trying their hardest to create offerings
that will attract tourists. It’s a hit-and-
miss attempt and your hotel is as likely
to suffer from water and electricity
shortages as it is to be run by kind,
There’s no doubt that for some would-
be tourists it will be overwhelming:
Too busy, too loud, too slow, too fast.
They’ll be put off by the lack of
western comforts and the children
who look younger than their age,
with hands out and imploring eyes
asking “Give pen? Buy bracelet?”
That doesn’t mean that those people
shouldn’t visit the country, only that it
may be too soon.
For those who are more seasoned,
places like Axum, Gondar and Lalibela
and their incredible ancient buildings
and artifacts will be too much to resist.
In Axum, only five per cent of the
ancient city has been excavated
but it’s enough to inspire awe in a
civilization that built it. After a short
boat ride across Lake Tana, the
monastery of Ura Kidane Mihret in
Bahir Dar will cause audible gasps
at the contrast of bright colours on
ancient biblical drawings and the
rough brown lands outside.
And neither the rock-hewn churches
in Lalibela – a mix of monolithic and
semi-monolithic churches carved into
and out of stone – nor the priests that
hold ancient relics within them, should
The same can be said of some natural
features. At the Blue Nile Falls, you
can get close enough to feel the spray
and, on walks through Gondar, you
can spot tiny birds with songs that
sound like ringtones.
It’s in moments like these that you’ll
realize how fleeting this opportunity is.
Over the next 10 years, Ethiopia
will continue to evolve as a tourist
destination. The places we freely
visited on this trip will eventually be
cordoned off. The prices will rise and
the routes will be paved. It will be a
destination that is easier to visit and
open to all.
But for the true explorers, that will be
It is now, when the country is finding
itself and understanding its tourism
value, that it is at its best.
Summer 2018 • 45
44 • Vacations
VIEW OF GONDAR
ETHIOPIA IS THE BIRTHPLACE OF COFFEE
“Ethiopia is the source of humans. They started here
and spread all over the world,” our guide Chanyalew
Gebermedhin points out. “That’s why they say it’s the
land of origin
In the tiny National Museum in Addis Ababa, you’ll find the
bones of Lucy (“Dinkanesh” in the local tongue) – the most
complete human ancestor skeleton ever found. Ethiopia is
also the first Christian country in Africa (and some argue the
world) and the place where the original ark of the covenant
is believed to be housed.
Also important, it is the birthplace of coffee.
But while its past is what lures travellers here, it is its future
that intrigues. Ethiopia is growing. The estimated population
of more than 107 million people is spread across various
ethnic groups. All of that in a country that is about one-ninth
the size of Canada.
And while for a long time, farming was the determinant of
wealth and success, tourism is being welcomed as a new
opportunity. Across Addis Ababa, you’ll find hotel names
you recognize among the “coming soon” billboards but the
further you move from the city, the more you’ll find locals
INSIDE ROCK-HEWN CHURCH IN LALIBELA
ST. GEORGE CHURCH IN LALIBELA
BLUE NILE FALLS