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.
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.
Abiye Tsome - (Lent)
For observant Ethiopian Orthodox Christians over the age of seven, today is the beginning of the fasting period called “Abiye Tsome” which leads up to Easter. For those observing the fast, no animal products will be consumed for the next 55 days and meals should only be consumed after 3:30pm following the daily mass.
There are 180 fasting days throughout the year for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians and perhaps because of this Ethiopian cuisine has developed many delicious vegetarian dishes.
In this photo of a “Beyaynetu” or “fasting food combination” you can see cabbage with potatoes; beets; gomen (similar to collard greens); lentils, spicy and non spicy; chick peas, spicy and non spicy; and shiro, a stew made of ground chick peas. All are served on “injera” a spongy bread made from the grain “tef.” You can try most of these tasty dishes throughout Ethiopia at any time of the year.
Photo by Awaze client Anne Sawvell
The Klipspringer, a small antelope, is found from the highlands of East Africa all the way to South Africa. (Its name derives from an Afrikaans word meaning “rock jumper.”)
Standing only about 50 centimeters (20”) at the shoulder, the Klipspringer has a vertical leap of more than 3.5 meters (12 feet)! Its tiny hooves, measuring about 18mm (3/4”) in diameter, act similar to suction cups allowing the Klipspringer to perch on rocky ledges as small as 40mm (1.5”) across.
Unusual for herbivores, Klipspringers have binocular vision which is thought to be useful for gauging distances and landing areas when leaping.
A pair of klipspringers will bond for life and rarely stray more than 5 or 6 meters from their mate.
Like all dwarf antelopes, Klipspringers have prominent preorbital glands located just below their eyes. These glands produce secretions which aid in marking territory and communication with other animals.
Klipspringers are frequently seen in Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains and Bale Mountains National Parks.