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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,

affable hosts.

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

be missed.

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

too late.

It is now, when the country is finding

itself and understanding its tourism

value, that it is at its best.

Vacations® •

Summer 2018 • 45

44 • Vacations

®

Summer 2018

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