Ethiopia, once Abyssinia, is undoubtedly one of the most unique countries in continental Africa. Being geographically isolated from the rest of the continent by the Sahara, Danakil and Somali deserts, it is rich in biological endemicity and cultural diversity. This also made it a refuge for some of the earliest followers of three of the world’s major religions- Judaism, Christianity and Islam- preserving their rituals and traditions from a time when they first arose.
For these very reasons, Ethiopia has fascinated me for a very long time, and it has been on the top 10 list of places I’ve wanted to visit. Sadly, for most people Ethiopia is synonymous with drought and famine. It is indubitable that the famine that crippled the country during mid-1980s did leave a scar on Ethiopia- most evident in many of the country’s still recovering National Parks that were then almost stripped bare, and also on its people who lost many loved ones during those harsh times. But what it is now, is a lush, fertile and self-sufficient country, one of the more prosperous in Africa. Of equal merit and something the whole world can learn from is the unity between such culturally diverse groups- from Protestants, Catholics and animists living next door to each other in the Konso villages to Orthodox Christians and Muslims in the Simien valleys, who co-exist with utmost respect and sensitivity towards each other and more importantly share and cherish each others traditions.
It was definitely not an easy country to travel in. Not just because of the poor infrastructure, but more so for how unregulated tourism has lead to the exploitation of the people by some tourists and how corruption has become rife amongst those who benefit from it. It is a country definitely worth visiting, but a well-informed ethical approach to travel is vital.
These are photos and stories from my recent travels through this fascinating country from the colourful and ethnically diverse Omo and Rift Valleys near the Kenyan and Sudanese borders to the naturally breath taking and historically rich highlands to the North by its border with Eritrea.