Here are some miscellaneous items, mostly photos, from south Ethiopia that I missed in my earlier posts.

Even with the crudest architecture, one can sometimes see creativity, as in this house/shop in the south:

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This is the traditional type of dress found in the area of Konso, also in the south:

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The area around Arba Minch (in the south) is famous for its bananas. They’re small, but very tasty, and they’re exported to many places.

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Baboons also like the bananas, which is a problem for the locals. These girls are selling us bananas through the window of our car:

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Moringa is a leaf that’s eaten in the south of Ethiopia. In fact, it’s a staple there, and it has medicinal properties. People can be seen carrying it, in large bundles, all over (the girl in front is carrying a bottle of local beer):

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School kids carry small bundles of moringa over their shoulders, presumably for lunch. I’m sure that, prepared properly, it’s quite tasty. But Hiromi, Shun (my Japanese co-tourists in the south) and I tried some at a restaurant in Jinka, and it was so strong none of us could eat more than two or three spoonfulls. It almost tastes like spinach on steroids.

 

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Honey is an important product all over Ethiopia. Here we see how it’s gathered in the trees:

 

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Earlier, I mentioned the Dorze vendors selling their wares by the side of the road. Here’s a photo I neglected to include in that post:

 

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According to my driver, it’s illegal to sell charcoal in the Rift Valley. The authorities don’t want people chopping down too many trees. Yet it’s sold openly all over, as we can see here:

 

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Subsistence agriculture, using animal labor, is common all over Ethiopia. My guess is that the same is true over much of Africa.

 

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Flooding must be a problem during the rainy season, so many roads have deep drains on either side of them, as we see here:

 

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I couldn’t help but wonder how many people, and animals, have broken legs falling into those ditches, or how many vehicle tires have gotten stuck in them.

Common in the south are huge termite mounds. I’ve seen larger ones in Australia, but not as tall as these:

 

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I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re the tallest termite mounds in the world.

 

I count, among my many talents, the ability to make people feel uncomfortable by asking awkward questions, or by telling random stories at inappropriate times.

But in Ethiopia, anyone can do it! All you have to do is bring up the subject of homosexuals. On my last day in Ethiopia, I was hanging out with a young hotel worker. He wanted to make my last day in Ethiopia a pleasant one (because he thought I wasn’t treated right by another employee), so he showed me around Addis Ababa, and I had a beer with his friends.

In the spirit of small talk, I told him how, on one of my layovers flying to Ethiopia, I’d noticed a lot of homosexual males making out with each other. I said, “It’s not unusual to see this sort of thing, but at that particular airport, it was all over the place. I was confused – until I remembered that I was in San Fransisco.”

“Men hold each others’ hands all the time. It’s no big deal,” he replied. Indeed, in Ethiopia (and black Africa in general) it is common for same-sex friends to hold hands or put each others’ arms over each others’ shoulders. It signifies friendship, and no more.

“I’m not talking about just friendship…” I explained.

His eyes widened, and he became animated. “Oh no! We don’t have that sort of thing in Ethiopia. If it does occur, it’s only because that person was raped, or abused, as a child and his mind was messed up.”

And that’s how I learned that there are no homosexuals in Ethiopia. Except that, while staying at a hotel in Jinka, in the south, I happened to notice a printout of the hotel rules in my room:

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I found rule #2 amusing but not surprising; Ethiopian law calls for the death penalty for homosexual activity – though I doubt it’s ever actually been carried out. I was told that this rule is common in Ethiopian hotels, though hotels that cater to Americans and Europeans might tone it down.

Even though I followed the rules at that hotel, I still got sick. My room had numerous insects, including mosquitoes, flying around, and this was a malaria zone. So I asked for some bug spray at the reception desk. They had some, and I sprayed it at the bugs as needed. I didn’t use much of it. Unfortunately, the window to my room had no screen, so I kept the window shut and, as I was tired, I laid down. After about half an hour, my throat was scratchy and I knew I was getting sick. The bug spray they use over there is much more powerful than what we have in the U.S. I’d poisoned myself, and I can still feel traces of the effect in my throat. Seasoned travelers to Africa know to bring their own window screens. Too bad I hadn’t thought of that.

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.

I’ve written about Ethiopia’s geology, it’s fauna, it’s cultures and its architecture – but no honest visitor to Ethiopia can deny that some of the most beautiful women in the world are found there. Indeed, this was the consensus of every single one of the other tourists I spoke to about this topic. It didn’t matter where they were from, which gender they were or how old they were. They all agreed that Ethiopia is home to many more than its share of stunning women. Some of them have already appeared on these pages. Most of the ones I saw just happened to be walking by, or were in other circumstances where it wasn’t possible to photograph them. Here are some photos I was able to take, but have neglected to post until now:

 

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Female tourists told me that many of the men are handsome too. I did take some portraits of them as well. I’ll start with one of my local guide in Harar, Hailu (next to the window, shown with a friend):

 

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And I’ll finish with Dagi, my driver in much of the north. A fine fellow who had some hard times while I was there. I hope things are better for him now.

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There are many important archeological digs in Ethiopia. One of these sites is Melka Kunture, which we (I was with a British tourist) visited. The site features a museum, which consists of several modest structures and some replica bones.

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We took a boat trip on Lake Ziway, and saw many interesting birds.

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We stopped at an island, and hiked up to a popular church. On the ascent, we passed a hut, and the woman who lived there gave us some homemade injera.

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The injera was on the gritty side, but the woman’s smile made it delicious. Here’s the church:

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I wish I could remember the name of the rock-hewn church we visited. It’s south of Addis Ababa. Perhaps somebody will recognize it and help me out:

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We stopped at a fish market, whose location I also can’t remember:

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At one point, we stopped at a restaurant by the side of the road. When they brought us the menu, it was covered with a multitude of small spiders! I guess you could say that spiders were on the menu. I tried to order several items, but each time they told me they don’t have that item. It appeared that all they actually had was spaghetti – so that’s what I had. I was hungry, so I tried not to think about the spiders.

As we were about to leave, I noticed that they did have one other item available: Raw meat.

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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Our journey to the salt mines, and Erta Ale volcano, took us through a few villages. My understanding was that these were mixed Tigre/ Afar villages. They are very conservative, and the locals didn’t always appreciate our roaming around shooting photos. Sometimes there was tension in the air, but when one of the tourists, an Israeli, forgot his backpack at one village, it was still there for him days later when we returned. All the contents were intact.

I can’t remember the names of these villages, but here are some samples of the scenes, and people, of this leg of my journey:

It’s very common, in this part of the world, for men (but never for women) to carry a stick, if they’re tending livestock, over their shoulders. If they have a gun, it’s carried in the same fashion, as we see here:

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In one area we stopped in, it’s customary to sharpen one’s teeth, as we see on this girl:

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At one point, when we stopped to rest and take photos, we were accosted by a group of young men begging for bottled water. We were told that they’re road workers, and that their employer gives them water – but that they prefer bottled water. They all had crosses carved into their foreheads. They were more interested in water than in getting their photos taken, so this was the best I could do:

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On the way to Erta Ale, we encountered a dust storm. This is where we stopped, for lunch, during that storm:

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It was miserable, and here’s the “shelter” we used for lunch:

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The village once had a medical clinic, but this is all that’s left of it:

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Here’s a local guide/militiaman at the base of Erta Ale:

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As we passed through vast volcanic areas, we could see isolated huts in the distance. We wondered how they survive in such a harsh environment, and how they get water:

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