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Trip to Ethiopia

The story of our trip to Ethiopia: wild tribes, the Blue Nile, the Simian Mountains and many special animals. Ethiopia is a fascinating country, whether you choose to travel there on an organized tour or an independent trip.

Join our trip to Ethiopia.

Travelling to Ethiopia

Ethiopia is located in the eastern part of the African continent and borders with Eritrea, Sudan, Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti.

Ethiopia is an ancient country with an interesting history and is home to over 200 people of different nationalities who speak 80 languages.

Ethiopian Visa

Israelis interested in traveling in Ethiopia should obtain a visa at the Ethiopian Embassy in Israel, the address of which is:

Derech Petah Tikva 48, Tel Aviv. Phone:


Dealing with money in Ethiopia

The Ethiopian currency is “bir”, divided into 100 cents, one Israeli shekel equals 11 Ethiopian birr.

The cost of living in Ethiopia is low but despite this it is not a cheap trip because of the need for domestic flights, etc.

Weather in Ethiopia

There is a possibility to travel throughout the year. Because of the size of the country, there are climatic differences between regions.

From the Kingdom of Sheba to Emperor Selassie

A journey to Ethiopia, the huge country with a population of over 100 million, is a journey into the past.

Not to the near past, but to life as I always imagined in my Bible lessons.

Well, not exactly, because here, in Ethiopia, there are also areas full of monkeys, a population two-thirds of which are Christians and one-third Muslims and there are African tribes that live as their ancestors lived in the thick of the forests. Everyday life is taken as if from an ancient time as if the twenty-first century had not met them.

In short, we set out, on a group trip, for 16 days, three years ago. It’s not for nothing that this date was chosen. The plan was to participate in the Mescal holiday ceremonies which were indeed especially impressive and experiential for us.

We got around by bus, jeeps and four domestic flights. We were guided by an Israeli guide (Alik Shahaf) and an amazing local guide, (named Philemon) whose help and great sensitivity helped us get through some difficulties on the trip more easily.

The itinerary to Ethiopia

The itineraryincluded: Addis Ababa (which did not excite us much), the Blue Nile and the sources of the Nile, Gondar (the former capital city with several interesting churches and buildings and the residence of most Ethiopian Jews), the High Simian Mountains (where beautiful landscapes a lot of animals and especially huge flocks of monkeys), Lalibela, (the most important site in Ethiopia with amazing churches carved into the subsoil and rock) Axum (the ancient capital city from the 1st century BCE), And visiting some indigenous tribes. Which is an experience in itself (below).

Many faces to Ethiopia – it has very unique sites that you will not find anywhere else in the world. Christian sites that are many centuries old with magnificent murals, obelisks that are over two thousand years old stand still, a special connection to us and the belief that the Ark of the Covenant has passed to them and they guard it with all their might, different African tribes with each tribe having its own customs and especially spectacular costumes.

There is something exciting and intriguing about the daily life of Ethiopians. Most of them live in small villages, cut off from electricity and water (sometimes there are several generators in the village for lighting and television for the villagers). The common sight is of crowds of men, women and children walking along the paths along with herds of cattle and sheep and few vehicles. The women are almost always with some load on their backs A huge container of water brought from the well far from the village, a massive pile of hay, or a child on her back. For men, life is easier… All in peace and quiet. They never knew another world.

But this unique experience mixes with a sense of shock from the terrible poverty and dirt and what in our eyes is perceived as the neglect of the public space prevailing in most areas of Ethiopia (the situation, of course, is better in cities but the vast majority of the population lives in villages and is engaged in agriculture). Ethiopians’ lives are challenging, especially in the lives of women who are engaged in the most demanding physical jobs.

This feeling permeates you in small portions and over time it becomes more and more burdensome …

Warning – we stayed in very reasonable hotels. This did not prevent close to half of the group from suffering from very severe stomach upsets and all sorts of other illnesses, to the point of needing urgent medical help. The visit to the local clinic was shocking, really dangerous and emotionally shaky. We were lucky to be helped by the local guide who just saved us… Therefore, it is extremely important to be careful about food, even in good hotels. In my opinion, it is advisable to avoid as much as possible eating fresh vegetables and certainly drinking water from the tap.

Ethiopia – this is what it looks like

In Ethiopia you can find diverse landscape sites. Mighty waterfalls (Blue Nile Falls), beautiful and peaceful lakes with many winged animals, high mountains that stretch to a height of over three thousand meters (the Simian Mountains) with flocks of monkeys roaming free, and especially endless verdant plains (sometimes a little less flat) with plots of land of various colors on which herds of sheep graze and scattered the villages. In the south, where the tribes are located, the expanses of savannah are empty and arid.

A special experience is the trip. With the exception of a few roads connecting the major cities where we traveled by bus, the trip was carried out in off-road vehicles with highly skilled drivers. The roads are narrow and the dirt roads are packed with people, cows and sheep who see the vehicles as a nuisance or at least remain indifferent to them. In this way, the journey becomes slow and full of challenges on the one hand but fascinating from a human point of view on the other.

Christianity in Ethiopia

It is impossible to talk about Ethiopia without referring to Christianity that occupies such a central part of history and the life of the people. It has been there since the fourth century but does not in any way mention Christianity as we know it in the Western world.

We will find here ancient churches with frescoes unique to Ethiopians and new churches with spectacular paintings vivid in color.

There is no doubt that the most important site in Ethiopia is Lalibela. A complex of churches quarried in the 12th century below ground level.According to the locals, the site is called “New Jerusalem”. The site was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978. This is an amazing site. The churches are carved into the rock and feature centuries-old frescoes. The highlight is the church of Beit Giorgis which is an impressive structure of a cross carved dozens of meters into the ground. Just fascinating.

Another element is the connection to the Bible and especially the perception that they are the descendants of King Solomon and the Queen of Shawa and their common child Menelik who at that time brought the Ark of the Covenant to Axos in Ethiopia. The ark is treated like the Holy of Holies and therefore it is forbidden to visit the church. Therefore, I cannot verify the version that this is indeed the Holy Ark. But next to it a new church was built by Emperor Hailey Selassie (who saw himself as the successor of the dynasty) which is spectacular and nearby there are some spectacular obelisks so the visit to the city is worth it even if you haven’t seen the Holy Ark.

Holidays and ceremonies in Ethiopia

Ethiopia cannot be described without reference to rituals. At any given moment you can find yourself during one or another religious or pagan ritual (in tribes). Thus on our first day in Addis Ababa we witnessed an impressive religious ceremony at the foot of a church. They all came in their characteristic white attire with sticks that they used to determine the rhythm that sweeps you into it. (Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo). Around Gondar we visited the church and suddenly a bride and groom arrived in spectacular costumes and again in monotonous but sweeping singing. (It should be noted that later on we saw grooms and brides with completely Western costumes, who were photographed near historical sites we visited, so it is clear that many of these colorful and special customs are disappearing).

A few days later while we were walking down the street in Axum a funeral passed us. Once again our colorful eyes and costumes were hunted.

Meskel Holiday

An extraordinary experience we had on the Meskel holiday which is celebrated every year on the 27th of September with the main ceremony being Balalibela. Thousands of locals arrive dressed in white. Other groups (mostly of children) in different colorful attire. The elders and dignitaries of the community are dressed in beautiful costumes and wear white turbans carrying in their hands colorful apertures or umbrellas and other percussion instruments. In the center of the field are trees for a bonfire that is about to come and after endless songs and speeches (which since we didn’t understand will touch us) a huge fire will be ignited around which we dance in ecstasy. In short, a colorful and special one-time experience.

Women in Ethiopia

Maybe this is my sensitivity, but I couldn’t help but notice the Ethiopian rural women (the vast majority of Ethiopians live in the villages). They carry the burden in all aspects of life: raising children, trading in the market, shepherding and maintaining the house, which means carrying huge jugs of water on their heads (which they drew from a well a long way from their home) or huge haystacks or a child or two on their backs. And all this when they walk for miles and miles many times barefoot. I’m full of admiration for them…



Children in Ethiopia

The children’s lives seem difficult to me. They bear the burden of housework, shepherding, selling haberdashery and keeping their little brothers safe. At the same time, as in the whole world, they find time for games, mostly improvised, such as a banana peel, an empty bottle or a single manner.




The Ethiopian Tribes

In the south of the country, several tribes are concentrated on the surface of vast savannahs. Each tribe in his village, each tribe and its customs, each tribe in its special costume. The diversity is huge but there is one thing they all have in common: no visit to the tribe is free of charge. Sometimes the payment is global meaning the group pays those who have been authorized to do so in the tribe for the visit and filming and sometimes you must pay only to those you wish to photograph. However, the preoccupation with money throughout the visit greatly impairs the experience.             

In general, the feeling that accompanied me during the visits to the tribes was a mixed feeling of curiosity and immense admiration on the one hand and a feeling of something non-authentic intended for tourists on the other.It also creates a feeling of discomfort and even tension between the locals and the visitors with endless arguments about the payment, whether I took one or two photos and the like.

An exception to this rule is the rite of passage to adulthood (something like our Bar Mitzvah) in the Hammer tribe. This is a completely authentic ceremony, without any bargaining and monetary addictiveness. In the ceremony, the boys must skip three or four bulls naked as they were the day they were born. The ceremony is accompanied by preparations of painting the face and body, preparing the arena and a crowd of hundreds cheering during the skip, after which everyone is dressed in tribal costumes.A unique experience.

Jews in Ethiopia

Most Ethiopian Jews immigrated to Israel. In fact only the cemeteries and a few shops selling souvenirs remained. These are also used today by the local population for their livelihood, stemming mainly from Israeli tourism.

How can I summarize my trip to Ethiopia? Not an easy, sometimes shaky trip that involves all the senses, evokes complex emotions and thoughts.

Travelling to Ethiopia? Looking for more information? I recommend going to the wonderful site ” Ethiopia” and getting tips, routes and other information.

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