Top Attractions in Ethiopia
Wide tree-lined streets, fine architecture, glorious weather, and the incongruity of donkey trains trolling along the boulevards make Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, a delightful place to explore. It is a city of surprises characterized by remarkable di-versity and contrasts.
Abundant eucalyptus trees and crisp, clear mountain air endow Addis Ababa with the bracing atmosphere of a highland summer resort. Its cosy espresso bars and patisseries are reminiscent of Rome and the Mediterranean, and its bustling outdoor markets are colourful reminders of more traditional ways of life. The people, the bursts of music from cafes or shops, the aromas of spicy cooking, of coffee and incense, form a unique Ethiopian pastiche.
Vibrant Addis Ababa is as cosmopolitan as any of the world's great metropolises, and the architecture is as varied as the city itself. Tall office buildings, elegant villas, functional bungalows, flats, fashionable hotels, conference halls, and theatres -gleaming in their marble and anodized aluminium - vie for attention alongside traditional homes of wattle and daub, surrounded by cattle, sheep, goats, and chickens. There is no designated 'city centre' because, until very recently, there was no urban planning. Addis Ababa simply grew in a natural, organic way, and its present appearance reflects
this unforced and unstructured evolution.
Even if the fame of the Seven Wonders of the World has been outworn and the word "wonder" itself has been misused too often, the visitor will rediscover its true meaning, when faced with the rock churches of Lalibela.
Coming to Lalibela you will find an atmosphere of mystery. Approaching the village in a four wheel drive from the airport you may just catch a glimpse of a group of churches.
Walking through the village you will see the quiet even austere, mountainous landscape of the region of Lasta, where the peasants labour to cultivate their patches of stony fields with the traditional hook plough. Their little huts hardly seem to offer sufficient shelter against the cold nights of this altitude. Strolling along across a gently undulating meadow, you will suddenly discover in a pit below you a mighty rock -carefully chiselled and shaped - the first rock church! None of these monuments of Christian faith presents itself to the visitor on top of a mountain as a
glorious symbol of Christ's victory, to be sunroom far away by the masses of pilgrims on their road to the "Holy City"; they rather hide themselves in the rock, surrounded by their deep trenches, only to be discovered by the visitor when standing very close on top of the rock and looking' downwards.
The power of the river is really felt at the Blue Nile Falls, also known as Tis Isat, where a rumble of sound fills the air and the green fields and low hills on either bank tremble. It is one of the most dramatic spectacles on either the White or Blue Niles.
Covering more than 3,600 square kilometres, Tana is Ethiopia’s largest lake. Known to the ancient Greeks as pseboa, its sometimes stormy waters are traversed by reed boats, called tankwas.
The Nile Falls
The Blue Nile river flows out of the lake with tremendous force and volume over the basalt shoulder in a giant cataract and onwards from there, ever downwards through dark and angry defiles, towards the deserts of Sudan on its way to enrich Egypt’s fertile delta.
The power of the Blue Nile may best be appreciated just thirty kilometres downstream form the point where the river first leaves Lake Tana. There, a rumble of sound fills the air and the green fields and low hills on either bank tremble to the Blue Nile falls. It is one of the most dramatic spectacles on either the White or Blue Nile, a vision of natural strength and grandeur.
Four hundred metres wide in flood, the Blue Nile plunges forty-five metres down a sheer chasm to throw up a continuous mist that drenches the countryside up to a kilometre away. In turn, this gentle deluge produces rainbows that shimmer across the gorge under the changing arc of the sun – and a perennial rainforest. The pillar of mist in the sky above, seen from afar, explains the local name for the falls – water that smokes. Tis lsat village where travellers find themselves surrounded by a retinue of youthful guides. From the village the footpath meanders beside open and fertile fields before it drops into a deep basaltic drift fields before it drops into a deep basaltic drift spanned by a fortified
seventeenth-century stone bridge built by Portuguese adventurers.
A stiff climb up a grassy hillside under the blue and breathless sky follows. Finally, the falls come into view, the smooth, majestic edge of the rolling Nile breaking into a thundering cataract of white
water foaming and breaking down a dark cliff.
Rivalling the attraction of the Blue Nile Falls are the thirty-seven islands of Lake Tana.
Some twenty of these islands shelter churches and monasteries of significant historical and cultural interest. Because of their isolation they were used to store art treasures and religious relics from all parts of the country.
Kibran Gabriel, the nearest monastery to Bahar Dar, is renowned for a magnificent manuscript to the Four Gospels which is believed to data back to at least the late fourteenth, or early fifteenth, century.
The town today, with its wide, palm-line avenues and gardens, overflows with tropical vegetation. Bahar Dar’s two markets are worth a visit-one displaying colourful woven cloth and a wide range of supplies (including coffee), and the other, a roadside market specializing in baskets. These
markets make it a comfortable base for excursions-either by land or water.
Bale Mountains National Park is an area of high altitude plateau that is broken by numerous spec¬tacular volcanic plugs and peaks, beautiful alpine lakes and rushing mountain streams that descend into deep rocky gorges on their way to the lowlands below.
As you ascend into the mountains you will experi¬ence changes in the vegetation with altitude, from juniper forests to heather moorlands and alpine meadows, which at various times of year exhibit an abundance of colourful wildflowers.
Bale Mountains National Park is the largest area of Afro-Alpine habitat in the whole of the continent. It gives the visitor opportunities for unsurpassed mountain walking, horse trekking, scenic driving and the chances to view many of Ethiopia's endemic mammals; in particular the -Mountain Nyala and
Semien Fox; and birds, such as the Thick-billed Raven, Wattled Ibis, Blue-winged Goose, Rouget's Rail, etc.