Munchy in Ethiopia - It’s Never Too Early For Tej (Travel Blog #3)
11/22/2015 by Munchy
Munchy in Ethiopia 2015 - Travel Blog Day 3
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Enough with churches and museums, I feel for nature, and my Polish friend Kamila, who visits the country for the second time, provides the perfect plan: Let’s go up Mount Entoto! With 3,200 meters above sea level the hill North of the city is the highest peak overlooking Addis Ababa. At least for parts of it I am already familiar with the route from Atlas via Kazanchis, Arat and Sidist Kilo, past the university and further on to Shiromeda until our taxi eventually reaches its final stop on the mountain, right in front of Entoto Maryam Church. Up here Emperor Menelik II resided in the former capital before he looked down and decided to found the “new flower” Addis Ababa down there, where it's not as cold as up the hill.
Following today’s mantra “enough with churches and museums” I skip them both and remain quite happy with a quick look on Entoto Maryam from the outside. Instead Kamila, our Ethiopian friend Yoftsh, and I walk downwards for a bit, before we enter the eucalyptus forest to hike up clay steps to an idyllic, little café. Colorful roses grow wildly next to hibiscus with their rich, broad blossoms in pink and red. Inside the place I discover a poster of Haile Selassie next to one of Bob Marley. It amazes me because it is the first time I experience anything Reggae-related in this country. So far I have only heard Ethiopian music here, which is understandable for sure, yet the extent to which it is played, surprised me still. More than 90% of the music is domestic, from traditional to the so-called “New Ethiopian Music”. Fascinating how little the interest in Reggae is – while the genre on the other hand has so much appreciation for the country, its history and spiritual influence. Yes, there is a Bob Marley Square in Addis, a roundabout with a large copper statue, song lyrics and flowers, but also when that was inaugurated, critical questions were asked, why his statue was put there and not one of an Ethiopian artist. Last night I went to a club, where I was told a Reggae concert would take place – but that never happened neither. I miss me a good one drop!
Kamila, Yoftsh, and I are well relaxed. We take our seats in the shade of the idyllic garden, order buna – while again Ethiopian music is sounding off the speakers. The hustle and bustle of Addis is far away, we breathe fresh air, what a sweet day! With the coffee comes a re-used bottle of Johnny Walker, filled with yellow liquid: home-made Tej, the traditional honey wine. Yoftsh has ordered it for us. It’s early afternoon – but apparently it’s never too early for Tej!
Well strengthened our little travel party eventually decides to skip the taxi but walk back instead – downhill gladly. On the way we meet a lot of the women that gained notoriety for carrying firewood to later sell it in the city to make a living. About one third of fuel consumed in Addis Ababa comes from these ladies, more than 10,000 that risk their health and endure irreversible spine disorders daily, because when I write “carry wood”, I’m not talking a few logs, I am talking huge bundles of eucalyptus tree branches and twigs, almost 10 feet broad, so heavy that even grown up men I know struggle lifting them up. Hunched over the women bring them to the market several times per day. I take a picture of one resting by the roadside and give her money for allowing me, hoping it enables her to carry a little less than usual at least today. The Former Women Fuel Wood Carriers Association (FWFWCA) is an NGO devoted to improving the situation by providing alternative incomes. Some of the former carriers now weave baskets or scarves instead, but the sad truth is that for everyone who leaves that flagellating work another one follows to replace her. The women remind us of what lies right in front of us at the foot of the hill: the city of Addis. Yet up here it seems so peaceful and quiet. Just many little houses, churches, and mosques in the far. Kamila, Yoftsh, and I take a last break as well, enjoy that view a bit longer and soak up the serenity of nature once more. The noise and fumes will return soon enough.
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