Discovering Ethiopia

Travel Destinations — By on September 19, 2006 at 12:45 pm

Although it isn’t on many lists of popular travel destinations, Ethiopia offers an intriguing culture and some of the most spectacular sights in Africa, in particular the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela.  Joshua Hammer wrote an article for the New York Times about a recent visit to Ethiopia.

In Ethiopia, the per capita income is $120 a year; tuberculosis and other contagions are rampant; and the literacy rate is just 43 percent, a sad figure considering that Ethiopia was among the first societies in sub-Saharan Africa to develop a written language.

But … significant development has come to Ethiopia, including mobile phone networks, decent hotels, Internet cafes, reliable electricity, and asphalt roads – phenomena that were unheard of in the outlying provinces a decade ago. And it is now possible to travel across Ethiopia with some degree of comfort.

… those who want to venture on their own will discover that Ethiopia is reasonably well set up for independent exploring. They will find a proud, if bedraggled country with ruggedly beautiful landscapes and a unique sense of its identity.

This was the writer’s first impression of arriving in Lalibela:

Lalibela, with a population of about 30,000, still has the look of a destitute mountain village: round, thatched-roof mud huts, called tukuls, clinging to steep slopes; peasant farmers wrapped in homespun white cloth robes; goats and sheep that scatter frantically, bleating in distress, before the rare motorized vehicle. In this humble setting, King Lalibela’s 900-year-old creations seem all the more extraordinary.

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