British FCO map advising travellers going to Ethiopia
The British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) have lifted travel advise against non essential travel to all tourist destinations in Ethiopia. On 2nd December they returned their advise to the pre September levels with exception of several remote woredas (district) in North West of Gondar, by lifting advise against travel to western Amhara and parts of Oromiya.
Naturally we knew it was safe for tourists to visit for a long time now, and having just been back from the Simiens, Gondar and Bahir Dar myself, I could see how peaceful it was. A priest on Lake Tana was confused as to why tourists were staying
Tana Cherkos Museum and monk, Lake Tana
away from his church. It was not easy to explain to him why foreign governments thought Ethiopia so dangerous. I look at some of the advise still on these websites and am baffled myself.
Lake Tana has seen the ebb and flow of history for several millennia. At one church I went to the priest in the museum told us that the church dated back to some 900 years BC! ….Err… how is this possible? Well the assumed original structure and location were part of a Jewish temple and was a refuge for the Arc of Covenant in pre-Christian times! Such is the importance of the Old Testament era in Ethiopian Orthodox thinking that there is no clean break but a continuum into the Christian era.
Imagine the changes and upheaval that has passed by Lake Tana in the last 2900 years! Armies of Queen Yodit (a Jewish Queen) Mohammed Gragn (from Harar) resulted in burned churches and upheaval, as did wars between factious regional leaders and epochs of civil war that left their damage. The recent disturbances pale against those
Lake Tana fisherman on a Tankwa,- papyrus canoe.
of history! Lake Tana is a tranquil place, with history going back into the mists of time. It is a lake which still has hippos and where you can greet fishermen passing by in the papyrus tankwa canoes (a craft also found on the Nile and Lake Titicaca!). So pack your bags and come and see for yourself.
Happy tourists on Mnt Abuna Yoseph
The British FCO has now removed the travel advise against non essential travel to Eastern Amhara, (including Lalibela and the Meket & Lasta Community Treks). [See here] This means UK insurance companies policies will be valid for visits to these areas.
This change in advise has also been taken by many other western governments, all of whom have realised travel in Northern Ethiopia is safe for tourists (and has been for some time now!)
What about Gondar, Bahir Dar and the Simiens?
Giyorgis festival in Meket, villagers ready to welcome tourists
Well the British still advise against non-essential travel to these areas. We sincerely hope this will be lifted in the coming weeks too. Other western countries no longer give advise against travel even in the western parts of Amhara and Tourists are traveling though these places in quite large numbers with no problem. I myself will be traveling to the Simiens, Gondar and Bahir Dar next week and will report on my trip with photos.
If you are visiting to places where the FCO advises
Lalibela – a subterranean labyrinth of passageways
against non-essential travel, then do check with your insurance company to see if your insurance will still be valid. Some companies will provide cover for medi-vac, and other services (but not political evacuation) for areas to which the FCO advises against. Examples are TAG and BUPA Global.
So how about you plan your trip for Christmas and New Year now before all the good slots get taken! We can arrange wonderful treks on the Meket plateau or climbing mount Abuna Yoseph (4,300 m peak and home to a pack of Wolves), and give you time to make a visit to Lalibela with its labyrinth of subterranean rock hewn churches.
Peaceful and quiet in the Mountains of North Wollo – but the Tesfa Communities are not getting enough guests through thanks to negative travel advice. (Boya Mikael guesthouse)
As part of the State of Emergency the Government in Ethiopia announced that diplomats needed permission to travel more than 40km out of the capital. In practice diplomats have been getting this permission with no problem, and now the government have withdrawn these restrictions.
This should go some way to convincing foreign governments that travel in Ethiopia is safe. Tourists have been travelling around the country, and although numbers are down due to some being put off by the negative advise, the tourists that are visiting have been commenting that all seems peaceful and normal.
Now we are all waiting to see if the foreign governments can react quickly and lift their negative advise that is restricting the flow of tourists, stopping new bookings and harming the economy of the nation and livelihoods of many that rely on tourism!