Ethiopia Travel Guide

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Ethiopia is the one of the oldest countries in the world. In the long and disturbed history of the African continent, Ethiopia remains the only country which had never fallen under the brutal ruling of colonization. Herodotus the Greek historian of the fifth century B.C. describes ancient Ethiopia in his writings. The Old Testament of the Bible records the Queen of Sheba's visit to Jerusalem.

In fact, historians believe that Ethiopia may well be the begining of mankind . The fossils of the oldest living mankind or "Lucy" was discovered in the the northern section of Ethiopia. The remains of the fossil is said to be 3.5 million years old.

After a long and difficult period under communist rulers, the country is now back on its feet. The long history assures that there are many historic sites in the country. The natural beauty, with high mountains, lakes, waterfalls as well as arid deserts are among the natural attractions of Ethiopia.

Highlights in Ethiopia include the cities of Harar, Addis Ababa as well as the churches of Lalibela in the North. Rafting on the Omo River is spectacular too. Beware of crocodiles.

A highlight often left out about Ethiopia (the above being a typical example), is the great Omo Valley region in the south, where tribal people still live and dress much as they have for centuries. It is one of the few places you can go in Africa (or in the world, actually) and see people dressed in tribal attire—and they are not just dressing up for tourists. You can visit the Surma and the Mursi tribes, for example, where women still wear those huge lip plates. The women still wear animal skins for clothing, and the men own a single wrap—which they often don't bother to wear, when away from their village.

A good jumping-off point for visiting tribal people is JINKA. Off and on, you can catch a flight twice a week, from Addis Ababa. But the two-day journey by car is a much better way to go. And Jinka itself, with it's Saturday and Wednesday markets is pretty spectacular on its own. Since it is along the fuzzy dividing line between old and new, you'll see interesting combinations of dress that include both Western and tribal attire.

Renting a car and driver is the expensive thing about travel in tribal Ethiopia ($100 to $300 per day, USD), but food and lodging is cheap. And you should not imagine doing this kind of travel in luxury!

For more about the tribal areas of southern Ethiopia, check out some of the fabulous picture books such as African Ark by Beckwith & Fisher, and Vanishing Africa by Giansanti & Novaresio. More recently published is the stunning Hans Silvester work, Ethiopia—Peoples of the Omo Valley. I could post some of my own pictures here, but given the policy of this site to require a person to give up rights to pictures posted here (allowing others to make commercial use of your work), I am not willing. It is an unfortunate policy that we cannot retain ordinary rights to our own work when posted here.

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