Richard Pankhurst’s funeral, Selassie church, Addis Ababa
Dignitaries gathered yesterday at Selassie church in the centre of Addis Ababa to pay their respects to Richard Pankhurst OBE, who died last week at the age of 89.
With his mother Sylvia Pankhurst, the famous suffragette and long time supporter of Ethiopia, he moved to Ethiopia in 1956. As a historian he worked at Addis Ababa University and has been a leading researcher and publisher of historical studies on Ethiopia ever since.
He will also be remembered for leading the campaign to return the stolen Obelisk from Rome to Axum, where it was re-erected in 2008.
We at Tesfa Tours, send our condolences to Richard’s family and our admiration and respect for a historic figure in this remarkable country. His great body of work will live on.
For more information see his obituary in the Telegraph
Bale Wold church in Addis, crowds gather to see the Tabot
In the same compound to Selassie Church (one on the main churches in Addis) is the church of Bale Wold, (Feast of God the Son). Today Tahsas 29 is the fest day for the church and thousands of church goers flock to the church to see the Tabot paraded around he church and here the mass.
Today – 29th December (Tahsas 19 in the Ethiopian calendar) is one of the two big annual Gabriel festivals (the other one comes on 28 July), and is the culmination of one of the biggest pilgrimages in Ethiopia.
Kulubi is a small place some 60km from Dire Dawa, but today tens of thousands of pilgrims will have converged on the St Gabriel’s church there, many walking for days to get there.
The joint churches of Gabriel & Rufael in Lalibela
But all across Ethiopia, today is a huge celebration at every Gabriel church. Whether in Addis Ababa, in Lalibela, or on a Tesfa community trek in a village where a church has a Gabriel Tabot, there will be special celebrations.
A Tabot being paraded
All goes silent. The murmuring from the churches has stopped. The Tabots have left the church to be paraded in the compound. They are the sacred holy heart of each church, often said to be a replica of the Arc of Covenant, but actually a replica of the Arc’s contents – the tablets of stone. The town is silent. No one likes to drive when the Tabots are out, so many taxis are not working.
A Sea of yellow shirts as the Great Ethiopian Run sets off – curtsey of the GER -http://ethiopianrun.org
Its also the start of the run, thousands of participants gathered in Meskal Square in the heart of Addis are off in a sea of green and yellow.. the top athletes will finish in under 30 minutes, some twenty thousand will finish in the hour that follows, running, walking and dancing their way along the course- my 12 year old son with them.
Icon of St. Mikael
As the sun peers through the thin veil of smoke and the chanting from the churches creates a murmuring sound through the city, sent forth on loud speakers, worshippers are heading to church, as is one of the big days of the Ethiopian Orthodox calendar. Today is known as Hedar Mikael or the November St. Michael’s day, and is the day that everyone sweeps up the rubbish in their compound and burns it. The fires are said to take the disease and sickness away with the smoke.
Great Ethiopian Run (curtesy of GER http://ethiopianrun.org/)
But as worshippers head off to church, some 20,000 runners are making there way to the centre of Addis Ababa to participate in Africa’s largest mass participation run. The Great Run as Addis Ababa’s 10km run is called, is also a highlight in the calendar for Addis Ababans, as the mass run becomes a running street party in green and yellow (the colour of this years shirt) for the 15th year in a row.
Today is the big annual Rufael (Raphael) day -one of the archangels and the protector of pregnant women in the Ethiopian Church! The rain that fell heavily this morning is taken as a blessed and holy rain – and it is a well received blessing.
September with Pagume shown
Rufael falls on the 3rd day of Pagume which is the 13th month or more properly the period of added days that adds the extra days (5 or 6 in a leap year) needed if the 12 months are all 30 days (as are the Ethiopian months). This year is a leap year with the extra 6th day in Pagume as you can see on the Tesfa Tours calendar shown below. And off course the next day is Enkutatash. One of the biggest holidays – New Years Day.
Let pray for plenty more rain from now into the first part of the New Year in Ethiopia.
Rain clouds in Addis
The price of a 30 day tourist visa on arrival in Addis has gone up from $20 to $50 USD with immediate effect.
The Ethiopian Embassy in the UK is quoting tourist single entry 30 days £26, single entry 3 month £40, multiple 3 month £46, multiple 6 month £52. For Visas on arrival they’re quoting single 30day US$50, single 3 month $70, multiple 3 month $80, multiple 6 month $100. We understand that this can be paid in other major currencies (Euro & Sterling) – probably £30 or €40 for the 30 day visa.
This year, on Timkat eve, I watched the Tabot from my local church in Addis Ababa as it was paraded the 4 kilometres from the church – Yesus – behind the French Embassy, to the Jan Meda – the old Imperial racing fields. It was a colourful and joyful procession, with everyone very happy to see us enjoying their pageant.
The Tabot’s nearest equivalent is the tabernacle and is a replica of the tablets of stone, and is carried shrouded in brocaded cloth on the head of a senior priest underneath a colourfully decorated umbrella. It forms the central part of the parade, alongside icons and other beautifully dressed priests also with more colourful umbrellas. The priests are led by deacons all dressed in white playing the wonderful big drums, and choir groups from the church singing the Tabot down the hill. Others lay out a red carpet before the Tabot, a sign of the importance attached to theTabot. As it passes people prostrate themselves before the tabot kissing the ground.
Timkat is the festival which celebrates the baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan River, and is one of Ethiopia’s most important religious festivals. The word Timkat means baptism, but it is often confusingly translated as Ethiopian Epiphany. For more information on this see the page on festivals on our website.
Jan Meda becomes the centre of Addis Ababa over the Timkat holiday as more than a dozen Tabots converge on the walled field to spend the night there. On Timkat morning mass is said and then the blessed holy water in the baths at the centre of the filed are sprayed on the ecstatic congregation that is gathered around. Many also seek to fill bottles with this holy water to cure any number of ailments.
Then the Tabots are paraded back up to their churches again accompanied by the parishioners. Only one Tabot remains for a second night – that of Mikael, whose annual saints day is the following day – a day that also celebrates the wedding at Canaa – Kanna Zegelila in the Ethiopian Church. The Mikael Tabots are then paraded back up on their special saint’s day with even larger crowds of followers.
It is a joyful and happy three days, and one I would urge people to see. Tourists flock to the traditional historical centres: Lalibela, Gondar and Axum, resulting in overcrowding, shortage of rooms, high prices etc, but it is a wonderful sight in Addis Ababa, or at the Tesfa community sites sharing the day with the local villagers.