Category Archives: community

Melkam Timkat … Timkat explained.

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

The community at Mequat Mariam parade the Tabot out at TImkat

So tonight 18th January, is the eve of Timkat. Processions made 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.

Why is Timkat called “Epiphany”, and hey, what is Epiphany? Well it 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

Priests at Mequat Mariam head to the water blessing

Priests at Mequat Mariam head to the water blessing

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 Cana, 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.

So where should you go to see it. 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

Worshippers jump into the Fasilides baths

Worshippers jump into the Fasilides baths

will tell you when.

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 processions.

Melkam Timkat!

 

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What’s happening in Ethiopia now?

Community celebrate at Festival in Meket

Community celebrate at Festival in Meket

Of course people planning to visit Ethiopia are asking us what is happening now in Ethiopia. There were a spate of news articles as a result of the declaration of the State of Emergency a few weeks back, but as so often with news around the world, interest dries up as fast as it comes and now there is ‘no story’ to report.

This is because there is no more violence, no roads blocked, no strikes, in fact no reason not to come and visit Ethiopia.

Tesfa Tours Landcruiser by salt canyons in Danakil Depression

Tesfa Tours Landcruiser by salt canyons in Danakil Depression

Tesfa Tours has two minibuses with clients coming back from a trip to the north. They drove up to Dessie and Lalibela via a Tesfa trek in Meket.  They then continued from Lalibela to Mekele, visited the Danakil and some places in Tigray before returning.

On 1st November we have 3 landcruisers picking up clients in Gondar and taking them to the Simiens, and on to Tigray. After visits in Axum and Gheralta they will drive back south the Lalibela, spend a few days on a Tesfa trek in Meket, and visit Bahir Dar, before flying to Addis.

The Mountain Nyala only found in Bale Mountains

Mountain Nyala, Bale, Ethiopia

Another group of tourists have just returned from a trek in the Bale Mountains – this was the texted feedback:-

“Got there and back safely. Nyala,  warthog, wolf , golden eagle, fox they were all there. Rain, sunshine, hail, cold, and much more rain and cold. Absolutely no problems. Great trip. Got the blisters to prove it. Thanx for all your help and advice mate. Next stop Siemens with Tesfa.”

Other clients from UK just finished a trek in Meket and a visit to Lalibela and said on Facebook: “Holiday of a lifetime, highly recommended. Don’t be put off by The Foreign & Commonwealth Office.” (see this quote and their photos on Tesfa Tours’ Facebook page).

Villages below the Meket Escarpment

Villages below the Meket Escarpment

We agree – don’t be put off Ethiopia by the media coverage and travel advisories. Tourism earns much needed money for Ethiopia, money that is driven directly to small businesses and local employees, and in the case of the Tesfa community treks, a big chunk goes straight into the heart of the rural countryside, with villagers earning money by hosting their guests. That could be you.

In the words of one of the guests of the Meket community this month: “Truly the most exhilarating and humbling experience. Inspirational people, fabulous hospitality,stunning views. Magical memories! Thank you for this amazing opportunity.”

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Ethiopian Update – should we visit Ethiopia at this time

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Me with the community at Mequat Mariam guesthouse

Many of our clients are asking if they should visit Ethiopia at this time, and what is happening in the country?

Some facts:

The Government of Ethiopia declared a State of Emergency on 8th October as a response to a surge in violence across certain parts of the Oromo region. The violence itself was a response to the deaths of a large number  of people at a large traditional Oromo festival in Bishoftu (Debre Zeit), an Oromo town some 40km south east of Addis Ababa, in which people were killed in a stampede following attempts by security forces to stop political demonstrations.

What does the State of Emergency mean?  It is not Martial Law, there are not tanks on the streets, and life looks much as it did before. The government has taken increased powers to control the unrest and restore law and order. They have now powers to stop and search, check houses and so on. This has not affected tourists, and can only increase security.

The internet is working, but social media is not!

Some Social Media is currently blocked in Ethiopia. Facebook, You Tube and Whats Ap for example are not working. [Please note we are not using the Tesfa Tours Facebook site – contact us by email].

The 3G internet service on mobile devises is also closed thereby stopping access to the internet by phones where there is no wifi. However places with internet wires (broad band) coming in still get a reasonable service, and many hotels have some wifi working. Just don’t rely on it, in fact your trip to Ethiopia could be an internet ‘Detox’ trip.

Events in the north of Ethiopia in August and September:

In late August trouble flared up in Gondar, Bahir Dar and towns around that area (such as Debre Markos and Debark) there were protests, road blocks and attacks on properties.  Within a week this was ended and roads re-opened.   Since early September the only protests have been ‘stay at home’ strikes whereby businesses closed and transport stopped. This only happened in Bahir Dar and Gondar, and seems to have fizzled out now.

Where is safe to visit?

Giyorgis Church in Lalibela,

Giyorgis Church in Lalibela,

Most of the north of Ethiopia is now safe. However the eastern side of Amhara Region – including Lalibela stayed peaceful and quiet throughout this time. Tourists are now visiting Bahir Dar and Gondar, and trekking in the Simiens without any problems. There has been no reason for tourists to stay away from Lalibela at all, Tigray is also calm and peaceful, with no violence. So Axum and the Gheralta area can be visited. The Tesfa community areas of North Wollo (around Lalibela) and E.Tigray (around Adigrat ) are also perfectly safe.

In the south the events in Oromiya were worrying and there is a need to be careful on any road trips across the region, in case there is any flare up of the violence. The Bale Mountain National Park, is itself safe to visit however it would be advisable to wait for some weeks to see if things will remain peaceful before embarking on road trips south from Addis.

The Omo Valley has been untouched along with Arba Minch, so trips there are also fine. There were disturbances in Konso (just south of Arba Minch) but it is peaceful again there.

Harar and Dire Dawa have been peaceful, although there were some disturbances on the road between, but that is now calm.

Danakil depression has been untouched by recent event, and tourists continue to visit daily. It is an area to which the British and other governments advise against travel, but it is as safe today as it was a year ago.

Will my insurance be valid if I visit?

Check your insurance policy to be sure. Most British insurance companies defer to the British FCO travel advise, and currently the whole of Amhara region and chunks of Oromiya carry the advise not to travel there unless essential.  However we are optimistic that the blanket advise for Amhara will be revised and become more specific in the coming weeks.

Is it right to visit Ethiopia at this time?

Anne and her friends with a community in Tigray

Anne and her friends with a community in Tigray

Many people benefit from your visit to Ethiopia. And these people need their income. In places like Lalibela thousands of local people earn their salary or get an income linked to tourism. And these people need their jobs. In the mountains where the Tesfa communities provide stunning walking opportunities the farmers need the additional income that your visit brings. Lodges across the country employ local staff and buy where they can local produce. If these places do not get enough tourists visiting this year it is ordinary people’s lives that will suffer. When you visit you will be greeted by happy welcoming faces. All of our guides, drives and the communities that host you really want you to come!

Let Tesfa Tours help design a holiday that will positively impact on local people and put money into their hands, while giving you a holiday you will treasure.

 

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Diary version of calendar out now

The 2009 Tesfa diary/ note book calendar.

The 2009 Tesfa diary/ note book calendar.

The Tesfa Calendar is now available in diary version, sized at 20x14cm  it will fit nicely in your bag. Never be without the details of the Ethiopian date, up coming saints days & fasts, and Ethiopian holidays. Note your appointments on the month, and use the note sheet for each month to add more details. Illustrated with the same wonderful photos as the traditional hanging version.

Although smaller than the traditional wall hanging version there are more pages. So the donation we are asking from clients will be the same: 200ETB.  Proceeds go to support the communities involved in the Tesfa Community Tourism.

For more information email calendars@tesfatours.com

 

 

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Tesfa Calendars now in!

New Calendars arrive in the office

New Calendars arrive in the office

The wall hanging version of the new Tesfa Calendars are now in.

I will be dropping around to the various supporters who sell them on our behalf – 200 birr each.

We will have fabulous diary/ notebook version too available in a few days as well as a desk top version.

Contact us on calendars@tesfatours.com for more info or to place and order…

 

September page of 2016 Calendar

September page of 2016 Calendar

This calendar show cases the community treks in Wollo and Tigray, guesthouses owned and built by local villagers, with stunning walks between. The calendars show the Ethiopian calendar dates, saints days, and holidays set into the western calendar. A must have for people living in Ethiopia or planning a visit.

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Spend a few days walking with the Tesfa villagers in Wollo or Tigray.

Tigray offers great walking with wonderful views

Tigray offers great walking with wonderful views

What are your plans for the school break at the end of May? How about a few days walking as a guest of the communities in Wollo or Tigray.

The rains are far less as you travel north and in Tigray the soil is sandy so there is no mud. Most rain happens in the evening if at all. But the little that has fallen has greened up the landscape a bit. In Tigray it is also the start of the Prickly Pear season.

 

Tehlo ceremony in Tigray

Tehlo ceremony in Tigray, a common celebration meal at the priest parties

So why not come along and let the villagers show you how life is in the countryside and blow the Addis cobwebs out of the system. You will return with batteries fully recharged!

A 3 night walking holiday for a family of 4 people (2 adults, 1 teenager  and 1 child under 12) will cost $635.00 USD including meal, guide and local drinks.

Transport in Tigray in a good condition 4WD from airport (Axum or Mekele) to trek and back to airport will cost $225 USD. On the way in and out why not take in a rock church- one of the

Kids enjoy riding (& feeding) horses on the trek

Kids enjoy riding (& feeding) horses on the trek

many in Tigray.

In Wollo transport from and back to Lalibela airport or town will cost up to $150USD depending on the trekking route (using a minibus).

While up in Lalibela or Tigray why not add a day to see the sites. We can make arrangements for hotels, lodges and guides.

 

Mequat Mariam Scones for breakfast

Mequat Mariam Scones for breakfast

 

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Tesfa Tours can take payment by credit card

visa and mastercardTo facilitate easier payment we now take major credit cards in payment for our holidays. If you bring the credit card to our office we have a terminal and you will be asked to enter your PIN number. If we take your details remotely we need an email or text authorising this along with a photocopy of your passport and front and back of the credit card.

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Tesfa’s new calendar coming of the printing press

Beautfiul girl on cover of Tesfa Calendar, Photo by Tash McCarroll

The Cover of Tesfa Calendar, Photo by Tash McCarroll

The new calendar which starts on 1st September 2015 and runs till August 2016, is just being finalised. Copies should be available from Monday 17th August.For those that have not seen this before, it combines the western and Ethiopian calendars, showing both sets of dates and the main saints days, fasts and festivals.

It is a must have for foreigners living in Ethiopia and a vital tools for anyone planning trips, reconciling documents with Ethiopian dates on, understanding the saints days etc.

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

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

It is also illustrated with beautiful photographs from the Tesfa community treks in Wollo and Tigray. Many of the photos of Tigray this year are taken by Tash McCarroll.

We are asking for 200 birr per Calendar, proceeds will go to support the community tourism and the communities themselves. We  can post them abroad and will need to charge for the postage.

If you would like a calendar please email us on calendars@tesfatours.com.

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Stunning photos and wonderful blog – Trek in Tigray

Tash McCarroll photo - Cloud gathering around the mountains near Erar

Tash McCarroll photo – Cloud gathering around the mountains near Erar

A few friends and I spent a four day weekend at the end of May trekking in Tigray organised by Tesfa Tours. It was a few days that felt like weeks away from the bustle of Addis and work and we were treated to hiking in some of the most stunning landscape I have ever seen.” Tash McCarroll. Read this account of a trek in Tigray, illustrated with some of the most fabulous photos. (You will see some in the up coming Tesfa Calendar)

Curtesy of Tash McCarroll, portrait of a girl in Shimbrety.

Curtesy of Tash McCarroll, portrait of a girl in Shimbrety.

Curtesy of Tash McCarroll, Low cloud around Erar, on a Tesfa Trek

Curtesy of Tash McCarroll, Low cloud around Erar, on a Tesfa Trek

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Escape the rain: take a break in Tigray – with local flights $645 p/person

Rainbow comes out over the mountains in Tigray

Rainbow comes out over the mountains in Tigray

The Kremt rains (as the season is called) officially begins on Senay 26 ( 3rd July) according to the old church calendar and runs till Meskerem 25 (this year that will be 6th October). For those new to Addis it does not rain all day every day, but by mid August it will begin to feel like it has! For those hankering for a bit of sun, it does not rain all over the country, and certainly other parts of Ethiopia are not as wet as Addis. The Rift valley gets more frequent showers and some sweeping rain, but when the sun comes out its a good deal warmer, but up north in Tigray it stays bright.  Most mornings dawn with a blue sky and cloud does not roll in till later on in the afternoon. With the sandy soil keeping the paths more dry, we keep the community treks open all through the Kremt.

Prickly Pear - the Beles fruit, from the Cactus

Prickly Pear – the Beles fruit, from the Cactus

So why not make a long weekend trip and come on up to Tigray? The Prickly Pears (Cactus fruit called ‘Beles’) ripen and can be eaten along the way, the mountains green up and it is very beautiful. If you would like to end with a night at Gheralta Lodge, there are special low season prices to make it more attractive.

A 3 night trip, with 2 nights at the community guest houses and one night at Gheralta Lodge will cost $645 per person including local flights (with Ethiopian ID or resident card), and 4 WD transport. Excludes church entry. For full details see  Journey in the mountains of Tigray

 

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