As you may know, we started working with Jacaranda Tours in Ethiopia last month. On the way back from Indaba, Kiki, Paris and myself had an opportunity to visit one of our newest clients, Jacaranda Tours, and their awesome East African country. After I got back, people kept asking me what I thought about Ethiopia and I thought I’d share some of my initial impressions with you.
- Tadiyass Ethiopia. One of the first things I learned in Ethiopia was tadiyass – which is now they say hello in Amharic, the ancient language spoken by most of the people. But over the next ten days traveling around with Jacaranda Tours, I learned so much more about the Horn of Africa nation.
- Water, water everywhere. Lake Tana, Lake Zway, Lake Langano, Lake Awasa, etc . . . Before arriving I knew that Lake Tana in the Ethiopian highlands is the source of the Blue Nile. What I didn’t know is that Ethiopia boasts so many other gorgeous bodies of water, part of the lakes region that runs north-south through East Africa. I even spent an hour at a fish market at Lake Awasa and visited some of the lovely lake resorts, where locals go for weekends and vacations. Long distance runners are national heroes. Want a great conversation starter? Ask an Ethiopian to compare their own long-distance runners to those from Kenya. Haile Gebrselassie, the recently retired marathoner, is a national hero and the average Ethiopian can real off all that stats comparing Kenyan and Ethiopian runners. (According to their tally, Ethiopia is always ahead)
- The altitude takes a little getting used to. Ethiopia’s central plateau hovers between 4,200 and 9,800 feet above sea level. And in Bale Mountain National Park, the rare Ethiopian wolf dwells on a 13,000-foot plateau.
- People aren’t starving. I knew this, but several people have asked me since I returned home. Ethiopians are lovely – many of them tall and slim with big eyes. Most of us still have images of the famine-plagued Ethiopia of 30 years ago and the “We are the World“ benefit concert. Yes, they had a horrible drought and terrible food shortages in the 1980s, but the famine was due in large part to the politics of the time. The economy is thriving now and the standard of living continues to rise.
- My Precious. The Middle Kingdom of Ethiopia may have inspired Tolkien’s for his Lord of the Rings trilogy. (See another blog on this)
- The food is awesome. Starting with the local tasting menu on Ethiopian Airlines (business class), the cuisine is really incredible. Injera, a spongy sour flatbread, is served at every meal with a lot of different foods – lentils, meats, beans and veggie sauces. Also, the Italian food is quite good, a legacy of colonial days (Italy ruled the country from 1936 to 1941). Ethiopian coffee is extremely strong, but very good. I especially liked seeing the beans roasted over charcoal and ground (well, really pounded) in front of me before brewing.