Ethiopia is for LoversSeptember 28, 2020 | By Nafeesah Allen
Ethiopia isn’t the easiest place to be a regular ol’ tourist, but it is perfect for self-starters with a sense of imagination and a love for hidden gems. A visit to this well-connected East African destination leaves a lasting impression of Ethiopian charm and hospitality. Lovers of religion, history, and nature are sure to leave the country convinced that Ethiopia is one of the best countries they’ve visited, and here’s why:
Lovers of Religion-
You will not want to miss out on the rock-hewn churches from the 13th century. Lalibela is a sacred place of pilgrimage and tradition, and it is a true miracle to lay eyes on the 11 cave churches carved directly into the mountain stones. Still an active place of worship, this UNESCO world heritage site is a living and evolving space that preserves the old with the new. And if you can’t make it to Lalibela in the north of the country, it could take you a month of Sundays to get tired of visiting the breathtaking St. George’s Cathedral, Bole Medhane Alem, Entoto Maryam, and the Holy Trinity Cathedral in and around the capital city of Addis. Of course, Rastafarians also find the latter of great importance because it was where Emperor Haile Selassie was buried in 1975.
Lovers of History-
Addis is a fun city to explore because local guides will give you different perspectives on recent histories and local points of interest. You will hear about Ethiopian Empress Taitu Betul (1851-1918), the wife of Emperor Menelik II, who had a grand hotel built in her name for elite guests and foreign dignitaries. Unfortunately, a 2015 fire damaged the building beyond use, but the facade hints at past glory. Visit the National History Museum and learn about another famous Ethiopian lady named “Lucy,” said to be the oldest fossilized hominid skeleton discovered. She was unearthed in the Awash Valley in 1974.
In the north, the ancient city of Aksum, dating from the 1st to the 13th century, was once an important military, religious, and agricultural trading hub. Ethiopian traditions suggest that from here, Queen of Sheba ruled, and rumor has it that the Ark of the Covenant lies here as well. Today you can marvel at the remaining stele, giant obelisks, and royal tombs- all monuments to the impressive Abyssinian Empire.
There are ample opportunities to learn about history and science if you keep your eyes open for archeological and environmental clues along your country-wide travels.
Lovers of Nature-
Last, but not least, lovers of nature rave about getting out of Addis’ city center to hike the mountains in regions like Gondar, that are famous throughout the country for their epic treks into the Simien mountains, and the Omo Valley, famous for the Bale Mountain range. In the latter, trekkers have spotted nyala, mole rats, monkeys, and wolves, in their natural habitat. Bird watchers have also been known to spot egrets, bee-eaters, and storks in the Great Rift Valley Lake. The Afro-Alpine breeze in the untouched grasslands of the Sanetti plateau is absolutely spectacular. These memories of land, sea, and air are ones that visitors won’t soon forget.