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Cross (Meskal) Shaped window of one of the 11 Rock Hewn Churches at Lalibela, Ethiopia
NOVEMBER 27, 2007

Fast Food :: An Ethiopian Wrap

Travelling in Ethiopia is hard to describe in a short wrap up - so so tiring, yet equally rewarding as well. In only six weeks we managed to pack in a lot of different sights, yet looking back we barely scraped the surface.

Flicking through the numerous photographs and blogs we have put together from Ethiopia brings back so many fond memories, yet something is missing from this, it's hard to describe the little things that make ethiopia so special.

Christianity has spread it's wings throughout africa in a big way, in Ethiopia more than anywhere the Orthodox church maintains a steady hold on the people to the point where there is strict fasting twice weekly on wednesdays and fridays. Fast food in Ethiopia means two things, no meat, and more often than not - spaghetti with tomato sauce.

While Ethiopians may only fast twice a week, all food is "fast food", sitting down in a restaurant it would be rare indeed if your ordered meal wasn't served within two minutes of your arrival. Ordering anything that will take longer than this brings sincere apologies from the management about their delays in service (the food is not junk food, it is just cooked straight away). While the food is served quickly, it's eaten even quicker. Strangely food is served in such a manner as to promote social interaction, many a meal we have sat down to share a bowl of tibs and injera with wat, three to four people sitting around the one plate eating with their fingers - the whole meal disappears in about 3 minutes.

Speaking of eating with your hands - Ethiopians are fastidious about cleanliness. Hands are washed regularly - always before and after a meal. One always eats with their right hand, the left should never stray near the food. Many a times you will shake hands with someone's wrist (once they have washed their hands they want to keep their hands clean to eat).

Before I leave the topic of food - While the Ethiopians proudly speak of being the only country in Africa to remain un-colonised - they were briefly under the control of the Italians in the mid 50's. While this may not have been overly appreciated at the time by the local population - it did bring some profound benefits. Aside from being able to get a hearty bowl of spaghetti Bolognaise in nearly any restaurant in the country, and some of the finest mountain civil engineering, - no where else in the world have I seen more industrial strength espresso coffee machines - modified for local conditions of course, Ethiopian Coffee is some of the best in the world.


Of all the countries in Africa we have visited so far, Ethiopia is the only one that we would love to come back to to revisit. Ethiopia is a photographers delight - the colourful tribes, panoramic landscapes, and artwork dating back to the birth of christ. From the tribes in the South, to the History in the north, nowhere else can you see so much for so little, and get an education at the same time. The people here are incredibly friendly and hospitable, there is little hassle (ignore everything else you may read) and everything is so, so, cheap - Ethiopia is simply enchanting.

As much as we saw - we missed so much more. All of western Ethiopia including the muslim capital of Harar, 90% of the Tigrai province including all of the rock hewn churches around Makelle. The remote monasteries of Lake Tana, as well as those around Axum including Debre Damo, accessed only by climbing a sheer cliff using a single leather rope. In the south we rushed through the Omo Valley missing most of the tribes, getting only a glimpse of what is really on offer. Trekking through the incredible Simien mountains, and although it's not technically Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti as well.

For all it's grandeur - travelling in Ethiopia is a tiring business. With little or no public transport in the South, we had to rely on hitching on Isuzu Trucks. In the North the buses are little better - crammed into tight spaces with no fresh air for 12-13 hour journeys along hot dusty dirt tracks. For some unknown reason, all buses leave at 6am meaning constant early starts and even longer days. Its hot, it's slow, it's sweaty and it's an adventure we enjoyed every minute of (except perhaps Malaria part two...).

With Ethiopia completed, the stark reality of where we are in this journey has hit home. In Addis we were only able to secure Transit Visa's for Sudan, which means before we know it we will be in Egypt and looking at getting homeward bound tickets...

You would think this would bring with it good thoughts and pleasant memories - in fact all it's done is cause stress and anxiety about the future. Getting a job, continuing on with our lives, maybe continuing travel somewhere else...

With the added tiredness we're missing our friends and family more than ever. We crave fresh fruit and vegetables, a home cooked meal. As much as we want to see family we don't want to rush through the final leg, missing out on what Sudan and Egypt have to offer - yet like Zambia - we don't want to risk not appreciating things due to our mental well being...

When we first set out from Australia and Dubai we knew only one thing, from Cape Town we wanted to get to Cairo - from there it was open to the will of the wind. Yet after nearly 10 months in Africa, we both definitely feel like it's the right time to be wrapping it up - at least for the moment. With funds getting tighter we've started skimping here and there to make sure the money lasts.

Finally it's December, Christmas and New Years are around the corner and with friends and family flying into Cairo - we can't wait to see familiar faces again.

This is all a little disjointed - but if you have spoken to me lately, my mind is a little warped and you would understand.

And So... Sudan

The Pen
A habit I have formed while travelling through Africa is to always carry a small notebook and a pen in my pocket - as well as holding important information like phone numbers, itinerary's, directions etc, it's been useful for keeping track of people's names and things that have happened along the way.

Now while my notebooks come and go often, my pen stuck it out, however in Ethiopia I experienced a first - at least for me, my pen ran out. Earth Shattering I know. But using one pen for 9 months one get's a little attached - and never before have I seen a pen used in it's entirety - it normally gets lost, or... OK it's just a pen, I get it - here's a photo for my memory's at least...

P.S. For all those who advised we bring a packed lunch - Ethiopia has plenty of fresh food...

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I reckon it must have been a very good pen to last that long and impressed that you only took one and that it did not run out or get lost earlier.

SB - 13 January, 2008

So good to read these latest comments. Ethiopia sounds fantastic. We have just had Christmas Day and found my present to be a ticket to Vietnam - Maree had organised a holiday for us without my having a clue. We are going to Hoi An for a few days and then to Hanoi for the remainder. We can well understand how you must be looking forward to a fresh cooked meal as well as catching up with family and friends. Obviously that happening is not too far away. Best wishes for a very happy Christmas and all the best for the New Year. Safe travels. Hope you have kept the old pen for old times sake.

Maree and Tom - 26 December, 2007

Written with obvious feeling for the country. I guess you will make it a priority to return. Well done p.s I'll shout you a new pen !!

Thomas Inc - 12 December, 2007


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