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Here are some odds and ends, mostly photos, from Ethiopia that I think are worth sharing, but got left out before.

Another crashed truck. Yes, I actually have a collection of crashed truck photos. Somebody could just drive around (as a passenger, of course) Ethiopia and photograph crashed trucks. A macabre project – but probably a unique one. I was told that the drivers don’t sleep enough:

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The traditional bread is “injera.” This is fairly well-known, but less well known is the traditional table, upon which the injera is served. It’s carried around from function to function, like this:

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Here are some children displaying (selling) their baskets in Aksum:

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Speaking of Aksum, I was standing near one of the historical sites, speaking with my guide, when all of a sudden I heard a thump and saw something drop right next to my guide’s friend a few feet away. A bird had dropped a dead rat from the sky, and it almost hit the man. It would have been a better story had he been hit, but then again, it would have been an even better story had I been hit. Sometimes the best story is not the best story.

Did you know that Aksum is Denver’s sister city in Ethiopia? Well it’s true, and there’s even a “Denver Street” there:

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How basic can a museum get? Pretty basic in the Bahir Dar area. One of the islands features this museum, whose walls are made of corrugated iron, and consists of but one room – with no lighting of any kind, so flash photography is recommended. But it does feature an armed guard!

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Dung is used for fuel in much of Ethiopia. One can see heaps of it, neatly stacked:

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Here’s a little girl from one of the villages in Danakil. Sugarcane is the snack of choice for kids, and I was impressed at how efficient this girl was in eating it; she’s like a machine!

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Here’s our local guide to Dallol, Ali:

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Here’s the interior of one of the rooms in the guesthouse I stayed at in Harar:

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Here’s the customary Ethiopian handshake. My guess is that it’s used elsewhere as well:

Here’s a view of a Somali refugee camp, taken on my return trip from Harar. Incidentally, a large chunk of Eastern Ethiopia is ethnically Somali, and it’s known as “Ethiopian Somalia.”

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Here’s the priest at Abuna Yemata Guh. I probably should have included this photo in my original post; it’s practically a tradition for tourists to get just such a shot:

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Practically every restaurant in Ethiopia has its coffee station, tended to by the coffee-girl. It’s her job to tend the coal fire for the incense, and to keep the coffee hot. Some people call this the “Ethiopian coffee ceremony,” but it’s not a ceremony; it’s simply the way Ethiopians drink coffee. Here’s one such station at the airport in Lalibela:

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Speaking of airports, here’s an interesting scene I shot at the Addis Ababa airport. A little creepy, and a little artsy:

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That’s it for now, but I’ve got a lot more, about Ethiopia, to write about.

In all the excitement over the more famous tribes of Omo Valley (the Hamer and the Mursi), one tribe fell through the cracks and was left out: The Dorze. To all you Dorze reading this blog, I extend my sincere apologies, and I’ll make it up to you with this flattering post.

Unlike some other tribes, the Dorze don’t have extreme body modifications or bloody rituals, and they dress more or less like other Ethiopians. Nevertheless, they’re a cool tribe. Let’s start with their houses:

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They’re built very tall. The reason for this is that termites eat the houses from the bottom up. By building them tall, they last longer. One can more or less tell how old a house is by its height. On the inside, they’re fairly cozy, featuring traditional homemade chairs:

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They cultivate banana plants, but not the type of banana plants that bear fruit; they’re “false banana” plants, which bear no fruit. You may wonder why they would do such a thing, and the answer is that they use the pulp, from the stems, to make bread. It’s “false banana bread” and it’s quite good. First, they extract the pulp from the stems as shown here:

Then the pulp is sealed and left to ferment for several days:

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Next, the pulp is diced until it has the right consistency:

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Then it’s formed into patties and carefully cooked. Banana leaves are placed around it so that it doesn’t burn:

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When it’s done, it can be served to hungry farenjis, along with hot sauce and honey:

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It can be accompanied with traditional Dorze schnapps, which is also very good. You may be wondering how you say “le’hayim” in Dorze. They do it like this (the man on our left is my driver):

The Dorze are famous for their weaving and knitting. All along the road, leading to their villages, one can see them selling their wares. When they dance, they tend to use their buttocks. Coming down from the village, we were stopped by a “dancing roadblock.” The video gets interesting toward the end.

Almost as soon as I got off the plane, in Addis Ababa, ETT had me embark on a two-day trip to Awasa (also spelled Hawasa) by car. Due to the long flight, I was already very tired, but if I was to see all the things I wanted to see, there was no time to be wasted.

When we did, finally, arrive in Awasa, my room was on the fifth floor, and the elevator wasn’t working. On top of that, there was no water in my room. Not even cold water. A normal tourist would have been outraged, veins popping out of his forehead and waving his arms wildly. Instead, the following morning, I told the staff that if one of them sat down with me and tutored me on reading Amharic, all would be forgiven. I’d like to say that this lesson culminated in my being able to read Amharic well by the end of my trip. But I’m still working on it.

What of the two-day trip itself? I saw many things, so here are a few of them. I’ll follow up with one or two later posts.

Some 50 miles south of Addis Ababa lies the town of Tiya. On the outskirts of Tiya is a collection of monoliths, which is a world heritage site:

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According to my local guide, these are ancient tombstones, and the swords depict the number of enemies killed by the deceased. The guide also claimed that the people who erected these monuments were Semites. He said that this marked the border between the Semitic world and other language groups, such as Omotic and Cushitic.

We visited a large lake, and I’m fairly certain it was Lake Abijata – so that’s what I’ll call it. Near its shores are numerous hot springs, as you can see here:

The lake water is high in sulfur, but nearby villagers have only this water to use. I was told that the discoloration in this boy’s teeth is a result of the sulfur. Feel free to correct me if you know otherwise:

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Here are some views of the Ethiopian Rift Valley:

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Ethiopia is landlocked, but Lake Tana is large enough to be considered, by locals, a sea in its own right. Hence the name of the city that adjoins it: “Bahir Dar.” “Bahr” means “sea” in Arabic, and “dar” means “dwelling.” Some locals told me that “dar” means “next to” in Amharic, but I didn’t find it in my English-Amharic dictionary. Few Ethiopians, even Muslims, speak Arabic. Amharic speakers are, as a rule, unable to pronounce the gutturals so characteristic of other Semitic languages (such as the voiced “h” in “Bahr”) so it ends up sounding something like “Bar-dar”).

When we first arrived in Bahir Dar, we stopped to get something to eat and I noticed a “chat” (“khat” or “qat” in Arabic) shop across the street:

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I’d been meaning to try some “chat” while in Ethiopia; it would be my second time, since I once tried some in Israel. I also wanted to get a better shot of the attractive, tattooed, lady, so I purchased some, and got a better shot of the shopkeeper as well:

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Like many Ethiopian women, she sports traditional tattoos on her face, and I never tired of seeing them – or of photographing them. The chat had a somewhat sweet flavor, but I didn’t chew enough of it to experience any kind of psychological effect. My driver had been suffering from a stomach ailment, so we stopped at a local drug store. It was early afternoon, and the clock on the wall was correct:

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Ethiopians count their hours from sunrise (what we would call 6:00) so 7:00 Ethiopian time would be 1:00 in the afternoon our time.

After checking into a hotel, my first order of business was a visit to the Blue Nile Falls, which is almost an hour outside of town. The drive was like many others in Ethiopia: Over dirt roads and through poverty-stricken villages. Upon reaching the end of the road, and the entrance to the park, I took a small boat to a footpath that led to the falls. On the way, locals sold their wares. Notice the larger coin the top woman is wearing around her neck. These “Maria Theresa Thalers” are used as jewelry all over Ethiopia. At one time, they were the common currency; I bought one of those later, on an island in Lake Tana for 350 Birr (about $18):

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I ended up buying that self same flute.  Here’s a view of the waterfall:

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I was hoping to swim in Lake Tana, but other tourists warned me against swimming in African fresh water; I could end up with nasty parasites or worse. Instead, the next day, I joined a motorboat cruise on the lake. Almost immediately, we saw the reed fishing boats (called “tankwas”), whose design probably hasn’t changed for thousands of years, being used:

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Then we spotted some monitor lizards on a nearby rock:

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Hippos also occupy Lake Tana, and we got to see some of them too:

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There are several islands, and peninsulas, in Lake Tana, and we stopped at three of them. Apparently, each island features its own church or monastery. Each one has an admission fee of 100 Birr.  Here is a photo inside one of the churches I actually entered. I think it was Ura Kidane Mihret on the Zege Peninsula:

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Somebody else has written a much more comprehensive post about these churches. Check it out here. One monk caught my attention:

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When I showed his photo to my local guide, Abebaw, he told me that the man was a soldier under the notorious Mengistu, the “Butcher of Addis.” I’m sure he had much on his conscience – or perhaps he has many enemies. Maybe both.

After Lake Tana, Abebaw took me on a very nice tour of the Bahir Dar marketplace and some highlights of the city. I think this is a good place to praise Abebaw, and the drivers/guides of ETT in general. Though I won’t discuss prices on this blog, after shopping around, it became clear that Ethiotraveltours (ETT) provided the best value, by far, for the money. The owner, Bisrat, is a very friendly guy. Both he, and his staff, take great pride in what they do.

Unlike the Hamer, or the Khonso or the Dorze, the Mursi tribe has no organized way of dealing with tourism. This is a shame, considering that they’re arguably the most interesting tribe in Ethiopia; they’re famous for their plate-lipped women, honey-hunting and blood-drinking.

According to some Ethiopians I spoke to, they’re also savages, lacking any religion (animism isn’t considered a “religion” in the eyes of some Christians and Muslims), prone to theft and lacking any respect for outsiders. The fact that clothing never really caught on with them also seems to demean them in the eyes of other, more progressive, tribes. One man, in the nearby town of Jinka, said “my people are civilized; we use clothes.” He told me of a hoary feud in which the Mursi killed a member of his tribe (I think he said he was Suri), and an elderly Mursi woman was killed in return.

Indeed, before visiting the Mursi village, we picked up an interpreter and an armed guard to accompany us.

But before all this, we had stopped at a Karo village. It was very picturesque, overlooking a magnificent river and ravine. These people had it good, but they were not opposed to collecting a few extra Birr from tourists looking for some nice photos:

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The Karo, like the Hamer, practice bull-jumping – but they no longer whip their women. Other than than, I didn’t learn much about them; we spent very little time in their village.

The Mursi are mountain people, and the drive up to their area held some nice views. As we approached our target village, it started to rain. This made it extremely difficult for me to shoot photos from the car, something that I always endeavor to do, if not always very successfully. Shooting from the car means that I get candid images of local people, not posed, staged, shots. I’ll post a couple of these. It’s unfortunate that the quality isn’t good, but it does give them a certain spooky character. These were my first glances of the Mursi:

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As soon as we arrived at the village, many women and girls gathered around us (I was with 2 Japanese tourists) and very aggressively prodded us to take their photos. Each photo would cost us 5 Birr (only a few cents). They grabbed our arms, pinched us, placed themselves directly in front of us, all the while announcing “discount! 5 Birr!” or other words to that effect. It was awkward to say the least, and somewhat dehumanizing as well. On top of that, in an effort to gain the attention of tourists, they’d wear their most outrageous costumes; obviously, they don’t go about this way normally. My understanding was that these costumes are intended for ceremonies. But we did get some interesting shots, and they did make some money, so I guess everybody won.

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I had to venture to the outskirts of the village to find some Mursi men to photograph. These guys didn’t make themselves up for tourists; this is how they normally go about:

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They spend their days exposed to the elements, their skin is rough and they are sturdy. The British man, who was living with the Hamer, told me the Mursi are “scary people.” I began to see what he meant. I approached one of their huts at random and took this photo:

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I asked about the significance of the jaw bone near the entrance, and was told that it’s simply leftover food. I imagined Mursi women, lacking lower incisors (they’re taken out, at an early age, for the plates), gnawing on the jaw and then casually discarding it on the floor.

Here are a couple of shots my Japanese friends took. They just emailed them to me:

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While wandering about (actually, trying to get away from the ladies), I saw a heavyset man sitting by a hut. He appeared, at the time, to be the only sane person in the village. It turned out he was the village chief, his name is Oli and he’s well-traveled. He spoke English, so we chatted a bit:

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Oli has two wives. They would have cost him a total of 120 cows or so – unless there’s a bulk discount.

Here are a couple of many videos I took at the famous lava lake in the Danakil, Erta Ale, the only permanent one of its kind in the world:

My journey to the mountains took me through some towns where poverty is the rule. To call their dwellings “hovels” would be too generous. I did see some nice wildlife in the mountains, but I got sick and had to cut the hiking trek short. Today I’ll be visiting a large castle. It’s supposed to be spectacular.

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