A Meskal Demera (bonfire) built by locals in Addis
Today is the eve of Meskal, and Addis Ababa has bonfires growing on street corners and roundabouts all over the city, with long bundles of sticks, huge bunches of bright yellow Meskal daisies and of bright green grass for sale. The Meskal daisy is the image most associated with the holiday, as it grows wild across meadows and grasslands throughout the highlands of Ethiopia.
Meskal (itself means cross) is a ceremony that commemorates the Finding of the True Cross. Legend has it that in 326 AD, Queen Eleni (Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great) was guided by a dream to light a fire and follow the smoke to find the True Cross. The smoke rose high in the sky
decorations around Addis
and descended at the point where she found the Cross.
Across Ethiopia tonight (and for some tomorrow) bonfires will be lit commemorating this event. There are various traditions which include the prediction as to the harvest by the direction in which the cross in the fire falls. Also people mark their foreheads in the sign of the cross with the ash from the fire.
The festival is also connected with the relic of the cross that was reputedly found at Gishen Amba, a cross shaped mountain in Wollo, where the church of Gishen
A small Meskal bonfire at Kebena, dropped in the Ethiopian flag, with a cross on the top.
Mariam celebrated a major pilgrimage and festival just after Meskal each year.
A good place to join in the Meskal celebrations is with the villages on the Tesfa Treks in Wollo and Tigray. In Adigrat (Tigray) and in the villages around there is a very big Meskal celebration.
Best wishes to all for a peaceful and fun Meskal demera tonight and a joyful holiday tomorrow.
Tesfa Calendar 2009 cover page
Tesfa Calendars are coming off the press now.
Stunning photos from the community treks.
Ethiopia dates and holidays set on a western calendar
Fasts and festivals shown clearly. A must have to anyone living in Ethiopia or planning a visit.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your copy.
Wall hanging calendars 200 birr each, note book version 250 birr –
All proceeds taken as donation for the communities
“My 19 year old son and I did a three day trek west of Lalibela and absolutely loved it. The walking wasn’t too challenging which was a good thing as we are not used to the altitude. The scenary is stunning, the communities we lodged with welcoming, the food was varied and always delicious. We were really well cared for and deeply touched to be alowed to visit peoples homes, to see how they live, cook and care for their animals. I particularly loved the watching the chickens climb up to roost on a purpose built mud shelf above the cooking area! We were delighted to find a family of Gelada baboons digging for breakfast beside us as we set off one morning. I would recommend this tour to anyone wanting to see the pastural face of Africa and come up close to its wonderfully rich wild life. Thank you Tesfa.” 27 May 2015
Thanks Rachel – we are thrilled you both had such a great trip. Come after the rainy season and it will look less pastoral and more agricultural as you will see crops everywhere.
Photo taken inside a tukul near Mequat Mariam in Meket
Male Gelada baboons running by the escarpment in Meket
We organise Tesfa treks in Tigray, the most northerly district of Ethiopia. The treks take your through the farmland of local communities and it is these communities that will host you.
And because the area is drier and predominantly sandstone we can keep it open even when it is raining in Addis.
You can book a trek there all year round. Spend a few days (min 2 nights – and we can arrange longer treks too) to see the wonderful rock churches with the communities who live there, see the majestic views and experience the hospitality of these hard working farmers.
The festival is called Sebar-atsemu Giyorgis – and commemorates the day that St George’s bones were ground into dust. I decided to visit one of the Tesfa communities in Meket whose parish is St.George and where it is the big annual festival. So we went to Aina Amba Giyorgis on 26th January, the eve of the festival.
Aina Amba is in a stunning location, and the community cooked us a lovely dinner on the night before.
Next morning the crowds began to gather, and soon after 9am the Tabot was paraded out of the church carried by priests in colourful robes under brocade umbrellas. The crowd emerged from the wooded compound before emerging out onto the dry dusty grazing land below the church and with the tabot and priests in their midst accompanied it to its camp in a colourful tent nearby.
This was the signal for groups to start dancing and singing to the beat of the marvellous kabero drums. The dancing is an aggressive dance, with shoulders seemingly dislocated from the body jerking up and down to the drum’s beat.
After some hours the Tabot emerged from its tent and was again paraded as it slowly made its way up to the church, but this time with horses galloping around the procession. Now everyone was there, old men carrying older muskets, younger people from the nearby town, important people with colourful umbrellas, bit most in the traditional white cotton shawls.
At a given point the procession stopped and a series of wild horse races took place to honour the tabot. This is referred to as gooks, although there is no spear throwing as further south. The horses are wonderfully decorated with bright pompoms and colourful saddle cloths and the riders, three or four at a time, gallop up the fields, often without holding on.
Three new sites are opening in the mountains around Adigrat – in the Agame area of Tigray. The first (now operational – although we need a weeks notice) is called Mugulat – just south of the Adwa-Adigrat road, the second Chehat will be another month or so getting organised, and the third – Menebeyti should be a couple of weeks.
The views are staggering and the walk between them is lovely. Pictures coming soon! There are very old rock paintings need Menebeyti (also known as Amba Fekada) and some pre Axumite ruins said to date back to the Queen of Sheba.
Tesfa Tours, in a meeting with representative for all the Meket communities, the local management of TESFA CbT, representatives from the Guides, and the head of Meket Woreda, agreed new prices for the new season to start from 01 August 2011. These prices take into account the devaluations in the birr over the last 12 months and the increase in costs in Ethiopia.
The basic price will now be 800 birr + VAT per night, with the communities still keeping the same percentages: –
Hosting Community – 380 birr (47.5%)
Community providing Lunch – 55 birr (6.9%)
Guiding Enterprise – 205 birr (25.6%)
Marketing & booking contribution – 160 birr (20%)
These new prices will be likely adopted by all TESFA Communities.
Our intention is to keep the prices at around $45USD per night. If there is any major devaluation we may need to change the prices before the end of the 2011/12 season.
Tesfa are opening new community sites in Tigray and Wollo near Lalibela. (May 2011)
In Tigray, near Adigrat, three new sites are opening that will allow guest to trek north from the existing sites to a place called Amba Fekada. At Amba Fekada there are the ruins of an old temple that goes back to Axumite or even pre-Axumite times. There is also a rock panting – that although small and simple is interesting in that it shows oxen ploughing a field.
These oxen have no humps – which dates the painting to the early Axumite period.
In Wollo, on mount Abuna Yoseph, Frankfurt Zoological Society have almost finished a mountain hut that will open up this Afro alpine mountain – a refuge for Ethiopian Wolves – to trekkers of more modest fitness. Previously you had to be tough to do a 40km + trek in one day. Now this trek will be divided in two.
Also in Wollo, in Gidan Woreda, there is a new community keen to start serving guests at a beautiful remote site called Kurtain Washa.
To all of you who have seen beautifully located sites – be ready to be knocked sideways. This place is magical, but it is set in high and rugged landscape.