Green Africa: Ethiopia

WEDGED BETWEEN AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST, ETHIOPIA IS AN ENIGMATIC COUNTRY THAT PROMISES VISITORS RICH VISUAL PANORAMAS AND A MEMORABLE TRIP.

Ethiopia is made up of mountains, high plains, tropics and savannah,as well as vast deserts. This geographical diversity makes for for a comparable diversity of ethnic groups, languages, traditions and lifestyles that make Ethiopia a country rich in culture. Reminiscent of the moon’s arid surface, the Danakil Depression turns suddenly into a great rise like the Simien Mountains.

Several sites in Ethiopia are on UNESCO’s world heritage list. The rock-carved Lalibela Churches, the Castle of Gondar, and the monasteries on the Lake Tana islands are just a few of the places waiting to be discovered in all their glory. Cradle of man Ethiopia is bursting with traces of the world’s oldest settlements. So many of them that the history of man on these lands dates back three million years. The Emperor Ezana’s conversion to Christianity in 330 A.D. marked a sharp turning point in the country’s history. Today some of the world’s oldest churches can be found in Ethiopia.

Near Lake Turkana in the southwest of the country near the border with Kenya lies the Omo Valley with its colorful and highly distinctive tribal peoples. These tribes, which number more or less twenty, all speak a different language, and you can only tell which tribe a person belongs to from his hairstyle or accessories and the paint and tattoos on his body.

As you travel to the east of the country the famous Bale Mountains loom before you, habitat to hundreds of endemic plant species and wild animals. The lakes here, Africa’s largest, teem with the most terrifying crocodiles. The city of Dire Dawa near Somalia is the point of departure for the famous train built by the French to connect Djibouti and Ethiopia. Not far away is the city of Harrare, once the residence of adventurers like Burton, Rimbaud, and Monfried. Here too is the sacred city famous for its centuries-old mosques.

In the north of the country stretches the Afar, one of the most arid regions in the world. Formed when magma spewed by volcanoes came into a contact with various minerals, this valley is literally casts a spell on visitors. The most arid point in the region meanwhile is the Danakil Depression some 120 meters below sea level. Those who see the colorful volcanoes here are awestruck.

INJERA, COFFEE AND MUSIC
A staple of Ethiopian cuisine is injera, a kind of crepe that is served with other dishes. A mixture of garlic, ginger, onions, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom in specific proportions, injera is served with an appetizing hot sauce called berbere.

Coffee is regarded as a national heritage in Ethiopia, where you will encounter coffee ceremonies throughout the day. It is traditional to down several cups one after the other when coffee, a symbol of hospitality, is served.

There are even a few grain species that are unique to Ethiopia and not grown elsewhere.

SEDA MEŞELİ (Traveler )
“Approximately sixty percent of the Ethiopian population is Christian and almost one-third Muslim. In a country where the culture of living together is highly advanced, people take pains to fulfill the practical requirements of their religious beliefs. The Christians’ strict avoidance of meat on Wednesdays and Fridays is just one example.”

Turkish Airlines has Istanbul-Addis Ababa flights in both directions everyday of the week. Departure times are 6:50 p.m. from Istanbul and 1:15 a.m. from Addis Ababa. For information: 
www.turkishairlines.com

A capital energized by the lively rhythms of local music, Addis Ababa is a good starting point for Ethiopia tours. It can be quite cool here due to the 2,400-meter elevation. Addis Ababa, where you can find hotels and restaurants to meet a range of different expectations, is also home to the Merkato, one of Africa’s largest markets.