Saturday, December 20, 2014

Where the Streets Have No Name



12 to 17 December, 2014 - Addis Ababa, Woldia, Lalibela - (Ethiopia)

Our plans for a morning snooze before lunch never quite fell in to place. We arrived early, but the debacle which is Ethiopian immigration meant we did not emmerge with our bags for at least an hour and a half. Then, our attempts to find a working ATM left us feeling flat and worn out. Eventually, we ended up in a hotel, only to be told we could not get in to our room till after midday.

But, let's go back one step and highlight some of the fun on Ethiopian Air. 1) The number of seats on the plane is known, so why not carry enough blankets so that there is enough for everyone? 2) Ditto for refresher towels. 3) Ditto for headphones. 4) Nice to have in-seat entertainment systems, but as it turns out, we were missing nothing by not having headphones - somebody decided not to run any movies. 5) Do Ethiopian men not lock toilet doors? Jo stumbled in on a man who had decided the lock was unneceassary. 6) Ditto for Ehiopian women, as I stumbled in on a lady sitting on the toilet. 7) I was both amused, and not at all amused, when a man four rows away and on the other side of the plane decided to watch music videos on his phone - without headphones. Even at that distance, it woke me up and kept me awake. I assumed somebody closer would complain, but I soon worked out the task would fall on me.

We decided to push through the incredible tiredness, and see a bit of Addis. Nothing too strenuous, a wander through Africa's largest market, followed by a beer on a cafe's balcony. Trying to orient myself, I asked "What is the name of this street?" "No, no" the waiter replied, almost agitated. "I don't think you understand. This street here, what is it called?" He shook his head. He appeared to be angry, and left us. Had we touched a raw nerve? We had read about the lack of knowledge of street names, but this was like we had asked about one of Addis Ababa's deep dark secrets.

Our First Enjira on Ethiopian Soil
Our First Enjira on Ethiopian Soil
Yum. We were looking forward to our enjira meals, and they have not disappointed. One dish is with lamb, and the other is kitfo, warm raw mince with spices.


Coffee - It's Always a Serious Affair in Ethiopia
Coffee - It's Always a Serious Affair in Ethiopia
In Ethiopia, coffee is NEVER instant. Most establishments, even if they serve burgers, has a person sitting in the corner with a fire and cups. Sometimes you get a full service, with scattered grass and incense, and sometimes you just get the coffee in a ceramic pot. It is always made with beans they have just roasted then and there. It is strong, very strong. It is good, very good!


The road north from Addis Ababa was lined with dozens of tiny stories. Countless sheep and goats being herded along. Children shoving the rear ends of cows to keep them off the bitumen. Men wrapped in white leading camels. Women berating disobedient donkeys. Groups of wandering people huddled under parisoles. Families laden with supplies from market. Even a number of long distance runners training on the highways. The backdrops for these activities varied. Mountain ranges at times, stone fences surrounding mud houses and barns at others, but more frequently, expanses of scrubland with flat topped trees dotted around. Each sight a story in itself, and some of it so stereotypical Ethiopia that we wondered if it was a show for the tourists.

Along the Road, North of Addis Ababa
Along the Road, North of Addis Ababa
A typical sight along the road as we headed to Dessie.


Our destination, Lalibela, would not be reached in one day, like we hoped. As expected, we had to overnight in Woldia before catching the bus in the morning. It's nice to have a freshly painted room, but the rooms had just been painted that day! I'm not sure if we slept, or if we just passed out on the paint fumes.

5:15 the following morning, we had one of the more bizarre hotel exits. First, I must highlight what this room was. There was a shared squat toilet down the hall, a shared cold shower next to it, so our room was just the one room. There was a bed, and it was pulled away from the freshly painted wall, and that was the entire furniture. No chair, no table, no wardrobe. And because of the fresh paint, no curtains. And yet, when we left at 5:15, the guard who was supposed to let us out came up and checked the room. Maybe the minibar? What did he think might be a problem? As it turned out, there was a problem. Jo's pillow! She always uses the provided pillow slip on a folded towel for sleeping as the pillows are too fat for her liking. So, this perplexed guard first couldn't find the pillow (next to the bed - in a room with no furniture in it - how could he miss it), and he looked accusingly at me like we had purloined it. Then there was the missing pillow slip to be found, which was caught up in the sheets. He seemed even more convinced we had taken that!

And the reason for all of this? To visit the ancient rock-hewn churches of Lalibelela. These incredible buildings started as pure rock, have been hollowed out, and then cut free from the surrounding rock. Effectively, they are entire buildings, each carved from a single piece of rock. There are 11 visited churches, most still functioning, and some are connected by trenches and tunnels. And all of these were created about 700-900 years ago.

Bet Maryam, Lalibela
Bet Maryam, Lalibela
The church of Bet Maryam, carved out of the rock. Essentially, it is all one piece!


Interior of Bet Mikael
Interior of Bet Mikael
Some of the interior details of the rock hewn church Bet Mikael, Lalibela.


An Apostle - Lalibela
An Apostle - Lalibela
Inside Bet Golgotha, a "men only" church in Lalibela. This is one of the four apostle carvings that is publicly viewable.


The Top of Bet Giyorgis, Lalibela
The Top of Bet Giyorgis, Lalibela
This is Bet Giyorgis. It truly is a marvel. The church is actually quite large, hollowed out inside the "cross". Inside, it has no supporting pillars.


Looking Down Bet Giyorgis
Looking Down Bet Giyorgis
Peering over the edge at Bet Giyorgis.


Bet Gyorgis, Lalibela
Bet Gyorgis, Lalibela
This angle of Bet Giyorgis allows some true appreciation of what a magnificent feat this rock hewn church really is.


And a funny translation to finish this entry off.

Racial Salad?
Racial Salad?
No idea what it was supposed to be, but really, a very unfortunate name for a dish.


No comments: