Palm Sunday Celebrations
While many Christians in the world recognized Easter last Sunday, the Ethiopian Orthodox will celebrate Easter this Sunday. Beginning on Palm Sunday (shown in the video) until Good Friday every day has special services. This week is called Semune Himamat - a week of agony and suffering. No matter when or if you celebrate Easter we wish you a happy and peaceful day.
The Potential of the "False Banana"
About 20 million people in Ethiopia cultivate a plant that some scientists are calling the next "super food." Enset or "false banana" is a staple for people such as the Dorze in southern Ethiopia. The fruit of the tree is inedible but the stems and roots can be used to make nutritious bread and porridge.
According to Doctor Dr James Borrell speaking to the BBC:
"Enset has some really unusual traits that make it absolutely unique as a crop." "You plant it at any time, you harvest it at any time and it's perennial. That's why they call it the tree against hunger."
Researchers at nearby Arba Minch University are exploring ways to reduce the fermentation time required to make enset edible and believe that one day it could be the staple food for up to 100 million people.
You can visit a Dorze village on any of our Omo Valley tours and sample some fresh enset bread.
The Ethiopian National team delivered a historic performance at the 2022 World Indoor Track and Field Championships in Belgrade. Of the 12 total medals awarded for the two longest races (1500m and 3000m) the Ethiopians captured eight! Ethiopians won gold in all four races (men and women) and in the women's 1500m race, Ethiopia captured the first three spots. In the 800m, Freweyni Hailu won a silver for Ethiopia.
2. Freweyni Hailu
1. Gudaf Tsegay
2. Axumawit Embaye
3. Hirut Meshesha
1. Samuel Tefera
1. Lemlem Hailu
3. Ejgayehu Taye
1. Selemon Barega
2. Lamecha Girma
On the same weekend in New York, Ethiopia's Senbere Teferi won the prestigious NYC Half Marathon while setting a new course record. On the men's side, Teshome Mekonen placed 3rd.
Ethiopia is undoubtedly the land of the long distance runner and you can be part of it! Every November Africa's largest and greatest road race, The Great Ethiopian Run, is held on the streets of Addis Ababa. All ages and abilities are welcome to participate in this 10k run. If you want to test yourself a bit more, the Hawassa Half Marathon is held every February in Hawassa, a scenic lakeside town less than four hours from Addis Ababa.
Grand Temple of Yeha
In the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray, about 50 kilometers east of Axum, is the ancient archeological site of Yeha. Axum, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is known for its two thousand year old stelae fields and numerous important archeological sites. Although not nearly as well known has Axum, Yeha is much much older. Dating from the 7th century BCE, the Grand Temple of Yeha was 14 x 18 meters and stood 14 meters. Built of superbly cut stones of up to 3 meters long, the temple is thought to have been built to worship Almaqah, the moon god of the Saba’ Kingdom which was centered just across the Red Sea in southern Arabia.
One of the oldest standing structures in sub Saharan Africa, the temple measures 14 x 18 meters and 14 meters high. Built of superbly cut stones of up to 3 meters long, no mortar was required for its construction. Similar stone work is found in another Almaqah temple in Sirwah, Yemen and the ‘Awam temple in Ma’rib, Yemen.
Other significant archeological finds within a few hundred meters of the Grand Temple are the remains of Grat Be’al Gebri, a palace dating from between the 8th and 6 centuries BCE, and a cemetery consisting of six rock cut shafts each serving as a tomb.
Submitted for consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism notes that Yeha “has also great potential for future archaeological researches to study the origin and development of stratified societies in the Northern Horn.”
Many visitors come to Ethiopia hoping to learn about its history and unique cultures - and they certainly will. But by the end of their trip they will likely have a completely new, and perhaps unexpected, appreciation for birds. With more than 850 species, Ethiopia has long been a favorite destination for “birders.” But you do not need to know the difference between an Abyssinian Siskin and an Ethiopian Bee-eater to be amazed by the diversity and beauty of the birds you will encounter.
The Goliath Heron is a “common” bird in much of Africa but is still a remarkable sight for visitors. Standing almost five feet tall this colorful waterbird has a “bark” that can be heard two kilometers away. Although considered very intelligent, the Goliath Heron is unfortunately not very agile compared to other large birds. After spearing a fish it is often a victim of “kleptoparasitism” - when a swifter bird, such as the African Fish Eagle, will swoop in and steal its meal.
With the conclusion of the 2022 Africa’s Cup - won by Senegal’s “Lions of Teranga” - we are reminded that Ethiopia’s team was also once known as the “Lions”, specifically the “Black Lions” in honor of the black-maned Abyssinian Lion.
But today, the pride of Ethiopian Football are known as the “Walias,” named after the rugged antelope from the country’s highlands, the “Walia Ibex.” Although “Black Lions” was a very suitable name, several other African countries also use the name “Lion.” In addition to the “Lions of Teranga”, Morocco has the “Lions of Atlas” and Cameroon has the “Indomitable Lions.” Like the animal, the name “Walia” is unique to Ethiopia.
Football is tremendously popular throughout Ethiopia and visitors can see the Ethiopian Premier League at numerous stadiums throughout the country.
Below are the football teams of Ethiopia’s neighbors:
Eritrea - The Red Sea Boys
Djibouti - Riverains de la Mer Rouge (Shoremen of. The Red Sea)
Kenya - Harambee Stars (Harambee is the national motto “All Pull Together”)
Somalia - The Ocean Stars
South Sudan - The Bright Stars
Sudan - Falcons of Jediane
With distinctive black facial markings, black bands on their front legs, a black stripe along each flank, and almost perfectly straight horns that grow up to 120cm (4 feet) long, the Beisa Oryx is one of the most striking and recognizable antelopes on the Horn of Africa. Unfortunately, as of 2018, it is also classified as “endangered” on the IUCN List of Threatened Species. (As recently as 1996, it was classified as “low risk”). Current estimates put the number of mature Beisa Oryx between only 8,000 - 9,000 and declining. (The Gemsbok, also of the Oryx genus and commonly seen in Southern Africa, is not considered endangered.)
Other than their appearance, the Beisa Oryx have several other unique characteristics:
Well adapted to their desert grassland habitat, Beisa Oryx can survive without water for almost as long as camels and in extreme conditions can raise their body temperature to 46.5 Celsius (116 Fahrenheit) to prevent water loss through perspiration.
After a gestation period of about nine months, a mother will hide her newborn calf for 2 - 6 weeks before introducing it to the herd.
Beisa Oryx will flee from danger rather than fight, but if cornered their long sharp horns are lethal weapons and Oryx have been know to kill even lions.
In contrast to Gemsboks, Beisa Oryx have relatively small herds of about 10 animals. A female always leads the herd with a male taking up the rear to provide protection.
In Ethiopia, Beisa Oryx are most easily sighted in Awash National Park and the Alledeghi Wildlife Reserve, both easily accessible from Addis Ababa.
Sof Omar Cave
From the +4,000 meter heights of the Bale Mountains, the Web River descends nearly 3000 meters in elevation as it flows east and enters Holqa Sof Omar, a 15 kilometer long network of caves.
Currently on UNESCO’s list of proposed World Heritage Sites, Holqa Sof Omar is described by UNESCO: "In this realm of dry, cool caves nature has worked a marvel of architecture — soaring pillars of stone twenty meters (66 feet) high, flying buttresses, fluted arch ways, and tall airy vaults. Finally the river itself is reached, a sunless sea flowing through a deep gorge."
Named for the Muslim saint who took refuge there in the 11th century, Sof Omar is an important shrine not just for Muslims but has long been a sacred place for Oromo local religions.
Sof Omar is most easily reached from Goba (a gateway town to the Bale Mountains National Park) about 120 kilometers away. The drive will take about 3 hours so it's best to camp near the caves if you want to thoroughly explore them.
Photos courtesy of Jamal Kassim
In 1896, nearly the entire African continent was under the control of European powers following their “Scramble for Africa.” Only Liberia, which had been settled by freed American slaves, and Ethiopia remained free from European rule. Following a dispute over the terms of a treaty (Treaty of Wuchale) between Italy and King Menelik II of Ethiopia, Italian troops were sent from their colony in Eritrea to force Ethiopia to accept Italian demands. On March 1st, after several small battles and skirmishes, the armies of both sides faced off near the village of Adwa in northern Ethiopia. Outmaneuvered and outmanned, the Italian forces and their allies were annihilated and Ethiopia would remain the sole African country free from foreign control.
Ethiopia’s victory stemmed the tide of seemingly inevitable European colonization and would inspire independence movements throughout the continent for decades. “Adwa Day” is a national holiday in Ethiopia and celebrated every year on 23 Yekatit of the Ethiopian Calendar.