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.
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 In practice diplomats have been getting this permission with no problem, and now the government have withdrawn these restrictions.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!
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
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.