Category Archives: Ethiopian

Ethiopia Patriots Day – 5th May

Tigray offers great walking with wonderful views

Tigray offers great walking with wonderful views

In the first week of May there are two holidays: Monday 1st May and Friday 5th May. These are excellent opportunities to get out and se some of the stunning countryside and historical sights of Ethiopia. Why not book a Tesfa trek, a perfect way to see the scenery, culture and some of the wildlife that abounds in Ethiopia.

So what about these holidays? 1st May is international – May Day or Labour Day, but May 5th – Patriots Day is one of several holidays in Ethiopia

Haile Selassie's return to Addis with Col. Wingate

Haile Selassie’s return to Addis with Col. Wingate

that commemorate important historic events in Ethiopia. Patriots Day – is celebrated on Miaza 27 or 5th May, celebrates Haile Selassie’s triumphal return to Addis Ababa, ending the five year occupation of the city by Italian forces in World War II. In particular it honours the Ethiopian patriots (Arbegnoch) who fought for the liberation of their country alongside British (troops from Africa) and other Allied Forces from the Commonwealth countries, France and Belgium).

This year, 76 years after this historic occasion, there are few surviving Patriots, but those that are still able will lay a wreath at Arat Kilo in the centre of Addis Ababa.

Its important to remember the events that led to the liberation of Ethiopia and that pushed the Patriots to take

Ethiopian Arbegnoch -Patriot Troops

Ethiopian Arbegnoch -Patriot Troops

up arms in defence of their country. At the start of the 20th century Ethiopia was the only country in Africa to retain its sovereignty and remain uncolonised by European powers. The victory at the Battle of Adwa (1896) had ended Italian attempts to colonise the county.

However with the rise to power of Benito Mussolini and his fascist creed, Italy again developed ambitions of extending its East African colony from Eritrea into Ethiopia. Despite Ethiopia’s membership of the League of Nations, which should have meant that

Haile Selassie speaks at the League of Nations

Haile Selassie speaks at the League of Nations

other members came to its aid if invaded, Italy attacked Ethiopia on 3rd October 1935.

Protests were lodged at the League of Nations to little effect. In June 1936 Haile Selassie made a formal, eloquent and impassioned appeal to the League of Nations, in which he referenced the chemical attacks launched on his people from Italian aircraft, and requested the assistance due Ethiopia. There was a toothless response from members who were afraid to anger a belligerent Italian state. But the Emperor

Haile Selassie "Man of the Year"

Haile Selassie “Man of the Year”

became a symbol for those opposing the rise of fascism around the world. Time Magazine even named him ‘Man of the Year’.

Nevertheless not much changed, only six countries refused to recognise Italy’s occupation: China, New Zealand, the USSR, the Spanish Republic (anti-Franco), Mexico and the USA. The  League agreed to partial and ineffective sanctions that did little to hamper Italian aggression and there was little effective support for the Ethiopian attempts to counter the Italian occupation until Italy entered the Second World War on the side of Germany in June 1940. Although British attempts to assist the Ethiopian resistance began in 1939/40 with Col. Daniel Sandford’s efforts to link up the resistance. With Italy’s declaration of war, Sandford’s mission swung into action providing assistance and support for the Arbegnoch, until Col.

Haile Selassie with Brig. Sandford & Col. Wingate

Haile Selassie with Brig. Sandford & Col. Wingate

Orde Wingate took over command. On 18th January 1941 Haile Selassie crossed into Ethiopia from Sudan, and with a force of Ethiopian Patriots joined the ‘Gideon Force’ led by Wingate which consisted of about 800 Sudanese troops, and 800 soldiers led by some fifty officers and twenty British NCOs.

The ensuing fighting, much of it in Gojam against superior Italian numbers saw the Italians pull out of Debre Marcos and the Gideon force with the Ethiopian Patriots take Addis Ababa.

Haile Selassie’s speech on returning to Addis Ababa was one of reconciliation that shares something of Nelson Mandela, though in a very different era:

Today is the day on which we defeated our enemy. Therefore, when we say let us rejoice with our hearts, let not our rejoicing be in any other way but in the spirit of Christ. Do not return evil for evil. Do not indulge in the atrocities which the enemy has been practicing in his usual way, even to the last.

Take care not to spoil the good name of Ethiopia by acts which are worthy of the enemy. We shall see that our enemies are disarmed and sent out the same way they came. As Saint George who killed the dragon is the Patron Saint of our army as well as of our allies, let us unite with our allies in everlasting friendship and amity in order to be able to stand against the godless and cruel dragon which has newly risen and which is oppressing mankind.”

These words of the Emperor which show a pride in what is Ethiopian and a call for humility, dignity and nobility despite the atrocities of others, ring true in a world besmirched by terrorism and atrocities. It is a standard that all should aspire too.

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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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Christmas is coming .. in Ethiopia

Melkam Gena / Happy Christmas

Sheep are bought into Addis for sale for holidays

Sheep are bought into Addis for sale for holidays

Christmas is coming and sheep is for the pot.
Onions need cutting and enjara pan is hot.
If you can’t afford a sheep a chicken will do.
If you can’t afford a chicken then God bless you.

This adaptation tells a few home truths about festivals in Ethiopia such as Gena:
mountains of onions are peeled, chopped fine and put in the pot. Enjara bread (pancakes) is baked on the eve of Gena with a big pile ready for the feast. People using electricity in the cities are nervous of power cuts or low power meaning the pan does not

Chickens for sale on street corners

Chickens for sale on street corners

get hot enough. And after the long fast that precedes Gena, everyone wants to eat meat. Best is to buy a sheep, but prices of sheep ahead of festivals has soared in recent years. A small sheep would not cost over $100 USD, for many that is a months salary or more. But a Doro wot- spicy chicken stew – is a favourite for the holiday. Yet even a chicken would cost around $10-15USD. So there are many families who will not be able to afford a chicken this holiday.

In most of Europe and the West, Christmas is the big family day, with presents, special foods, traditions to be followed. For many they will go to church and remember that it is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, but for many more it has become a feast of consumerism and consumption.

In the Ethiopian Orthodox church, the traditional church in Ethiopia and the one that forms the framework of much of the culture of the country, there are several very important festivals throughout the year: Easter, Christmas, Timkat (the celebration of the baptism of Christ) and Meskal being the most important. Add to this new Year, which falls on 11th September in most years, and is very important to many although it is less of a religious day, and you can see that there are a good number of festivals through the year.

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

Bale Wold church in Addis, crowds gather to see the Tabot on Gena/ Christmas day.

Feasting is part of all these holidays. It is also family time, with people returning to their mother’s home to enjoy real home cooking. Church is often attended during the night on the eve of the holiday, although with days like Timkat the church procession is a big part of the day’s events.

So where should you go to see Gena?  If you attend any Orthodox church the night before you will witness the service and the mass. In Addis the church of Bale Wold by Selassie celebrates

Gena ceremony in Lalibela

Gena ceremony in Lalibela, the most famous place to spend Christmas in Ethiopia.

Christmas on Christmas morning.  If you have Ethiopian friends they will undoubtably invite you round to partake in the feast. Do bring round gifts of food: coffee, biscuits, fruit, cake, bottle of wine and the like are all acceptable presents.

Gena is most famous in Lalibela. But if you have not booked it you are too late. Accommodation fills up, (so there will be no room at the inn) and flights become full.  Hotels and guides inflate their usual fees, so in addition it does become expensive.

 

 

 

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Melcam Meskal

A Meskal Demera (bonfire) built by locals in Addis

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

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.

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.

 

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Happy New (Ethiopian) Year

Today is 5/13/2008 in Ethiopia, the fifth of the 13th month 2008! And tomorrow will be the 1/1/2009! This 13th month is Pagumay generally 5 days long, but on leap years it is 6 days.

Meskal flowers in Meket, North Wollo

Meskal flowers in Meket, North Wollo

Many think that New Year marks the end of the rainy season, well not quite, but it does mark the point at which the rains get less frequent, the flowers start to come out and the promise of a new harvest is seen around the country.

This year by a happy coincidence Eid al Adha also falls in the coming days.

So best wishes to everyone for a happy holidays and a peaceful 2009!

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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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2009 Tesfa Calendar Available (Sep16-Aug17)

Tesfa Calendar 2009 cover page

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 calendars@tesfatours.com to reserve your copy.

 

Wall hanging calendars 200 birr each, note book version 250 birr –

All proceeds taken as donation for the communities

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Merry Christmas / Melcam Gena

Ox stops the traffic

In downtown Addis an Ox has broken free from its new owner and is terrorising the traffic. (He chased my car after I took the photo!)

On the eve of a big holiday like Christmas, (Gena in Amharic) livestock are a common sight in the streets as animals make are lead away to become the next day’s stew.

Christmas in the Ethiopian Orthodox calendar falls on  January 7th, 13 days after western Christmas. However in Lalibela the church has ruled that it is Christmas on January 8th in a following the Ethiopian leap year.

An Ethiopian leap year has an extra day  on the last day of the year – on 11 September (as happened in 2015)  so the new year starts on Sept 12 and all dates are one day out until 29th February. The 8th January this year (2016) is the Tahsas 29 in the Ethiopian Calendar, which is the monthly festival for the birth of Christ. So in Lalibela Christmas moves in the western calendar date to stay consistent with the Ethiopian date (as with all holidays that fall from 11 Sept  – 29 Feb). But for the rest of the country the date slips back to Tahsas 28 (today) because they start counting from the date at which Gabriel announced that Mary was pregnant back in March in the previous year, and as she was pregnant for a fixed number of days … so the date is one day early every 4th year.

When ever you celebrate Christmas, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a good feast. Lets hope that Ox was not to tough!!

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Gabriel day in Addis

St Gabriel's day in Addis Ababa

St Gabriel’s day in Addis Ababa

Yesterday’s St. Gabriel’s day is one of the biggest saint’s days in the Ethiopian Calendar. The holy Tabot is paraded around the church as thousands of worshipers attend services at the Gabriel church in the city centre (behind the palace above Cassanchis).The roads leading to the church are closed to traffic.

Most women will wear traditional white cotton dresses and shawls and men will where a Gabi – a white cotton blanket – over their clothes. Back at home grass will be laid out over the floor for a coffee ceremony, incense will be burned and special home baked traditional bread will be shared out.

Addis Ababa might be modernising at a fast and furious rate, but the old traditions remain in place.

PS – note the leaning building in the photo. If you look closely you will see that they could not decide whether the windows should conform to the lean or be horizontal! Its a strange one for sure…

 

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The Tesfa Calendar for 2008 is now ready.

2008 Tesfa Calendar

2008 Tesfa Calendar

As this year starts out with a leap day in the Ethiopian Calendar, up until March all dates are one day later (for example New Year is on September 12th).

For those that have not had it before it is a must for anyone living or working here.

1/ Ethiopian dates are clearly markers in red along side the western dates. With this you will clearly know which western date is given on a receipts or other notice with an Ethiopian calendar date!

2/ The major Saints days are there too – so now you will know when to avoid the Medhane Alem area because it will be crowded, and why so many people are congregating in white gabis around a church area.

October page of 2008 Calendar

October page of 2008 Calendar

3/ The Annual saints day festivals are noted too – look out for Hedar Mikael  – the major St Michaels day when rubbish is burnt across the country – 22nd Nov, and maybe use these big festivals to plan a holiday – in many cases the tabots will come out of the church with great celebration and procession.

4/ Know in advance the Ethiopian holidays and the fasts – when they start and end

5/ Read the commentary on the bottom of each month and understand a little more about why, what , when etc.

6/ Enjoy the fabulous photographs – all taken from community tourism treks in Wollo and Tigray – The photos in Tigray are from Tash McCarroll (to see more see her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/TashMcCarrollPhotoPhilanthropy?)

7/ Support the community tourism development with your contribution. We still suggesting 200 ETB per calendar this year.

Pop by our office at Kebena or contact us to get your copy! Email Calendars@tesfatours.com

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