Category Archives: ethiopia

The great Lenten fast draws to a close and Easter approaches

Fasika in Lalibela

Enkwanaderasachu

Best wishes to everyone celebrating Easter on either the 1st or the 8th of April. Easter in Ethiopia, known as Fasika is celebrated according to the Orthodox or Eastern church calendar this year on 8th April. Some years it falls on the same day as in the western church, some years it can be far apart, but this year it is one week after western Easter.

Fasika is a Ge’ez (the ancient liturgical language of Ethiopia) word and also the word in Amharinya and Tigrinya for Easter. Easter is also sometimes called Tensae a Ge’ez word meaning to rise). It is one

Sheep are bought into Addis for sale for holidays

of the most important holidays in Ethiopia, marking the end of a long 55 day Lenten fast. On Easter Sunday chickens, sheep, goats and cattle are dispatched for the pot as the fasting comes to an end in no uncertain terms. Sunday sees piles of sheep skins on street corners, to be picked up by small dealers in trucks. In the days leading up to Easter flocks of sheep and goats as well as herds of oxen are driven by herders into the city, chickens are driven in trucks and pick ups. They are sold at impromptu markets all over the city to be slaughtered in back yards. Prices of livestock more than double for Easter. Sheep come to the capital with drovers bringing them across countryside from several hundred miles away, from Shoa and even as far as Wollo.

Local shepherd boys in Wollo

After Easter there is no fasting not even on Wednesdays and Fridays until after Pentecost on 27th May (Parakilitos). In the countryside the end of the fasting is celebrated in different ways. In Tigray priests are feted with parties held by different households from their parish. In Wollo I have seen the girls making swings from rope to hang from trees and sing songs while swinging, while the boys have javelin contests. Its also a second wedding season as people like to get married before the rainy season and after the fasting. These are enjoyable times in the countryside, and if you have the chance to spend a week or so up in the countryside on a Tesfa Trek in Wollo, Tigray or the Simiens you will be a very welcome guest and

Hosanna palm rings

participant at the celebrations. Its still not too late to book your trek in early April!

The lead up to Fasika starts now with Palm Sunday or Hosanna this Sunday (1 week before Easter, 1st April this year).  It is a very special day in the Orthodox church commemorating Jesus’s march into Jerusalem on a donkey with Palm fonds laid before him. It is marked with palms (worn by many worshippers on hands or head), processions and special services in the church.

Following Hosanna is the last week of the Great Lenten fast or Hudadi.  This final week of Hudadi is commonly known as Holy Week, or the “Week of Pains” or in Ethiopia Himamat and it is the strictest part of Lent. During Himamat no absolution is given, and during this week the fast becomes yet more rigorous. For some strict worshippers, having broken the fast after mass on Thursday they will not eat any food nor drink even a drop of water until Easter morning. So they totally abstain for all of Good Friday (or Sekelet) and Saturday, breaking this fast after the church service that goes through the night on Saturday, finishing at around 3am on Sunday morning. These three days are known as “Qanona”. The priests neither eat nor drink but remain in the churches singing and praying incessantly.

As far as I am aware no other major religion has such penitential fasting. For the strict observers of the fast, the 55 days of Lent are very tough on the body. Fasting in Ethiopia not only means a vegan diet but also means many hours of no food or drink. Each fasting day the observer will not eat of drink anything from the time they wake up until after the mass in the middle of the day is finished in church for many that means 3-4pm. Two simple meals may then follow, a late ‘lunch’ or more properly ‘break-fast’, and a light supper in the evening. What is staggering is that there is no drinking – not water, not coffee, nothing – during those fasting hours.

For vegetarians the end of Lent means no fasting food, even on Wednesdays and Fridays – so make the most of the last week of fasting.

 

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Adwa Day in Ethiopia

Painting depicting the Battle of Adwa

Crowds were seen at Adwa Didi (Adwa Bridge) in Addis Ababa today commemorating the Ethiopian victory battle of Adwa. Many were dressed up in costumes from that era, or as battle heros . Today is the 122nd anniversary of the celebrated victory by the mountains 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 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 force 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].

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 and he wanted to wait and let them weaken but political pressure from Rome was mounting for him to attack. On the 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. Menelik believed, perhaps rightly, that such moving on the remains of the Italian army and driving them out would energise 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 had come 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. With his resounding victory 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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Melkam Gena – Happy Christmas

Priest holding traditional taper

The churches are all celebrating mass this morning across Ethiopia and the Orthodox world. It is Christmas morning and the fast that started 42 days before in late November is now over. Today is a feast day and all kinds of meat will be prepared for the celebrations.

Lalibela is the place to celebrate Gena, with thousands of pilgrims walking into the holy town from great distances to participate in the Christmas morning celebrations above Bete Mariam church. Many hundreds of tourists will be there to witness this spectacle.

Tesfa Tours wishes all who are celebrating today and very happy Christmas.

Gena ceremony in Lalibela

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Treks that change lives!

Tesfa Community Treks providing income to local villagers, and open the eyes of the guests.

Enaf Tesfa village guesthouse in Tigray

An increasing number of discerning tourists are looking to the Tesfa Community Treks where villagers host the tourists and benefits flow directly to the local hosts. For while the Simien Mountains and Bale Mountains have been drawing tourists for decades, keen to trek in these Afro Alpine mountains with their unique wildlife the Tesfa treks also have wildlife and stunning views but at the same time tourists are giving a big something back, and experiencing the real Ethiopia of the highland farmers.

Since 2003 Tesfa treks have been hosting tourists in the

Mequat Mariam Scones for breakfast

mountains of North Wollo around Lalibela. Initially in Meket Woreda and more recently Gidan and Lasta woredas local villages have built 11 guesthouses organised as cooperatives to host small groups of walkers along the basalt escarpments that surround Lalibela. Included in this network of guesthouse are several on Mount Abuna Yoseph, a protected area around the highest peak in Ethiopia outside of the Simien and Bale Mountains at 4,288m.  The higher reaches of Abuna Yoseph are home to a pack of Ethiopian wolves, as well as troops of Gelada, leopards and many raptors.

Mequat Mariam guesthouse, N.Wollo

Since 2012 tourists have also been walking on the Tesfa treks in the Agame mountains around Adigrat in E.Tigray. There is a network of 7 village guesthouses with stunning walks between and a number of magnificent rock hewn churches that are rarely visited by tourists (other than those staying in the guesthouses). Again there are Geladas and amazing birds to see but as with the treks in Wollo, it is the host communities and the age-old farming life of the highlands that have the biggest impact on the visitors. The hospitality is humbling and simplicity of life prompts something to all of us coming from our cluttered and hectic lives.

Breakfast @Taga Mariam, Simiens

Now Tesfa is opening up new areas for community treks, with 3 simple village guesthouses to the south of the Simien National Park (Funded by African Wildlife Foundation) and 4 village guesthouses in North Shoa, in and around Wof Washa forest, just beyond Ankober. As with the village guesthouses in Wollo and Tigray, each guesthouse is owned and run by a community from the local village organised into a cooperative.

In each case 55% of the payment (around $34USD) goes to pay the village community and lunch (mostly provided by the village or another nearby provider), 25% goes towards local

The forest at Wof Washa, N.Shoa

guides and coordinators, and only 20% (+VAT) is kept by Tesfa Tours who provide the marketing and booking service. Each community provides not just accommodation, but food, hot drinks, and a pack animal. The cost per night also includes a guide, so all that remains is transport in and out and bottled drinks (sold by the community ) – beers, water, soft drinks and maybe some wine or gin and tonic!  Facilities include beds, with sheets and blankets, a simple sit down toilet, a dining room, and great views!

For more information contact info@tesfatours.com or pop by our Addis office.  We will also add more information on our

The view from Janamora Woreda to Ras Dashen

website in the near future.

Get out into the fresh air of the mountains and experience the Real Ethiopia!

 

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Beautiful and unique Ethiopian Calendar

Tesfa Calendars

The Tesfa Calendar is the calendar you need on your wall or desk.

Not only does it have stunning photos that will inspire you to make trips to the mountains,

but it shows the dates in the Ethiopian Calendar in a western grid (with western dates shown)

Key saints days, feast days, fasts, national holidays and other interesting information is shown.

They come in 3 formats – Wall hanging (52 x 29cm when hanging), Desk Top (20 x 18 cm ) and Agenda (20 x 14 cm closed)

 

These calendars are available from many locations in Addis:

Desk top calendar

  • Sandford School (Jim or Richard)
  • ICS (Jennifer)
  • German School (Sarah)
  • EU main offices (Lucas)
  • British Embassy (CLO – Dadly)
  • PACT – (Cassandra)

and off course Tesfa Tours office at Kebena.

We ask a 200 birr donation for each calendar – proceeds go to support the community tourism.

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Crosses, Thanksgiving and Fasts

Cross shaped Amba at Gishen Mariam

In Ethiopia, October kicks off with big celebrations. This Sunday (1st October) is Meskerem 21, is one of the biggest Mariam days in the year, commonly called Gishen Mariam after a church in Wollo, not far from Dessie on a cross shaped Amba properly called Gishen Debre Kerbe which holds its annual saint’s day on this date.

There are reportedly documents at Gishen that state that Emperor Zara Yaqob (who reigned in the mid 15th century), bought a piece of the “True Cross’ on which Jesus was crucified and buried it at Gishen Debre Kerbe under the church of Egyziabher Ab (Literally God the Father). There are in fact four churches on Gishen Debre Kerbe: Egyziabher Ab, Gishen Mariam, Kidus Gabriel and Kidus Mikael (Kidus is Saint). Gishen Mariam is one of the biggest pilgrimages in Ethiopia with thousands of pilgrims making their way up the narrow mountain paths to celebrate this day at the end of the rainy season.

Celebrations in 1903 at Lake Hora

Sunday 1st of October is also the culmination of the Oromo festival of Ireeycha Birra, a thanksgiving ceremony most famously celebrated beside Lake Arsadi outside of Bishoftu some 50 km south east from Addis Ababa. This day is actually the climax and most important day of several weeks of celebration. Thousands of Oromo people descend on the town and lake from across the region.

The celebration marks the end of the rainy season and the Oromo people give thanks to God for his bounty and pray for peace and reconciliation among humans and with God. The festival is led by the elders or wise men known as haayyuu who lead the blessings by the lake and make speeches. Tragically last year there was a large loss of life at this festival.

Coptic Icon depicting Holy Family fleeing to Egypt

For those new to Ethiopia you may not be aware that the year is punctuated by fasts of varying length and importance. Each Wednesday and Friday is a fasting day, except for a month or so following Easter when people will have been fasting for 55 days in the run up to Easter. A fast implies that people eat one meal a day in the afternoon or early evening and follow a strictly vegan diet (although many do still each fish which used to be accepted but not so much these days).

On 6th October the Tsige Tsom (fast) starts and runs for 40 days through to 15th November Kusquam Mariam day and it marks the exile of the Holy Family when they fled their land and took refuge in Egypt to be away from King Herod and his slaughter of infants. It ends on the day that commemorates Kusquam, a village in upper Egypt where the holy family were said to have lived during their exile in Egypt. This fast is however considered optional and only clergy are required to fast, but never the less most establishments will serve vegan options throughout this fast.

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Client looking to join others on Ethiopia Tour in early September

We have a request from a single client looking to join a group on the first half of September. The client is interested in all areas of Ethiopia. Contact betty@tesfatours.com if you would be interested to join a tour at that time. It should probably include some trekking in the mountains in Tigray with local communities, as well as historical places across the country.

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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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Internet shut down in Ethiopia

Internet shutdownSince Tuesday afternoon 30 May – Internet connection has been shut down across Ethiopia.

We are really sorry for the inconvenience to anyone trying to contact us.  It is still not fully back on but we are getting some access however we may face additional problems 5-7 June. It is linked to GoE efforts to stop the sharing of exam papers during the national examinations taking place at this time.

 

If you need to contphoneact us urgently please use our mobile number –

office duty mobile +251 92 349 0495

Or call our land lines +251- 11 124 5178 / 11 126 0303 / 11 126 0301

 

for more please read

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/31/ethiopia-turns-off-internet-students-sit-exams

 

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Join a Tesfa Community trek 2nd part of May

photo of Ras Dashen while on a Tesfa Trek in Simiens, curtesy of Kevin Rushby

photo of Ras Dashen while on a Tesfa Trek in Simiens, curtesy of Kevin Rushby

We have one male American client flying into Ethiopia in mid May who would like to do a trek at the new Simien village guesthouses (but would also be happy to trek on other routes). He is looking for someone to team up with.

If you would also like to do some trekking in stunning scenery please contact us to arrange your trip.

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