First impressions of Ethiopia

“The vast majority of Ethiopians live on an elevated central plateau which covers half of the country’s surface area, enjoys temperatures of between 15-25 degrees all year round and is the most extensive area of fertile land in East Africa”

I don’t suppose you were expecting that? No, neither was I. It is green over here – very green. Yes, there is a desert and yes there is a drought and yes it is obviously very very serious, but the area affected is a relatively small part of the country in the south east where about 2-3% of the population lives. It by no means defines the whole of Ethiopia.

I arrived in Addis Ababa a few days ago without much of an idea of what to expect. I’d met a couple of travellers who had been this way but apart from “Ethiopia is amazing – you’re going to love it” I wasn’t really given much else to go on. Before I left Kenya, I spent two days searching the whole of Nairobi for a guide book and some foreign currency, but couldnt find anything anywhere.  Zilch. It’s almost as if their next door neighbour doesn’t exist.

It is certainly  very different here to the other countries I have been to in Africa. For a start its the year 2004 and when my western watch says  6am its actually 12am and when it says 6pm its 12pm. Confused? So am I. Trying to figure out when a bus is leaving is a nightmare.

So what is it like here? It’s really hard to put it into words. The people are very friendly and all speak good English, which I really wasn’t expecting. The food is amazingly good but totally different (their staple food, called Injera, looks a bit like a chamoix leather crossed with the underside of a car floor mat, but tastes better – thankfully) and the coffee is just to die for. There is definitely a ‘cafe’ culture with everyone sitting outside drinking machiatos. And i’m not surprised as it’s the best cup I’ve had anywhere in the world.

I think the fact that Ethiopia was about the only country in Africa to avoid being colonised (I think the Italians were here for a short while, but it was nothing like elsewhere) has meant that their culture, which has been developing for thousands of years, has come through relatively unscathed.

I had an enjoyable few days in Addis eating and drinking and soaking up the culture. Ethiopia’s capital city hasn’t been around for long (just over a century) and isn’t really what you’d call a photogenic place so I mostly left my camera at home. I’ve just arrived in Bahir Dah which is where all the really interesting history starts..

To be continued..

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