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ethiopia itinerary - august 2013

August
.06 Fly from Warsaw, Poland to Rome, Italy. {Enjoy} an 8 hour layover and fly to Cairo, Egypt
.07 Arrive in Cairo at 3AM. Fly to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in the evening
.08 Arrive in Addis Ababa at 8AM
.09 Leave for South Omo Valley. Stop by a local market, arrive in Arba Minch
.10 Drive to Lake Chomo, arrive in Jinka
.11 Hike through Ari tribe highlands, drive to Mursi village and spend the night
.12 Visit Bodi tribe, return to Jinka
.13 Visit market in Albuda (Bena tribe), market in Dimeka (Hamar tribe), drive to Turmi
.14 Visit Karo tribe, attend bull-jumping ceremony
.15 Visit Arbore tribe, then drive through Konso (also name of the tribe dominating the area) and return to Arba Minch
.16 Visit Dorze tribe, then stop by the hot springs in Wendo Genet
.17 Visit fish market in Awassa, the "Banana Leaf Gallery" in the Rastafari community in Shashemene, and return to Addis Ababa.
.18 Fly to Lalibela
.19 Continue visiting churches in Lalibela
.20 Visit museum in Lalibela, continue visiting churches
.21 Fly through Addis Ababa to Dire Dawa, bus to Harar
.22 Visit Harar with our guide Anwar and feed hyenas
.23 Bus to Dire Dawa, fly back to Addis Ababa
.24 Visit "grandmother Lucy" in the National Museum in Addis, fly to Cairo
.25 Arrive back in Poland

harar, the muslim gem of ethiopia

Shoa Gate, from within the city walls
     My favourite part of travel in Ethiopia was going to Harar. After spending three weeks absorbed in a deeply Christian culture, islamic Harar was something quite different. I fell instantly in love with the walled city, with its brightly painted inner walls and its maze of over 350 cobblestone streets. Harar is nothing short of colourful. The old city, enclosed within the 500+ year old jugol (city wall), is home to over 80 mosques and a single church, in addition to hosting the poet Arthur Rimbaud for the last 10 years of his life.
     We arrived from Dire Dawa late in the evening, and the lack of street lights lended to our complete disorientation. A young man hopped onto our bus and convinced us to let him take us to a guesthouse* within the walls of Harar, where we ended up staying for our first night (albeit it being fairly overpriced). He then led us to a local cafe for a late dinner and offered his services as a guide for the following day. 
     Anwar was really easy going and felt more like a friend than a guide. For 400 birr, he showed us around Harar, had us over for tea in his family's home, and took us to feed hyenas in the evening. Hyena feeding occurs in two locations on a nightly basis, costing 50 birr per person to attend, an additional 50 birr to take photos, and another 50 birr for transport to and from the outskirts of the city walls. The "hyena man" calls out to the creatures until they come out of the bush - this can take up to an hour. He then proceeds to feed them by slapping some meat onto a short stick, sometimes holding the stick in his mouth to get the animals to come nearer. Onlooking tourists are given the chance to do the same. The tradition (and what is now a popular attraction) arose out of the belief that hyenas were the only creatures capable of perceiving evil spirits and were thus allowed entrance into Harar in order to ride the city of such demons. A pact was then formed between the people of Harar and the hyenas, and every year the creatures are offered a hearty porridge made with butter. If the leader of the hyena pack eats more than half of the porridge, it is a sign of a prosperous new year, however, if less than half or none is eaten... well, that's just bad news.
Feeding the hyena in style
Shoa Gate
Courtyard of Rowda Guesthouse
     *Rowda Guesthouse - no wifi, small courtyard, shared bathroom (between all 3 rooms), common area. Definitely overpriced for what it is, 700 birr for 3 people. Breakfast included in the price of the guesthouse: consisted of deep-fried pancakes (ish) served with jam, plus coffee or tea. We decided to change guesthouses to Belayneh Hotel, (conveniently) located just outside the Shoa Gate.
Two singles in Belayneh Hotel

sleepover with the tribal mursi people of omo valley

     Our guide chose to take us to a more remote Mursi village of which he knew the chief and where, unlike most travellers do, we were to spend the night. We arrived in the late afternoon, immediately swarmed by some Mursi asking "photo photo" (for money) and decided to hold off on picture taking until the next day to get to know them on a more friend-friend level. We walked around the little village guided by the chief, Niarabi, dressed only in a blanket slung around his body that somehow managed to cover his intimates just perfectly (albeit dangerously). All of the Mursi men were dressed this way, none other than the chief wore shoes, and a few walked around with an AK-47 casually swinging at his side. They all hung around in an open area outside the village, where our 4x4 was parked, and we entered the village (repeating achali - hello - countless times) to find all the women working away (while the men relaxed under the trees by our car). Some were grinding sorghum into flour, others breastfeeding; virtually all with their lips and earlobes hanging (due to the cutting and stretching that they endure in order to be able to wear lip plates - often around 6" in diameter). These lip plates are not worn so much due to their weight and the incisions are not mandatory, but the practice is pursued by most Mursi women in the name of beauty.

a day in cairo

     We arrived in Cairo at around 3AM and were set to leave to Ethiopia before midnight the same day, so we didn't have all that much time to spend (unfortunately) in the ancient capital. After a combination of long layovers and uncomfortable night-flights, we decided to get a few hours' rest in our hostel* (at which we were the only guests) before setting out to see the city.
Deserted Giza
     At around 9AM we set out to Giza, with entry fees of 80 EGP per person. There were no other tourists in sight, except perhaps another group or two wandering around the pyramids. This on its own is fascinating - it really felt like it was just us and the pyramids, and of course the many locals trying to convince us into riding camels or buying their trinkets. We spent about 2 hours wandering around the pyramids, seeing the Solar boat (40 EGP) and the Sphinx, after which we took a trip into the Old City (Coptic Cairo), where we visited the Hanging Church among others.
Tahrir Square


     As our hostel was centrally located, we spent the evening resting, smoking hookah with the hostel staff and walking around the area of Tahrir Square, although the square itself was mostly deserted except for some tents and half-hanging banners (contrary to the havoc reported on international news). At the cafe located directed under Paris Hotel, we bought some pitas complete with hummous and baba ghanoug. The restaurant served a myriad of foods including Koshari, salads, and various pita wraps. At midnight, we left for the airport for 100 EGP with the driver from our hostel.


Hookah
*Paris Hotel - 170EGP for a 3 person room and ensuite bathroom, wifi, kitchen, hookah, and reliable driver available for hire.
Room in Paris Hotel