Category Archives: Addis Ababa

Melkam Timkat

The community at Mequat Mariam parade the Tabot out at TImkat with Ethiopian flags flying

The community at Mequat Mariam in Wollo parade the Tabot out at Timkat

Today one of Ethiopia’s big holidays has started, it is the eve of Timkat and if you are in Addis the roads are closing as the Tabots are paraded out of the churches on their way to the field where the Baptism of Jesus will be commemorated tomorrow morning.  Timkat – meaning ‘Baptism’ is a festival that seems to encapsulate Ethiopia’s unique place in the world. It is frequently referred to as Epiphany, which while technically correct undersells what is a very special and Ethiopian day. Epiphany is a Greek word meaning manifestation or appearance, and it celebrates the events in Christ’s life that showed him to be the son of God. In the early church (before Rome got into it) this was the major feast in the church after Easter. In Epiphany was encapsulated all the major events that manifested Christ’s Godhood to man: his birth (Nativity) , the visit of the Magi, the turning watering wine at the wedding in Canaa, and his baptism in the Jordan river. With the appearance of Christmas in the developing church as a new festival, his nativity was taken out of Epiphany.

Holes are cut in the Ice in Russia

Bathers queue to dip in the freezing water in St..Petersburg

In the Eastern Orthodox churches Epiphany, in Greece often called Theophany (meaning shinning forth/appearance) is celebrated to commemorate the Baptism of Jesus as it is in Ethiopia. In Russia people cut a hole in the ice on a body of water and jump in. In Greece a cross is thrown into water and men dive for the honour of bringing it back. In Ethiopia, the holy Tabot is the heart of the church and what in fact makes a church holy, is processed to a place where water will be blessed. The tabot is in fact a replica of the Tablets of Stone that Moses carried down from Mount Sinai (although many state that they are a replica of the the Ark of Covenant).

In fact it is really spread over 2 or 3 days. This year – (leap years are different next one is 2020), it will start on the 18th Jan (Ter 10). In Addis the Tabots will leave the churches at around 2pm with a big procession, singing of hymns and chants, drumming, horns being blown and dancing to the chants. Icons are processed and most especially the tabots wrapped in brocaded cloth carried on the heads of the high priests under umbrellas. The procession will makes its way over several hours to the special resting point for the tabots. In north eastern Addis Ababa this place is Jan Meda (the Imperial horse racing fields). At Jan Meda about a dozen tabots spend the night with tents for shelter, and priests and devoted followers. The fields become the centre of the festival for the evening and next day, and for tabots from St Mikael churches the next day too.

Tens of thousands of people will gather at the fields in the evening, hundreds sell refreshments and nicknacks. The roads around are packed solid.  During the processions roads are closed across the city (and the country) and no cars can pass. Houses beside the route the tabots pass are blessed. Young lads lay down carpets on the road in front off the tabot. They rapidly roll them up behind and run them round to the front again, extreme hard work and a devotion that illustrates how deep seated are the beliefs and culture of the Orthodox church even in the capital city.

Where to see it? Head to your nearest Orthodox church, and plan to be there by 2pm. Then you can join in the procession to the fields. Don’t be worried by the crowds, everyone is joyful and will be happy to see you, but do show respect for the priests and the tabots, dress appropriately (women should cover heads and neither men nor women should wear short clothing – if you have traditional white cotton clothes all the better). At the convergence points of the tabots there could be pick pockets at work so be careful of possessions and do not carry unnecessary valuables.

The followers play the church drum “Kabero” and dance the tabot across town

These Timkat processions are through-out Ethiopia where ever there is an Orthodox church. Procession make there way across towns in urban areas and over the fields in the countryside, to a place where in the morning the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan river is commemorated. Water will be blessed and the multitudes will be splashed with the holy water and try to take some home with them in bottles. Following this ceremony the tabots (with the exception of Mikael tabots) will be processed back to their church with similar joy, noise, colour and reverence to that with which they were processed today. These processions bring to mind the biblical accounts of King David’s processing the Ark of Covenant to Jerusalem: “So all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the Lord with shouting, to the sound of the horn, trumpets, and cymbals, and made loud music on harps and lyres.” although Ethiopia’s instruments are drums and horns.

So where should you go to see it (in Ethiopia). In Addis Ababa, head for your nearest place where tabots have congregated, and try to get there quite early (8am). There will be big crowds near the major places such as Jan Meda, and beware of pickpockets! In the countryside similarly head for the tabots resting place early in the morning. Local people will tell you when.

Worshippers jump into the Fasilides baths

In Gondar you will need to seek out a place early in the morning at Fasilidas’ baths. It becomes extremely crowded. Your guide will advise you. The moment of the joyful splashing is the high point. In Gondar youngsters jump into the pool, in Addis the clergy spray the crowd from the water in the pool in the midst of the field. In parishes up and down the country water is splashed from the blessed pool, spring or river in a joyous celebration. Then you can follow the joyful processions back up to the churches.

The 20th January, Ter 12, is one of the big St Mikael days in the year, and also commemorates the Wedding Feast at Canaa when Jesus turned water into wine. The St.Mikael tabots remain in the field on the 19th and on the morning if the 290th a special mass is celebrated and the procession then begins back to the Mikael church. This is the biggest procession of them all as followers of other nearby churches will join in. In many places there is Gooks: racing of decorated horses around the procession. With a lot of dancing through the morning the Tabot is processed back to its church bestowing blessings on all whose house is passed. Most processions will be finished by around 2pm.

Melkam Timkat!

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Online E-Visas for tourists visiting Ethiopia

The new Visa Application web page

The new Visa Application web page

Exciting news for tourists visiting Ethiopia : E-Visas are now available online to nationals from major European countries, and other key countries including USA, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Kenya, Russia, India, China, Ethiopia-visa-2002Japan and Korea.

Go to this page: www.evisa.gov.et for details and to apply for your visa.

This should make the process much easier for tourists planning their trip and smoother on arrival at Bole Airport in Addis Ababa.

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The Battle of Adwa – 121 years since the Ethiopian Army defeated the Italians

Painting depicting the Battle of Adwa

Painting depicting the Battle of Adwa

Today is Adwa day, an Ethiopian holiday that  the Ethiopian victory of the Battle of Adwa in 1896. This was the battle that ended Italian Colonial ambitions in Ethiopia (until Mussolini gave renewed energy to colonial aspirations).  What happened?

The Italian forces: some 18,000 soldiers, faced the Emperor Menelik’s mighty army of

Emperor Menelik II

Emperor Menelik II

around 100,000. The Ethiopian forces were lead by The Emperor Menelik and his wife the Empress Taitu, with Menelik leading Showan forces of some 28,000, and the Empress leading a force of some 3,600 from Simien/Gondar area. However important regional leaders meant the forces represented much of Ethiopia.  These included Ras Mekonnen leading 15,000 from Harar, Negus Tekle Haymanot leading 5,000 from Gojam, Ras Mikael commanded 11,000 Oromo and Wollo forces and a Tigrayan forces of about 12,000 commanded by Ras Alula and Ras Mengesha. There were also forces commanded by Fit’awrari Mangascià Atikim and Ras Oliè. [information taken from McLachlan, Sean (2011). Armies of the Adowa Campaign 1896. Osprey Puiblishing. p. 37].

General Oreste Baratieri

General Oreste Baratieri

The story goes that the Italian commander General Oreste Baratieri, knew that the massive Ethiopian force was living off the land and was running critically low of supplies, but that political pressure from Rome and on the urgent advise of his commanders, in the early hours of the morning of 1st March he ordered his army forward in three divisions to engage the superior Ethiopian forces in battle. Anyone who has been to Adwa will know it is a mountainous area with many steep peaks. The Ethiopians had occupied the high ground and the Italian divisions got confused in the dark and separated. Each division was roundly beaten and by noon the remains of the Italian army was in retreat. 7,000 of the Italian army were killed, with others wounded and taken prisoner. Two brigadiers were killed and a third captured, and many rifles and all their artillery was captured. As such  their fighting force was dessimated. From the Ethiopian side some 4-5,000 were killed, but the fighting force remained in tact.

However Menelik decided not to advance into Eritrea and totally annihilate the remains of the Italian army.  Despite the Ethiopian army being in tact, many solders had been on campaign for a long time, and the country was just recovering from a severe famine. Some believe that Menelik, perhaps rightly, that such a move would drive the Italian public to push for another campaign against Ethiopia. In point of fact the battle lead directly to the signing in October 1896 of the Treaty of Addis Ababa which ended the war between Italy and Ethiopia and in which the Italian’s recognised Ethiopia as an independent country.

The whole war came about because of the preceding treaty of Wuchale signed in 1899. Article 17 of the treaty in the Italian version stated that Ethiopia must conduct its dealign with foreign powers though Italy thus to be in effect a protectorate of Italy, but the Amharic version stated that Ethiopia could use the good offices of Italy in its foreign dealings. Now Menelik had achieved the goal of maintaining Ethiopian independence in an age in which colonial powers over-ran every other country in Africa (only Liberia was independently ruled). This left Ethiopia as the emblem and point of pride for other Africans dreaming of self governance. It is not a coincidence the the AU, formerly the Organisation of African Unity, has its home in Addis Ababa today.

 

 

 

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A country says farewell to an historic figure.

Richard Pankhurst's funeral, Selassie church, Addis Ababa

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.

Richard Pankhurst

Richard Pankhurst

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

 

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Bale Wold – the feastday for the birth of Christ

Bale Wold church in Addis, crowds gather to see the Tabot

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.

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Kulubi Gabriel

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

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.

Enjoy today!

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Tabots, taxis and runners

A Tabot being paraded

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

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.

 

 

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Smoke, prayer and running in Addis Ababa

212_Archangel_Michael

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/)

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.

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Rufael and Pagume

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.

The pages for each month - showing all the holidays and both dates

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

Rain clouds in Addis

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New prices for Tourist Visas for Ethiopia

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.

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