Sunday, April 29, 2012

Rastafarians face hardship in Ethiopian 'promised land' | The New Age Online

A ceremonial fire burns as dreadlocked Rastafarians sway to drum beats, chanting "Haile I! Selassie I!" in praise of the former Ethiopian emperor whom they uphold as God incarnate.

Marijuana smoke rises from the crowd, decked out in their trademark red, gold and green also the colours as the Ethiopian flag as they celebrate the 46th anniversary this month of Haile Selassie's visit to Jamaica.

That trip prompted an influx of Jamaican Rastafarians to the Horn of Africa state, which they believe is their promised land.
But some feel Ethiopia has not measured up and now want change.

"After the visit of Haile Selassie in 1966 in the Caribbean, the Jamaican Rastafarians started to pour in" to Ethiopia, said researcher Giulia Bonacci at the French Centre for Ethiopian Studies in the capital Addis Ababa.

When the movement emerged in the 1930s among descendants of African slaves in Jamaica, it adopted Haile Selassie as the messiah, at a time when he stood out as the only independent black monarch in Africa.

They even took their name from his pre-regnal title "Ras" for "head" and his birth name "Tafari".

A supporter of decolonization and cooperation among African states when they were still largely under European control, Haile Selassie set aside land south of the capital in the 1950s to welcome back the African diaspora.

The 500-hectare (1,200-acre) plot in Shashemene, 250 kilometres (155 miles) from Addis Ababa, was offered to descendents of slaves who wanted to return "home".

It is one of Africa's few Rastafarian communities and residents hold fast to their cultural mainstays: dreadlocks, vegetarian diets, reggae music and marijuana smoking.

But life changed in 1974 when Haile Selassie was overthrown in a coup led by Mengistu Haile Mariam whose Marxist-Leninist regime confiscated the Shashemene plot, prompting most Rastas to flee its authoritarian rule.

Though 40 hectares have been returned to the community since Meles Zenawi, now prime minister, took power in 1991, the 600 or so Rastas from the Caribbean, North America and Europe living there today are "tolerated" by the government, holding neither citizenship nor any legal right to the land.

"There is an absence of a clear policy of the Ethiopian government towards the community, which leaves a lot of its members in limbo and facing difficult legal issues," said Bonacci, who has written a book about Rastafarians settling in Ethiopia.

Kestekle Ab, 82, who moved from Jamaica 11 years ago, said authorities recently told him to relocate to make room for construction of a new road.

He arrived when Shashemene was a sparsely populated rural area. Today it is a bustling city of about 120,000. Donkey carts are outnumbered by three-wheeled motorised rickshaws that flit about streets lined with crooked wooden stalls selling single cigarettes, warm juice and biscuits.

"I won't have a home, my home is in the middle of the road. So where am I going to stay?" he asked, sitting in his cramped, airless clay hut decorated with a fading portrait of Haile Selassie and a Rasta flag peeling from the wall.
"We have a right to the land," he said.

"It's not threatened, it's being taken away," Ras Kabena, 58, said angrily as he poked kernels from corn cobs to plant ahead of the rainy season.

Kabena, who moved from the Dominican Republic two decades ago, runs a natural health clinic on the grounds of a Rasta church but said authorities are encroaching on the fields where he grows food and medicinal herbs.

Rastafarians say it was the "divinity" of the land that drew them to Ethiopia, which is mentioned in the Bible more than 30 times and is believed to be the birthplace of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.

"This is the promised land, this is where God is born," said Ab.

Yet the Rastas' vague status makes it difficult to set up business and access services open to nationals.

"I'm in Africa and I'm illegal in regards to status. I don't feel illegal because I'm returning home, but when you're talking about the letter of the law, yes, in fact, it's reality," said Carol Rocke, 56, who runs a Caribbean restaurant.

When she was "ordained by God" to come to Ethiopia from Trinidad six years ago, she applied for a business licence but was only allowed to operate as a foreign investor, limiting her business to the region around Shashemene.

Paul Phang, 55, a Jamaican-born Rasta priest who sits on Shashemene city council, insists the government has been increasingly supportive.

In 2006, the regional president "said the land that had been given to the black people of the West, no more of it should be molested, it should be honoured as a historical heritage for the diaspora community," Phang said.

But Rocke feels authorities are dragging their heels. "They have not been active enough, it's like they don't know how to deal with us," she said.

The Rastafarians now want clarification, and sent a petition to parliament three months ago urging the government to grant them legal status and legal title to their land. As yet they have not heard back.

"We have been here over 50 years. That means we have been integrated into the Ethiopian society, into the Ethiopian culture. Some of us have Ethiopian husbands, some of us have Ethiopian wives," Rocke said.

But "our roots have been stanched, we have not been able to develop as a people."

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Islamic the demonstration of Ethiopian Muslims-AL-JAZEERA

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Inside Ethiopia's Adoption Boom -

Many children adopted from Ethiopia, like Melesech Roth, are thriving in loving homes. But the nexus of poverty, money and demand in global adoption can breed dubious practices. WSJ's Miriam Jordan reports.

Seated in plastic chairs in a grade-school cafeteria in Minnesota, Sandra and Alan Roth admired their 7-year-old daughter, Melesech, making her stage debut last month in "Peter Pan" as one of the "lost kids"—the children who find themselves spirited away to a magical place called Neverland. Four years earlier, to the day, the Roths had brought Mel home from Ethiopia, where they had adopted her.

"Oh, Wendy, we thought you were going to be our mother!" said Mel on stage, speaking her only line and wearing a rust-colored tunic and fuzzy Ugg-style boots.

"She is very special," said Mrs. Roth, 49 years old. For children like her in Ethiopia, she added, "There is no future."
[New Lion]Stephen Maturen for The Wall Street Journal
Melesech in Minnesota with her adoptive mother, above. Her dad gave her for adoption a few years ago as Ethiopian adoptions went into overdrive.

Ethiopia has become one of the busiest adoption destinations in the world, thanks in part to loose controls that make it one of the fastest places to adopt a child. Nearly one out of five children adopted by Americans hailed from Ethiopia the past two years, second only to China.

Many youngsters, like Melesech, are thriving in loving homes. Still, the U.S. State Department has cautioned that Ethiopia's lax oversight, mixed with poverty and the perils of cross-cultural misunderstanding, leaves room for abuse.

"Ethiopia is a classic example of the next boom country where there are warning signs," said Karen Smith Rotabi, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who studies global adoption. While there is no proof of widespread fraud, the State Department says, in recent months it began requiring DNA tests and interviews of Ethiopians who have relinquished children, to ensure they are related.

Ethiopian officials say they are cracking down on abuses. Intercountry adoption is now "our last choice. We don't promote it," said Zaid Tesfay, deputy chief of the women's affairs office in Addis Ababa that oversees adoption.

The U.S. State Department said the pace of approvals by Ethiopian authorities seems to be picking up again after a decline. "We expect the numbers will bounce back this year," said Susan Jacobs, the U.S. State Department's chief adoption official.

Melesch and Her Families

Jiro Ose for The Wall Street Journal
Genete Mathios, 15, and Selamnesh Mathios, 6, look at photos of their sister Melesech in the U.S. from their village in Ethiopia.

The experience recounted by Mel's biological father, Mathewos Delebo, shows many of the complexities. Mr. Delebo, a 38-year-old farmer, acknowledges freely giving up his youngest child for adoption. Earlier this year, in the mud-hut village of Le-barfeta in southeastern Ethiopia where he lives, he described why he did it.

Four years ago, he claimed, a stranger—a middleman in the adoption trade—came to his village and persuaded him to give up a child with the promise that she would grow up and send money to support him. "White people are taking children of the poor and helping them get a better life," Mr. Delebo said he was told. "It will be good for you."

Mr. Delebo claimed he didn't understand that he was giving up Mel for good, and thought that she would send money home. Mr. Delebo doesn't recall the middleman's name and hasn't seen him for years.

U.S. government officials say middlemen are often employed by orphanages to find adoption candidates. Mr. Delebo's middleman can't be found so there is no way to know his motives.

The middleman's alleged pitch had its appeal. Mr. Delebo's first wife, Mel's biological mother, died of malaria when Mel was a baby. Today Mr. Delebo, his second wife, and his six remaining children live on the 60 cents a day he earns building huts. Drought has ravaged his crops. The family subsists on maize flour, beans and wild bananas, which grow in abundance.

Mr. Delebo said he now suffers from malaria himself—the disease that killed Mel's birth mother. "I have the same illness," he said. "Sometimes I feel very hot and sometimes I feel very cold."
[Lion3]Jiro Ose for The Wall Street Journal
Melesech's sisters Genete and Selamnesh in the village of of Le-barfeta, Ethiopia.

Despite mixed feelings over Mel's adoption, recently he wondered aloud if it might be a good idea to give up some of his other children. "When I see pictures of Melesech and how happy she looks," he said, referring to snapshots the Roths have given him, "I wish I could send my other children, too." Since the local middleman disappeared, he's not sure how to make that happen.

In 2010, some 4,400 children left Ethiopia via adoption, nearly three times more than 2004, according to the latest available global figures. The U.S. adopts more foreign-born children than any other country.

China became a go-to source in the 1980s due to its one-child policy. All told, adoption to the U.S. tripled between 1990 and 2004, to a record 22,991. In 2005, Angelina Jolie famously brought home a daughter from Ethiopia.

Then, global adoption began to sputter. Russia and South Korea restricted adoptions; China started steering mainly special-needs children with mental or physical handicaps overseas. To adopt a healthy child, a five-year wait is typical. Washington halted adoption from Cambodia, Guatemala and Vietnam on evidence of baby peddling and document fraud.

"Waiting lists grew, and people got desperate," said Peter Selman, a British adoption scholar.

Ethiopia stood out with a wait time for a healthy child of only about 12 months. Western adoption agencies flocked to the capital, Addis Ababa. Across Ethiopia, local orphanages sprang up to meet demand.

Ethiopia isn't a signatory to The Hague Convention, a treaty to guarantee intercountry adoption is transparent and in a child's best interest. The country lacks infrastructure and personnel to regulate a process that usually begins deep in the countryside. Some of the largest and most reputable U.S. agencies adopt from Ethiopia.

A U.S. investigation of Ethiopian adoptions in 2009 and 2010 found inaccurate adoptee paperwork and orphanages using financial incentives to recruit children. The U.S. embassy found anecdotal evidence that scouts purporting to be state health workers weighed infants, then took them away from their parents on the pretext that the children weren't receiving adequate care. Ethiopian families often are solicited with promises that a relinquished child will become affluent and provide for the family left behind, said Ms. Jacobs, the U.S. adoption chief.
Stephen Maturen for The Wall Street Journal
Mother and daughter head home after an appointment at an Ethiopian salon in Minnesota where Melesech's hair was braided.

Ethiopia last year began strengthening its oversight and for a few months slashed the number of adoptions processed. As of late October 2011, it had closed about two dozen orphanages suspected of irregularities. Two orphanages that Mel passed through have been shut by the government, although it is unclear when or why the shutdowns occurred. A Unicef grant is helping the country build a foster-care system.

The adoption model works like this. Agencies in the U.S. typically charge about $25,000 to adopt an Ethiopian child, generally less than for other countries. Ethiopian orphanages that supply children to these agencies depend on funding from them to operate—providing an incentive to procure adoptable children.

Children's Home Society & Family Services, a large adoption agency based in St. Paul, Minn., that handled Melesech's case, said it pays Ethiopian orphanages "a flat, non-variable monthly amount not linked to the number of children referred. Orphanage assistance is used for diapers, food, formula, items to care for kids."

Melesech was born May 25, 2004, the fifth child of Mathewos Delebo and Abaynesh Heliso. Within months, her mother died of cerebral malaria. In October 2007, Mr. Delebo said, he received a visit from the adoption middleman.

First, Mr. Delebo said, he offered two of his sons, who were then about eight and nine. But the orphanage said it needed children younger than five. So he came back with Melesech. As required, Mr. Delebo said he obtained a letter in support of the adoption from his kebele, a council that oversees five local villages.

According to documents provided by Children's Home to the Roths and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, on Nov. 6, 2007, Mr. Delebo dropped off Melesech at an orphanage in the city of Hosanna, 45 miles from his village. "Because I am poor, I gave her away," said Mr. Delebo, recalling that father and daughter both cried when they said goodbye.

It was the furthest Mr. Delebo ever had traveled from home. It was also the last time he saw Melesech.

Ten days later, Mel was transferred to a center in Addis Ababa run by Children's Home Society. A video shot by the agency at that time shows a quiet, compliant child with almond eyes and short, curly hair undergoing a physical exam, attending bible class and riding a merry-go-round.

In Minnesota, back in early 2007, Sandra Roth was at church one Sunday when a missionary made a case for adopting overseas. "I had always wanted to adopt," said Mrs. Roth, a real-estate agent and mother of five biological children.

The Roths moved quickly. Within days, they met with Children's Home and settled on trying for an Ethiopia adoption. As part of the screening, the agency looked at the Roths' tax and financial statements, visited their home and interviewed their kids.

At first, the Roths were told they were likely to get two boys. But in early December 2007 they learned of Mel. The adoption agency provided an information packet. Her name means "give back," the packet said. The family lived "hand to mouth."

Mrs. Roth says she decided that "getting one little girl was the best plan." In a big Ziploc bag she stuffed a children's book, some clothes and photos of the Roth family for the agency to give to Mel.

Paperwork took several months. Consent was required from an Ethiopian federal-court judge and from Ethiopia's Ministry of Women's Affairs. The U.S. embassy in Ethiopia also needed to review the case before issuing Mel a passport.

In late February 2008, less than a year after the Roths' first meeting with the adoption agency, everything was in order. The Roths flew to Addis Ababa.

Their first meeting with Melesech, captured on video, didn't go very well. Mel recoiled at the sight of her new parents, whom she appeared to recognize, and screamed and cried. Within a few days, however, she was laughing and playing with them.

As part of the adoption process, the Roths and other adoptive parents traveled to Hosanna for an "entrustment ceremony," a ritual in which a birth relative symbolically transfers the parental role to the adoptive parents. The Roths stood across from Mr. Delebo in a circle and everyone chanted prayers.

The Roths also held a private meeting with Mr. Delebo. They unfurled a map of the world to show him Minnesota. He was "absolutely astonished," Mrs. Roth said. The Roths say they promised him to bring Melesech to Ethiopia when she was older.

On March 7, 2008, Melesech arrived in Stillwater, Minn., to a 6,500-square-foot, three-story Victorian home overlooking the St. Croix River, where her new family lived at the time: two older sisters, three older brothers, Grady the caramel-colored rescue dog and a black-and-brown cat called Kitty.

Mrs. Roth said Melesech "fit right in" and that she never imagined it would be "this easy." Mel's new siblings helped teach her English and introduced her to cartoon characters like SpongeBob SquarePants. In 2009, Mel started kindergarten at St. Croix Preparatory Academy. She speaks English perfectly but needs extra help with math, her teachers say.

The Roths talk openly to Melesech about her past, and it can be hard to discern whether her descriptions of life in Ethiopia are drawn from her own memories or from these discussions and various photos and videos from her early life. "My mother died from a mosquito bite," Mel said as she dug into vegetables piled on flat bread at an Ethiopian restaurant in St. Paul, her hair freshly braided at an Ethiopian salon.

Her bedroom looks out on a pond where the kids ice-skate in winter. On her desk, under the glass top, a picture of her Ethiopian family sits beside a photo of her American family.

Asked if she likes her room, Melesech giggled. "I only wish I had my own bathroom," she said, instead of sharing with one of her brothers.

With Melesech settled in Stillwater, Mrs. Roth said that in late 2009 she decided to see "exactly" where her daughter had come from. So the Roths traveled to her home village of Le-barfeta, eight hours outside Addis Ababa by four-wheel drive.

Melesech's relatives kissed photos of the girl that the Roths were carrying, Mrs. Roth recalls, and divvied up clothes and toys that they had brought as gifts. The Roths also gave Mr. Delebo about $100. Still, they felt Mr. Delebo was disappointed. "He asked if there wasn't anything else we had for him," Mrs. Roth said.

This past February in Le-barfeta, Mr. Delebo described his own recollections of the Roths' 2009 visit. Of all the families in his village who have given up children for adoption, he's the only one to receive a visit from the adoptive family—something he said he appreciates greatly. "I'm the only one in the village lucky enough to get that," he said.

But in one sign of the potential for miscommunication, he also said he had understood the Roths would help him buy a grinding mill to start a business.

"Something could be lost in translation," Mrs. Roth allows, but she said neither she nor her husband promised Mr. Delebo anything except that they would take good care of Melesech and send her to college. "He seemed very thankful she was going to be educated," Mrs. Roth said.

In Mr. Delebo's village, the nearest school is a 90-minute walk away. Three of his children are in the first grade, he said, including his 15-year-old daughter, Genete, and two sons, 13 and 12.

But during the visit to Le-barfeta earlier this year, the children weren't in class. They were doing chores—fetching water and chopping banana leaves to feed the cow and calf.

One recent Thursday in Stillwater, Melesech took center stage as her dance class practiced one of its routines. Reminded that she also had one final Peter Pan performance as a "lost child," Mel protested in classic 7-year-old form: "What the heck!" she said.

Mrs. Roth said she plans someday to take Melesech back to Ethiopia to meet her relatives, maybe when she's 10. "I want her to understand, and be familiar with her other family," she said.

But then, reflecting on Mr. Delebo's second thoughts about giving up Mel for adoption, she wondered aloud, "Will they try to take her back?"

Some 8,000 miles away in the village of Le-barfeta, her biological father awaits the day of Mel's return. "Whenever we see a plane fly by, we say, 'Melesech could be coming.' "
—Simegnish Yekoye contributed to this article.
Write to Miriam Jordan at
A version of this article appeared April 28, 2012, on page A1 in some U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Inside Ethiopia's Adoption Boom.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Colorado State University Signs International Memorandum with Ethiopia's Hawassa University - News & Information - Colorado State University

FORT COLLINS - Colorado State University signed an international Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Ethiopia’s Hawassa University to provide collaborative research and teaching opportunities for faculty and graduate students at the two universities.
The MOU was signed in January of this year, and in February, a team of four CSU researchers from the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory traveled to south-central Ethiopia where they taught short courses in geographic information systems, watershed management, animal nutrition and forest ecology at the Wondo Genet College of Forestry and Natural Resources located off Hawassa’s main campus. Additionally, the team visited potential research sites and met with Hawassa faculty and Peace Corps volunteers.
“Hawassa University is very similar to CSU in that both universities are about the same size and offer similar programs, including a veterinary school and a college of natural resources,” said Dave Swift, senior research scientist at CSU’s Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory and member of the CSU team that traveled to Ethiopia. “What Hawassa really needs is assistance with teaching in Ethiopia. Enrollment is steadily increasing and the university simply does not have a lot of well-trained faculty to put into teaching positions.
“We see this as an ideal opportunity to enhance CSU faculty, doctoral and graduate student teaching experience by adding an element of international exposure and gaining a developing-world perspective. These experiences can then be translated back into the classrooms here at CSU,” he said.
The Hawassa/CSU international MOU was initiated by Jessica Davis from CSU’s Department of Soil and Crop Sciences and Office of International Programs. CSU research scientist Paul Evangelista is now leading the effort with fellow scientists Swift, Melinda Laituri and Bill Romme for more direct collaborations with the Wondo Genet College. These efforts have been coordinated by Peace Corps volunteers Bob and Nancy Sturtevant. Bob recently retired from CSU and he and his wife Nancy now serve at Wondo Genet.
The CSU team is making arrangements to send two doctoral students to Wondo Genet this summer to teach an intensive four- to six-week course in wildlife management. Long-term, researchers envision a faculty exchange between the two universities on a regular rotation. This vision and the CSU partnership were highlighted by Donald Booth, U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, in a speech given at Hawassa University during the CSU team’s recent visit.
Evangelista and his colleagues are now developing specific research proposals that will engage faculty and graduate students from both CSU and Wondo Genet College in ecological studies of native forests in Ethiopia’s southern highlands. These forests, which lie between 8,000 and 13,000 feet above sea level, are home to an exceptionally high number of rare and endangered species that are found only in that region. These forests are also the headwaters to four major rivers that provide water for millions of people throughout Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. However, land-use conversion and climate change threaten these unique ecosystems, an issue that affects native forests and dependent communities throughout East Africa.
“Ethiopia is an amazingly diverse country,” Romme said. “From barren deserts to lush forests and alpine terrain atop the high mountains, the country faces numerous challenges related to land use and climate change. We hope to work side-by-side with our colleagues from Hawassa to better understand the ecological rhythms that are keyed to alternating wet and dry seasons. This will be critical information to help conserve Ethiopia’s native forests, which are shrinking due to land use and climate change.”
The Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory is based in CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Simple Follower of Jesus » Blog Archive » Sundry Pics from Egypt and Ethiopia

Sundry Pics from Egypt and Ethiopia

April 17th, 2012

Tombs of Mohammed’s Family – Cairo, Egypt

Tombs of Mohamads Family From Outside
Mohammed Family Tombs
  Ceiling of Tomb
These tombs are located in an obscure crypt located within the City of the Dead in Cairo.  A local guy from that city took me in his old beat up pickup truck.

Mr. Welsh & Mr. Poland – My Travelling Companions in Egypto

Matt and Nick in Dahab
Nick and Tomasz
Matt and I both rendezvoused in Eliat, Israel before entering Egypt.  We hit town the same evening and amazingly upon showing up (neither of us having hotel reservations) we ended in the same hostel – in the same dorm room!  Not planned, and we didn’t even know until that night when we saw each other.  Especially odd considering there were a plethora of hostels in the neighborhood to choose from. 
But then Matt and I split again and crossed into Egypt independently on separate days (Matt wanted to go a day earlier). 
Since crossing borders is always an adventure, this resulted in us both having unique adventures.  Turns out Matt ended up spending a night as the only tourist in a Bedouin camp when he couldn’t find through transportation.  Later we met up again in Dahab, Egypt but this time we didn’t have the fortune to pick the same hostel… ended up at opposite sides of town.  But after a couple days later Matt moved over to my hostel.  So we were travelling together, kinda.
Regardless, Matt and I did have a great time together and one day the two of us went snorkeling and Matt stepped on a sea urchin and got thorny spines all over the top AND bottom of of his foot!  Ouch.  What’s worse is it was later that night we hiked up Mt. Sinai… hehe.
So then I went on to Cairo and Matt back to Israel.  But after a a few days I took an antiquated train up to Alexandria where, lo and behold – who was waiting for me at the station but good ol’ Poland himself!!  Mr. Tomasz.  The two of us then explored Alexandria and Western Egypt together.
Guess I’ll always remember taking an overnight bus ride with Tomasz from Alexandria to the Siwa Oasis.  During the night as we crossed the desert and temps inside the bus got downright frigid and neither of us could sleep well.  Every now and again I’d look out the window and see this full moon lighting up the dune landscape in amazing detail.  I remember thinking, “We’d better not have bus trouble because we are at the back side of nowhere.”
At pre-dawn we pulled into our destination – this hole in the wall small town called Siwa.  Both of us were bleary-eyed as we stumbled from the bus, but no time to sit around, we had to navigate to find a hotel.  Found one Tomasz had in mind but it was locked up.  So I called the owner and woke him.  He came down and unlocked the door – checked us in.  Tomasz and I groggily found our way to a third floor room.  There were two beds, and immediately we both crashed to sleep without unpacking or anything.  We were just soo tired.   
When I did the reverse overnight bus ride (by myself this time, straight back to Cairo) I brought my sleeping bag onboard the bus and snuggled into it for the night and slept quite soundly.  Upon arriving at the Cairo bus station at the crack of dawn I was immediately thrust into the non-stop nutty traffic and forced to navigate across the city via subway, etc. but, unlike before, I wasn’t so tired and was able to hit the ground running.   

Citadel – Cairo, Egypt

Massive ancient fortress; replete with several mosques within the compound.  I visited this briefly one day while in Cairo. 
Mosque Courtyard
Prayer Calling Seat for the Iman
Men Praying in Mosque
From the ramparts of the Citadel was a striking view of Cairo with the Giza Pyramids outside town in the desert:
Pyramids Across Cairo Skyline
Here is another skyline photo below, check out how many minarets there are… The “call to prayer” time in Cairo is ridiculously obnoxious (at least from my limited perspective as an infiedel) with the nonstop cacophony of a ka-billion discordant singers through squawking megaphones.
Minarets in Cairo

The Nile / Sailing a Felucca – Cairo, Egypt

The Nile
Felucca Sail
Sailing a Felucca
I was walking along the Nile river and saw these Felucca’s just aching to be sailed. 
There was a guy sitting on a park bench up by the main road offering rides for 100 EGP ($17).  I sat on the bench beside him for awhile and thought about it – watching the boats and the Nile. 
Finally I decided to walk down and look at the boats up close.  There was another man down by the boats so I asked him how much a ride would cost?  He said 50 EGP for an hour.  Whatta deal!  Half what the first guy offered, so I told him I’d do it.
To my chagrin, Mr. Cheapo hollered up to Mr. Expensivo guy on the picnic bench to come on down as they had a customer.  Turns out Mr. Expensivo was the captain who took me on my ride.  Slightly awkward.  The fellow who offered me the half off rate was the boat manager and didn’t care much about the Captain getting a tip.
Felucca Captian
Another thing I saw walking along the boardwalk was a hip café where apparently all the guys take their girlfriends.  Reminded me of the “dating room” at BJU I’ve heard about.
Couples Hanging Out by the Nile

The Famous Egypt Museum – Tahrir Square – Cairo, Egypt

The Famous Egyptian Musuem in Tahrir Square
It looks nicer on the outside than the inside.  The exhibits are poorly labeled (or not labeled) and it has the feel of a musty old warehouse.  Outside touts are swarming about, seeking whom they may swindle a dollar from.  No joke, I was outright lied to by touts.  For instance, one of them insisted the museum was closed to individuals right now and only groups could enter (not true).  Then he suggested that while I was waiting maybe I could go see his shop?  I forget what I told him, but it wasn’t what I wanted to tell him, that’s for sure. 
I find there are many times (like even today) I think rotten things in my head I wish to tell annoying touts that somehow gets filtered to comments fairly civil by the time the words exit my mouth.  I guess that’s progress, but it would be better if I were less bitter towards them in the first place.  They’re just trying to make a living.  Dishonestly is all.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Friends I made in Addis.  The guy with his arm around me, Abraham, is someone I hung out with for a several days and even later met his Dad in Bahir Dar. 
Drogba Nick Abraham Simon
Did you know that in Ethiopia it is normal for guys to walk around hand-in-hand to show friendship?  Seemed wrong to me, but that’s what they do.

Lake Tana – Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

Lake Tana is the lake where the headwaters of the Blue Nile comes from.  Tana also has a number of islands with ancient monasteries on them.  I took a boat trip out on the lake to visit several of the monasteries.  The lake was cool, but the monasteries weren’t much to write home about: big circular huts that didn’t look that old. 
I thought the papyrus boats were the most interesting part.  That, and taking our boat up the first bit of the Blue Nile river.
Lake Tana Island
Lake Tana - Papyrus Boats
Lake Tana Papyrus Boat
Lake Tana Kids on Papyrus Boat
Lake Tana Monastery Dock
Lake Tana Monastery Deacon
Lake Tana No Entrance
I don’t endorse the “No Lady” entrance above.  Just found it interesting.  Several of the monasteries were open to men only. 
Honestly, I feel that much of what I saw of Orthodoxy in Ethiopia was counter to teachings in the Bible.  Crosses are everywhere (including at the top of the sign above), but I feel the symbology is too often misused.

Blue Nile / Birds / Hippos – Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

Blue Nile Early Morning
Blue Nile Birds
Hippo in the Blue Nile
Hippos Kissing in the Blue Nile

Tis Issat Falls – Tis Abay, Ethiopia

Tis Issat Falls March 2012
John the Guide
Tis Issat Falls with Boys
The kids above are eating sugar cane, a popular snack.
As far as touristy type things go, Tis Issat Falls was the coolest thing I saw in Ethiopia.  The waterfall was thunderously loud and impressive and shot out mist a long ways and probably ruined my white T-shirt.  And this is the dry season… in the rainy season I was told everything is far more impressive.
Not as large as Niagara Falls, Blue Nile Falls more than makes up for it by its’ remote location.  The Falls are in the middle of nowhere, a bouncy 45 minute ride from the nearest town (Bahir Dar) on dirt roads.  During the couple hours I hiked around the falls I was the only foreign person I saw.
Not to mention…. notice how there are no rails at the top like at Niagara?  Not as much safety stuff.  Not to mention I even went swimming down in the pool at the bottom which I’m sure isn’t allowed at Niagara Falls.

The Rock-Hewn Churches – Lalibela, Ethiopia

Eleven massive churches have been chiseled from single large pieces of rock.  They date back to the 12th and 13th centuries.  Here are pictures I took of two of them:
Rock Hewn Church at Lalibela
Women Praying at Rock Hewn Church
Inside the church’s were massive vaulted ceilings with perfectly formed arches inlaid with designs.  All this chiseled from one piece of rock!  No room for mistakes.  I was impressed.
Arches Inside Church 

Ceremony at Rock-Hewn Churches Celebrating St. Mary’s Day

One thing to remember about the town of Lalibela (pop. ~14,000) is that it is located at the backside of nowhere.  About a two hour drive on dirt roads from the nearest sketchy paved road in northern Ethiopia.
So this is the real deal and many of the local houses are made from earth and sticks.  Coming to Lalibela in some ways feels like stepping backwards in history a millennium.
The day I was visiting the churches there were many people praying and worshipping because it was St. Mary’s Day.  From what I gathered they have Saint’s Days quite regularly. 
But their carrying on wasn’t only for show because there were hardly any other tourists.  It’s just what they do.  Tradition.
Priests Reading and Singing
Men Singing
Perhaps the High Priest
Man Reading
Women at Church
Woman at Church
Walking Sticks

Funeral in Lalibela

During my time in Lalibela there was a funeral.  I took some pictures of the processional from an adjoining hill (that was also part of the cemetery).  I was wandering around out there seeing what I might see and lo and behold I saw a funeral procession.
What you can’t hear from the pictures is the continual trumpet blasts and literal screaming by certain mourners.  As Christians I thought we were supposed to have hope for the future?  Maybe screaming is therapeutic.
Funeral Sepia
Funeral Procession

Some Fellow Tourists

Two Gentleman Chaps
These old boys were travelling together.  Maybe they were brothers?  Often I would see them deep in discussion about some particular point of interest.  This made me wish I had a travelling companion myself. 
Maybe when I’m old and grey like these guys I can go on a trip with my brothers to exotic places like Lalibela, eh?

And Finally… Avocado Fruit Juice!

This has become an addiction for me.  Every restaurant or new place I go to the first thing I do is ask if they Avocado Juice.  Most don’t.  But this one did.  It’s scrumptiously healthily sugarly deliciously wonderful.  Says I.

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Prof. Muse Tegegne has lectured sociology Change &  Liberation  in Europe, Africa and Americas. He has obtained  Doctorat es Science from the University of Geneva.   A PhD in Developmental Studies & ND in Natural Therapies.  He wrote on the  problematic of  the Horn of  Africa extensively. He Speaks Amharic, Tigergna, Hebrew, English, French. He has a good comprehension of Arabic, Spanish and Italian.