Our first introduction to Ethiopia was disheartening.
It was on the outskirts of Addis Ababa that we were exposed to a heartbreaking scene that plays out along the busy roadways leading to and from the city.
What we saw was horrible. We didn’t take pictures and in hindsight we should have in order to expose this inhumane treatment of an animal that works tirelessly for it’s masters and then is put out, not to pasture but is discarded and left alone to survive along the roads and boulevards of a traffic congested and air polluted environment. There is little forage food or water and their lives are left in the hands of the hyenas that come down from the hills at night and the endless vehicle traffic that they they limp and hobble through by day.
Our hearts broke when we saw the horses.
Old, skinny, injured and dying on the side of the roads. Dodging traffic in the medians, limping, bleeding, dehydrated and sick. Unfortunately we have seen animals suffering all over the world but this was something that really can’t be put into words. It was heartbreaking and we won’t forget…
The south of Ethiopia is a great adventure. The roads aren’t good and they are consistently clogged up by herds of goats and cattle and of course, pot holes. Ethiopia has the highest concentration/population of livestock in Africa. It takes many hours to travel relatively short distances as the main roadways are used for moving thousands of livestock to and from grazing areas. Ethiopia is also the second most populous country in Africa after Nigeria and you definitely notice this while travelling.
The strong and endearing identity and independence of the tribal cultures in the south is evident and has evolved from the fierce rejection of attempted foreign influence over many decades however, the tribal cultures are quickly loosing out to the 21st century changes that are running rampant.
Their livelihoods and way of life had not changed for centuries but they are now faced with challenges resulting from the devastating effects on their lives thrown into turmoil from the modernization efforts of the local and corrupt governments and the international players looking to get a toehold into the region. One international player stands out.
In the Omo Valley, the building of the Gibe III dam on the Omo River and the dire effect on the Omo Valley inhabitants and their centuries long agricultural practices is a testament to the destruction of a way of being.
Now tourism dollars are more important than ever however we felt that some of the Villages we visited on the tourist trail were contrived and set up. They need an income and we cannot blame them but it was saddening. It felt like a prostituting of a once proud people.
The north of Ethiopia is completely different than the south. The roads are generally excellent however we didn’t drive as much in the north, about 900 kms versus 3,000 + kms in the south.
The face of the geography and the faces of the inhabitants is noticeably different as there is an obvious influence from the North African/Egyptian blood line and interestingly this extends to the language in the Tigray region which has a slight Arabic sounding influence.
The rock hewn churches of Lalibela and the Tigray region are a testament to the strong Orthodox and Coptic Christians and Jews who have inhabited the area for centuries.
The Afar region to the north east is an example of peoples who have endured extreme living conditions for millennia and serves to show the amazing resilience that still exists exists among the people of this area.
The Afar region in the north east also hosts a surreal landscape of volcanic and tectonic history with the huge salt plains in the Danakil Depression and the alien landscapes of Dallol.
Most of the Ethiopian population belong to two tribes, the Amhara and Oromo. Many of the Amhara live in Addis Ababa and are an Orthodox Christian tribe who are very involved with governing the country while the Oromo is the largest tribe in the country and dominates the Southeastern part of the country.
In between are another 78 ethnic groups, all different and vying for a place in the ever changing political structure that is evolving in the country.
The landscape of Ethiopia is incredible, the food, the real Ethiopian food is amazingly good and the people are friendly.
I wrote this draft post not too long after arriving back home from Ethiopia in November 2019.
One year later the Ethiopian government went to war with the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front