Next Stop? The Horn of Africa!


March 29, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

My upcoming departure for the Horn of Africa reminds me of the dramatic events and the enduring personalities of the 1960's - especially Haile and Abebe.

Who among us can ever forget the sounds and images from late November, 1963: the gunshots in Dallas, the bloodied dress, Walter Cronkite's tears, the murder of the murderer (?), Chopin's music, a boy's salute to the flag covering the coffin of his father John Kennedy, the rider-less horse?

Do you remember the funeral procession - heads of state in a solemn march? Le Président de la République française, Charles de Gaulle at 6'5" (1.96 m) walking beside and towering over the Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie at 5'1¾" (1.58 m).

De Gaulle died in his bed in 1970. But Selassie?

The opening sequence of the film "Marathon Man" features the archive footage of a graceful young athlete, on a summer evening in 1960, effortlessly running the 42km (26 mi) Olympic marathon, gliding past the Coliseum and along the darkened, torch lit avenues of Rome, sprinting toward the finish line at the Arch of Constantine. Abebe Bikile became the first black African to win a gold medal at an Olympics event. {C}


North Ethiopia: Holy Week

Addis Ababa



9 Miaziah 2003 (Ethiopian Calendar)

17 April 2011


Dear Family and Friends,


Ethiopia is a truly religious society - serious, thoughtful, and never sanctimonious. From my observations of the worshippers and the icons, paintings, carvings and decoration, I have the sense that religion here is a positive, optimistic and loving force.   I hear or see almost nothing of sin, or guilt or damnation.


What I do hear from everyone is a sincere “G-d bless you” and “G-d be with you.”

North Ethiopia: The Historical Route: Addis, Aksum, Gondar


The Lonely Planet guidebook recommends an itinerary called "Ethiopia's Historical Circuit:" ...

 “The historical sights (sic) along this loop north of Addis Ababa are monumental in both scale and detail.  The journey, although spectacularly scenic, is monumental in itself, covering at least 2500km (1500 miles).” *

And so I followed the historical circuit, (not a loop, but more of a crisscross of my own choosing) from Addis to Axum, Lalibela, Gonder, and Bahir Dar.<--break->

North Ethiopia: The Historical Route Part 2 - Rock Hewn Churches of Tigray

Hawzien Plain

Gheralta Mountains

Tigray Region


April 13, 2010

The rock-hewn churches of Tigray number in the dozens and are scattered throughout the flat-topped, round-topped, spindle-topped spires of the Chain and Gheralta Mountains.

Several, if not most of these one thousand five hundred year old churches are inaccessible to all but the most hardy.  Toe holds, hand holds, steep climbs followed by ladders and ropes and pulleys are all part of the adventure.

 I attempted the rocky climb at Debre Domo but the sole of my boot unglued.   Instead of the hike, I waited in the shade as a local construction worker mended my shoe with a long, hooked needle and a skein of strong thread.

North Ethiopia: The Historical Route Part 3 - Rock Hewn Churches of Lalibela



April 25, 2011

There’s a charming legend about the creation of the rock hewn churches of Lalibela:

“Nearly 1000 years ago (12th – 13th Century), King Lalibela was poisoned by his half brother.  While in a coma, he was taken by angels to the first, second and third heavens. (Or was it Jerusalem?)  Here he was shown a fabulous city of rock-hewn churches.  Then G-d himself commanded him to return to earth, and re-creating what he had seen, build a new Jerusalem.”

North Ethiopia: Coffee and the Coffee Ceremony

A Tall Story

Once upon a time, in the golden mountains of Ethiopia, there lived a goat-herd by the name of Kaldi.

Every day, Kaldi left his wife and children and led his beloved goats up the mountainside so that they would eat and grow strong and provide milk for his family.

One day, Kaldi noticed something peculiar.  His goats were chewing on red berries that they found high up on a bush.  The kids tasted the berries but promptly spat them out.  The nanny goats and the billy goats enjoyed these red berries and Kaldi observed that they had more energy during the day. 

Each morning the goats raced up the mountainside to find more of these strange red berries.  It seemed to Kaldi that the goats preferred these berries to any of the other normal food.  So Kaldi decided to taste the berries himself. 

And lo and behold!  Kaldi’s body also reacted with renewed energy and exhilaration.  

That night Kaldi told his wife about this unusual occurrence.  He asked her, “What can this be?  What does this mean?  Are the berries a gift from G-d or are they an enticement from the Devil? “ <--break->