.
If you are thinking of going (knowing that a few resident British diplomats were kidnapped in the Harar region a few weeks ago), you need to prepare yourself for a tremendous amount of culture shock and the impact of continuing abject poverty, war and the impact of regional conflict, while you are 'touring' around taking pictures. I have been to Lalibela, Gondar and Axum, and to a number of other 'cities' that are not on the regular tour --- way beyond the range of "off the beaten track". It is relatively easy to get to and from these places with Ethiopian Airlines (although you may need to brush up on your Amharic abit). You can also get to the far western regions, bordering Sudan, but the challenge is that there is very little in the way of 'places to stay' once you get there. And you have to remain very flexible. In Gondar, with only one flight out that day, the pilots decided to 'leave a few hours early', which meant that the hotel staff had to 'find me', so that I got on that plane.
There are old 'Government run hotels' in each of those cities, built by the Emperor Selassie, and not changed much since then.When I was in Axum, hot (lukewarm)water was on from 7 am to 7:45 am, water was off at all other times, for example.But you work with that, and understand that decades of drought has real impact. By complete contrast, in Addis Abeba there are two high quality hotels, one is the Sheraton Starwood, and it is a Starwood without question.It hasa dancing water fountain, with pretty lights and classical music to entertain you in the compound, a wonderful spa, a range of restaurants, and the customary grand piano at the bar. The rooms are likely the most well appointed in the Horn of Africa (the bathtub / shower had so many buttons and knobs it took me 10 minutes to figure it out), and your morning coffee is delivered by staff in tails and white gloves. The other option is the Hilton, its well appointed also, but not the Sheraton.Both these hotels cater to official travels of internationalbodies, such as the UN etc.
Addis Abeba also has a recently completed modern and immense airport (it wasnt finished when I travelled there, but it was nearly done). Ethiopiahas Headquarters and offices of manyinternational organizations and aid agencies, and competes for this sort of business travel with other African capitals. The new airport waslong overdue.It certainlygives the impression that things are getting better. And it is.
If you think that you want to experience Ethiopia, which is really beyond anything that one could imagine, I suggest that you contact Ethiopian Airlines, and if you are really serious, check with your 'embassy' in advance. Things spill over from one country to another in the Horn of Africa, the Ethiopian government recently supported the Somali government in quelling internal uprisings in Mogadishu, and the potential negative fall out from that has yet to be realized. Conflicts,in places like ET, are hard to predict. Many years of peace, and then war breaks out with a fury. Ethiopia last saw'war' during the war with Eritrea in spring 2000, which was described at the time by the BBC as 'two bald men fighting over a comb'. It was yet another devastation thatset the two countries on a path of conflict (they are cousins, by the way). In my visits to Axum, Gondar and Lalibela, I believe that I was one of the first 'post conflict' travellers who was not an international peacekeeper. I was welcome, saw things that I had not anticipated, including the devastation of drought, famine and war, and met some wonderful and hopeful Ethiopians, who had learned to make something of the worst possible scenario.
Read "In Ethiopia with a Mule" by Dervla Murphy, one of the greatest adventure travel writers (she an Irishwoman, who has been everywhere and done everything, in her own way, by foot, on a bike, or in this case, with a mule as her best buddy.... She travelled to Ethiopia in the 70s, and my own travels 25 to 30 years later(not with a mule, mind you), were enhanced considerably having read her experiences.
It is possible to do. You can travel from NY to Addis by Ethiopian Airlines, stay a few days, use the Sheraton as your base, fly around (Axum to Lalibela to Gondar), then back to Addis, and carry on to Kenya with ET.
Oh, and be prepared for some belly challenges, typically giardia .... everyone gets something unexpected to take home when they go to Ethiopia. Its guaranteed.
(I'd go back, but would not do any adventure road shows with touring companies by 4x4s. Some of these places are literally many days apart, with nothing in between except the prospect of bandits. I havehad those "adventure moments" in my younger days, and have developed lots of respect for the world's disadvantaged who carry semi-automatic weapons.)
I'm flabbergasted! Your reply on Ethiopia is overwhelming and absolutely wonderful in the depth of detail you provide and the extensive knowledge you have of that amazing African country. It just goes to show you what amazing things you can get on the LL Community. I hadn't expected much in the way of comments in reply to my post, as Ethiopia's has not been a popular destination for tourists in the past decade due to its many problems. But, what a surprise I got when I read your extensive post! What you've told me makes me think that Ethiopia may be worth a special trip of its own, rather than as a side-trip or adjunct to our original idea which was to be an exploration of Egypt and the many fabulous sights up and down the Nile. Thanx a million!
Ethiopia is absolutely worth a visit, but a wise visit. It can be a very unpredictable and dangerous place. You should always check with your Embassy or Foreign Ministry before you head off to a place such as this, and register with that Embassy when you get there. If things go haywire while you are there, and they can and do sometimes, you may need their help. I suspect that there are a number of 'travel advisories' in effect right now for Ethiopia, for very good reasons. My own travels were difficult, and I was there during conflict, and during an epidemic outbreak of meningicocal (and was in the far reaches at the time, and absolutely in the thick of the outbreak).
You need dozens of vaccines for ET, and need to recognize all sorts of potential illnesses, in case you find yourself ill. (its a given in Ethiopia!!) But, if you are healthy, and can travel in poverty that is still beyond comprehension (while staying in the Sheraton, which makes many folks uncomfortable to be that well accommodated in a neighbourhood of despair), its a fantastic adventure. Read the books, watch the videos, and listen to the likes of Sir Bob. He raises issues that have been ignored by western societies, and is wonderfully 'irish' in his speech.And you need to be respectful in your dress and speech when visiting placesas sacred as Lalibela and Axum (where the Arkof the Covenant is alleged to be protected). Solomon's Mines are also considered to be in Ethiopia (the western region).
Research before you go. And exercise common sense all the time. Its very challenging travel, and should not be your 'first adventure into Africa'. Nothing will go according to plan, but it will fascinating nevertheless.
The more I learn about Ethiopia from you and a few other LL Community Contributors, the more interested I become in actually going there. It sounds like both a very foreboding country with many a potential pitfall for the uninformed tourist but also as a wonderfully intriguing and mysterious African destination. I will heed your sage advice and not make ET the first place we visit when we do decide to journey to Africa. In fact, we'll most likely head to Egypt or South Africa for our first venture and then try Ethiopia once we;ve become seasoned travellers on this large continent. Thanx for everything!
Nope, not likely to visit Ethopia.but whenever we hear the name, we always think of Haile Selassie, The Lion Of Judah and of course, Rastafarianism in Jamaicahowever, we do frequent a nice restaurant in Miami by the name of Sheba.serving Ethopian cuisine http:www.shebamiami.com/