#8 Ethiopia, Feb. 25, 2011

Dear Everybody,

I was back in Addis, doing errands like running around to three ATMs before I could get money; buying a bus ticket to go to Harar on Sunday; sending off email #7; paying my hotel bill with my Visa credit card, which only ‘goes through’ occasionally so one has to try it repeatedly.

I did a site-see of the Holy Trinity Church to see where Haille Selassie and wife are buried. I couldn’t find the tombs (!) and finally asked an elderly priest, who graciously showed me they were behind a gated area to which he invited me in—yes there they were, huge granite Aksumite-styled things, but the folks are still dead! I photographed the priest as well as the tombs, which made him ask for money, which was expected. When I looked for change, I had almost none, and so had to pony up 100 birr, which is against MY religion! The Ethiopians are very religious and there were throngs of people—all ages and both genders—doing big time praying, approaching the church on their knees, kissing the filthy door step to the church, and supplicating prone with foreheads touching the floor.

You may remember that Haille Selassie was the chief Rastafarian. What I didn’t realize was that his name before coronation was Ras Tafari. According to the LP, the whole thing got a boost in Jamaica from Marcus Garvey’s ‘Return to Africa’ movement which held that Haille Selassie’s coronation was the fulfillment of some Biblical prophesy. The Rastafarians apparently still hold strong in the town of Shashemene, about 200 km south of Addis.

I was in touch by email with an American couple, Charles and Gen, that I met in Bahar Dar and we arranged to have a late lunch together. They also brought along another American young woman, Fay from New York, who had an Ethiopian great-grandfather.

Sunday morning (as usual) my bus left at 5:30 AM to go east to Harar. The scenery was lovely (I know, I always say that!); the bus had to break regularly for cattle, goats, burros and camels.




It was a nine-hour ride although we stopped for lunch midway. Also about midway we came to the chat fields and in one town there was a brisk roadside business in chat.






Harar seems to be quite a different style of town, probably because it is close to the border and much more Muslim than other Ethiopian towns.

I got a kick out of the ‘Stackbucks’ coffee shop ad. I know this is big coffee country.

The next morning I set about exploring ‘Jubal,’ the old walled city. I entered through the Harar Gate (there are six of them—four from the 16th century).



There were many mosques, one Christian church that they were charging 50 birr to enter (!) many stores and many people.




Some of the men were wearing skirts (lungis); the women were dressed very colorfully. I think the LP guide oversold this city—it is somewhat charming and different, but not as much as I expected.












There was a very colorful market just outside of my hotel, which I could view from my balcony.

I had a really good breakfast at a no-name café, and later stopped for a macchiato, which are always good. I tried the internet but had to give up eventually when I couldn’t get connected to anything.

I did go to see the house where Haille Selassie and his wife spent their honeymoon. (They honeymooned in Harar???)





That evening I hired a guide to take me to see the feeding of the wild hyenas. They started doing this in the ‘50s. We took a tuk-tuk out to the edge of the city where a young man called them with hyena-like whoops; five of them came. They looked pretty tame and the feeder didn’t seem to be the least worried. Still, hyenas have the strongest jaws of any of the predators in Africa and are pretty ugly, besides! It was a little hokey, but still, the hyenas were wild; it was pretty interesting to see them up close and personal!

The next day I took a minibus to Dire Dawa, Ethiopia’s second largest city, surprisingly way out here! It was built in 1902 to service the railroad that was being built from Addis Ababa to Djibouti, the port on the Arabian Sea which landlocked-Ethiopia could access. At the moment the railroad is not operational but there is talk of reconstructing it. Anyway, the railroad was Dire Dawa’s raison d’etre. I visited the old station when I walked around downtown.

I hiked to the Kafira Market, going over a bridge over a totally dry ‘river’—I wonder if there is ever water in it way out here. The market was a real extravaganza of produce; obviously it drew customers from miles around, both to sell and to buy. It must have been built early on, maybe a hundred years ago, and probably hasn’t changed much since! The people were very friendly and only two didn’t want their picture taken. There were burros, horses with carts and camels bringing things to market.




Walking back to the hotel I passed a church, but I see they are rarely open although there are usually people praying at the doors.




Later I tried a restaurant for dinner that the LP liked. I ordered a beef dish and got shiro, their routine bean dish. When I asked, “Where’s the beef?” the waiter conferred with another man, perhaps the manager, sitting by the door. This man explained to me that since today was a fasting day (Wednesday) they didn’t have any beef. I had been very clear with the waiter, pointing carefully to the beef dish on the menu and pointing to the Amharic as well as the English. So it goes.



Tomorrow I shall move on to Awash. Only a few days left, now.


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