A collection of my best pictures of Ethiopia to give you insights into this misunderstood country.
To most of the world, Ethiopia is practically synonymous to famine and drought.
Between the 1970s and 80s, a series of famine hit the country and killed more than a million people. It was one of the worst disasters in the world and millions of dollars poured in from other countries and non-profit organisations in the form of aid and relief. Though the famine was widely blamed on drought, the major cause was said to be the governments mishandling of it.
But that was more than 30 years ago and Ethiopia has long recovered from the disaster. I’m currently traveling in northern Ethiopia, and it’s clear that the country still has plenty of issues such as poverty and political unrest. But famine is not one of them. While some parts of the country still experience drought, it no longer results in food shortages or famine.
The country, especially the capital city of Addis Ababa, has developed tremendously and has become one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. There is still dissatisfaction with the government, which has caused rebellions and civil unrest especially in recent years, but it is relatively safe to visit these days.
Table of Contents
- READ MORE: Ethiopia Travel Guide
- The Reality in Ethiopia
- READ MORE: A Guide to Eating Ethiopian Food
- Why You Should Visit
- 50 of My Best Pictures of Ethiopia
- Lalibela Churches
- READ MORE: Incredible Rock Churches of Lalibela
- Simien Mountains National Park
- Timkat Festival in Gonder
- READ MORE: Celebrating Timkat Festival in Ethiopia
- Guassa Conservation Area
- Lake Tana
- READ MORE: Ethiopia Travel Guide
- Inspired? Pin it!
READ MORE: Ethiopia Travel Guide
The Reality in Ethiopia
“I believe that seeing is believing,” says Michael Kassa, owner of Aone Ethiopia Tours who’s bringing me around Ethiopia to show me the best sights.
“Only when you come for yourself, will you see the lush lowlands of Ethiopia that are filled with life, and the fertile agriculture fields in the highlands rich with crops,” he continues with conviction in his eyes.
“Only when people come to Ethiopia do they know how different reality here from what they see on TV back at home.”
Indeed, Ethiopia is nothing like what I’d imagined. It’s not a starving country for one: The country has a rich and vibrant culinary culture that easily rivals that of places like Spain or Thailand. Unlike other parts of Africa where meat is scarce and variety is limited, in Ethiopia I feasted on delicious curries and diverse selections of foods everyday.
Not just that, Ethiopia also has a rich history and it’s home to plenty of historic monuments and buildings that have witnessed the test of time (unlike in many parts of Africa where they were destroyed by colonial forces). It’s got a culture unlike anywhere else on the continent, and its climate is polar opposites to the deserts surrounding the country.
READ MORE: A Guide to Eating Ethiopian Food
Why You Should Visit
One thing is for sure, Ethiopia is truly unique — culturally, historically and scenically. I’ve traveled to 18 countries in Africa and can safely say this country is unlike any other on the continent.
Ethiopia is an extremely mountainous country and boasts highlands rather than the vast savannahs that are often associated with Africa. Ethiopians adorn the white cotton shemma cloth instead of the colourful vitenge that most East Africans wear; and let’s not forget that a large percentage of Ethiopians are Orthodox Christians while most Africans tend to be secular Christians or animists.
Ethiopians like to think they are different from the rest because they’re the only country in Africa to have successfully fought off colonisation. It’s true that they have retained a strong sense of identity and traditions, which have made them very proud and patriotic people.
I hope these photos will give you a hint of what the country is about. I’ll be writing more about my trip to Ethiopia over the next few weeks. Hope you’ll follow along!
50 of My Best Pictures of Ethiopia
Home to 13 rock-hewn churches built in the 12th century, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the most visited site in Ethiopia. The churches got their name from King Lalibela, who had ordered their construction. Ethiopian Orthodox Christians believe that the churches were built during his reign, circa 1181-1221, but scientists don’t believe that it was possible to build churches – spanning a wide area and featuring different architectural styles – in such a short time frame. Even until today, experts cannot confirm the exact duration that took to build these spectacular rock churches.
In total, there are 13 rock churches in Lalibela — some are monolithic, a few are semi-monolithic (joined to the rock in some parts) and others are carved into the rock. They are divided into three groups: the north-western churches, southeastern churches and Saint George which stands apart from the other clusters.
Rise early and visit at dawn to see pilgrims and priests pray and chant in a hypnotising and spiritual setting. This was easily my favorite place to visit in Ethiopia.
READ MORE: Incredible Rock Churches of Lalibela
Simien Mountains National Park
With some of Ethiopia’s highest peaks, the Simien Mountains pack quite a punch when it comes to lofty landscapes. You can spend weeks trekking here and you still won’t see everything in the national park (from troops of gelada monkeys to mountaintop monasteries).
Timkat Festival in Gonder
Lauded as the Camelot of Africa, this ancient capital is the stuff of legends, thanks to its treasure trove of 16th century palaces, lavish castles, and sprawling gardens. I was very privileged to be in Gonder for the annual Timkat festival, the Ethiopian Epiphany Day, where locals put on their best traditional costume and reenact the baptism of Jesus Christ (by jumping into the city’s bath). Gonder is known for putting on the biggest Timkat celebrations in the country.
READ MORE: Celebrating Timkat Festival in Ethiopia
Guassa Conservation Area
This 98-square-km conservation area has been protected by the locally community since the 17th century. It’s an excellent area to spot endemic wildlife like the Gelada baboons and the Ethiopian wolf, as well as to immerse in remote local villages that will warmly welcome you.
Ethiopia’s largest lake (and Africa’s third largest) has a peaceful and serene setting that’s worth visiting to escape from the dusty towns. Its waters are inhabited by small pods of hippopotamus and 15 species of fish; and its shores are dotted with 19 monasteries, some of which feature the best mural art in Ethiopia.
READ MORE: Ethiopia Travel Guide
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