Category Archives: Peace

Ethiopia is safe to travel to, says British FCO, so pack your bags and come and see this ancient land.

British FCO map advising travellers going to Ethiopia

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, L.Tana

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 tana-cherkos-img_1620times!  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.

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.

 

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Simiens is normal for the Gelada and Ibex, but where are the tourists?

Gelada baboons, staring back at tourists

Gelada baboons, staring back at tourists

Life in the Simien Mountains this week:

Gelada baboons graze the Simien grasslands as they did last year: murmuring and mewing, with occasional shouts when bachelor males venture too close to family groups. They spend much of their time grooming each other in ritual social behaviour. The grazing consists of digging the grass with sharp strong fingers and pulling out the succulent roots to eat.

Gelada Family grooming in the Simiens

Gelada Family grooming in the Simiens

No sign that they are at all on edge or unduly worried by the bizarre travel advise given out by embassies that is limiting the numbers of tourists visiting their mountain home

Walia Ibex grazing steeper slopes, near the precipitous ledges. There numbers were down to a few hundred some decades back, but now there are over a thousand of these surefooted mountain antelope.

Wail Ibex above Chenek Camp

Walia Ibex above Chenek Camp, beside Giant Lobelia plant

They glance curiously at the camera touting tourists who were lucky enough to see this rare animal, and then go back to their grass, or take a break in the shade of a Giant Lobelia plant.  Maybe they wonder why there are fewer tourists this year.

Trekkers are passing through, enjoying the sunny days, the golden gwassa grass, azure blue skies with lammergeyers, eagles and vultures, soaring across the scene and the unique wildlife of the park on view.  But less than in recent years.

Walia Ibex looking down on passing tourists

Walia Ibex looking down on passing tourists

That makes the experience for the visitors better, but spare a thought for the local people who depend on tourists to pay for their goods and services. They cannot understand the reason why foreign governments are telling tourists to stay away. Tourists were never targeted in the unrest that spread to some of the towns several months ago. And that unrest ended. But still the foreign governments advise their nationals to stay away!

If you haven’t been already then come, if you have been then come back to Ethiopia!

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Peace and Stability return to Ethiopia – no reason not to visit

Empty roads in Ethiopia (Photo Andy Bottomer)

Empty roads in Ethiopia (Photo Andy Bottomer)

Since the State of Emergency was imposed at the start of last month, there has been no violence, protest, strikes nor anything that should put off any tourists. Now the tourism industry is waiting with growing impatience for the embassies to revise their unwarrented negative travel advise which hinders some visitors getting proper travel insurance for their travels.

But it is not just the peace across the county, there are other positive signs for the future of the country and for tourism.

All eyes have been on the government since the declaration of the State of Emergency to see if their promised reforms start to take shape. And indeed this week the government have taken the first steps thereby increasing the chances of long term peace and stability for Ethiopia.

Ethiopian Primeminister Hailemariam

Ethiopian Primeminister Hailemariam

This week Ethiopia’s Prime Minister: Hailemariam Desalegn, announced a major reshuffle of his cabinet ministers as a first measure to bring about changes needed to address the issues flagged up by the disturbances and protests across the country over the last few months.

Parliament unanimously approved the new 30 cabinet ministers proposed by the Prime Minister of whom 15 are new ministers. The Ethnic balance has been addressed too, with more Oromo and Amhara ministers coming in and the number of Tigrayan ministers being cut back. More importantly however is that many appointees have technical knowledge or genuine experience in the fields to which they are appointed. The PM said that appointments were made on the basis of competence rather than party loyalty. In addition five of the new ministers are not party members, which is a clear break from past practice.

In another move that shows that tensions are reducing, the defence minister Siraj Fegessa announced that about 2,000 people detained for taking part in recent anti-government protests had been released.

The PM announced that travel restrictions that have required the diplomatic community to get permission for diplomats to move more than 40 km from the capital will be lifted soon, which will have an positive effect on tourism and movement within the country and we hope will lead to foreign Embassies getting rid of the unnecessary negative travel advise that is leading to both tourists cancelling their trips and a down turn in new tourist bookings.

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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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