Lately I’ve been thinking about Africa. I don’t know exactly what triggered it. Could it be the long summer days? My excitement over the recently-announced staging of The Lion King musical in the Philippines? Whatever the case, the beauty of Africa has captivated me and I am longing to visit and see its wonders.
One of the countries I want to visit is Ethiopia. Ethiopia is rich in culture, tradition, history, and wildlife. In fact, the country has eight World Heritage Sites and is the home of Lucy, a fossil dating back 3.2 million years ago. Because of this, the country is being called the birthplace of humankind.
There’s so much to see in Ethiopia. Here are some things you can check out if you visit:
1. National Museum and Ethnological Museum
I like to start my trips knowing what I’m getting myself into. I read the country and the city’s history, its traditions, and its culture. It’s great because you understand why locals act like they do and you gain a deeper respect for the place and the attractions you’re seeing. To fully understand the history of Ethiopia, visit the National Musem and the Ethnological Museum in Addis Ababa. The place is rich with artifacts dating back to ancient history, including the partial skeleton of Lucy, an early australopithecine dating back to about 3.2 million years ago, and discovered in the Afar Triangle in Ethiopia.
2. The medieval churches of Lalibela
Some of the most beautiful sights in Ethiopia are the stunning rock-hewn churches in the town of Lalibela. The churches are carved from the ground downwards in great detail. There are 11 of them, most of which were carved in the 12th and 13th centuries. The complex is said to be built on the orders of King Lalibela of Ethiopia, who wanted to recreate Jerusalem in his country, complete with well-known religious sites. The most famous is the Church of St. George, carved from solid rock and believed to be the most well-executed and best-preserved church. It is often called the eighth wonder of the world. Of course, the churches are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
3. Aksum’s ancient ruins
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site is Aksum’s ancient ruins, which marks the heart of ancient Ethiopia. Back then, the Kingdom of Aksum was the most powerful location in the Eastern Roman Empire and Persia. The kingdom’s structures, dating back from the 1st to 13th centuries, consisted of obelisks (stone pillars), stelae (stone slabs or columns bearing a commemorative inscription or relief design), royal tombs, and the ruins of palaces and castles. After the kingdom’s political decline in the 10th century, it fell into disrepair.
4. Simien Mountains National Park
If Lion King has taught us anything, it’s that Africa is home to some of the most colorful animals ever. In terms of wildlife, Ethiopia does not disappoint. In the Simien Mountains National Park, you can find the gelada baboon, the caracal cat, and leopards, as well as 180 species of birds, including the majestic bearded vulture and its wingspan of 10 feet. You can also see some endangered species, like the Ethiopian wolf (which looks like a fox) and the walia ibex, a kind of goat that can only be found here. The observation decks at Gidir Got and Imet Gogo offer a beautiful view of the forests, ridges, cliffs, and canyons.
5. Bale Mountains National Park
Continue your nature streak with a visit to Bale Mountains National Park, a sprawling site in the Bale Mountains. What makes the place special is the high number of species living in the park. It is home to 78 mammal species and 310 species of birds. There’s also more to find as researchers have recently discovered 22 new species of butterflies and moths. There’s more to the park than its wildlife: the park has the highest peak in the southern Ethiopian highlands and has glacial lakes, swamps, volcanic ridges, and peaks.
6. Blue Nile Falls
The Blue Nile Falls is considered as one of Africa’s greatest falls, with its great height of 150 feet creating a spectacular display of Mother Nature’s handiwork. The falls is known locally as Tis Issat or “smoking water,” a reference to the smoke-like effect due to the continuous dropping of water. The impact is so strong that it is said to drench onlookers up to a kilometer away. The wildlife here is also worth noting, with the forest holding a variety of monkeys and birds.
7. Danakil Depression
Another one of nature’s masterpieces is the Danakil Depression, a geological depression developed due to the separation of Africa and Asia. It is the hottest place on earth in terms of year-round average temperatures, and I might add that it is hot in terms of tourist activity. The place holds an eerie atmosphere: there are lava lakes, multi-hued hydrothermal fields, salt pans, and hot springs. It is often called the cradle of humanity, as Lucy, along with other ancient hominins, were discovered here. The Danakil Depression is being investigated how life might evolve on other planets.
8. Lake Chamo
For something a little more tame, Lake Chamo is a great destination. This tranquil lake is home to lush trees, golden sand, and a mix of tigerfish, the giant Nile perch, catfish, and beautiful white pelicans. It could be a perfect way to spend an idyllic afternoon. But don’t let your guard down. The lake is home to hippopotamus (ranked the most dangerous large land animal in Africa) and 17-feet crocodiles. Definitely not for the faint of heart!
9. The tribes of Omo Valley
If meeting locals is your thing, visit the tribes of Omo Valley! The valley is home to 15 tribes, each with their own culture and personality. The Arbore tribe is composed of livestock farmers who believe that singing and dancing eliminate negative energy. They are known for their colorful necklaces and earrings. Meanwhile, the Kara tribe scar themselves to prove their beauty and strength. The most popular are the Mursi people because of their lip plates. Women have their lower lip cut at age 15 or 16, and have increasingly large plates inserted to signify their worth.
10. The City of Gondar
Thinking of going to the city? Visit the city of Gondar, known as the Camelot of Africa. This Ethiopian woreda (or district) is the former capital of the Ethiopian Empire and was the home of emperors from the 12th to 19th centuries. Picturesque ruins can be found in Fasil Ghebbi (the Royal Enclosure), which has the castles, palace, hall, library, bathing palace, and churches belonging to different emperors. Fans of architecture will also like downtown Gondar, an area filled with Italian structures influenced by the occupation in the 1930’s.
Explore the wonders of Ethiopia with Captain Joy Roa in the TV show Asian Air Safari. The 12th season will premiere on June 11, 2017, 8PM, and will feature Ethiopia as its first adventure. The feature on Ethiopia will consist of two episodes, “Cradle of Mankind” and “A Land of Rich Diversity.” Catch Asian Air Safari on ANC, with replays every Saturday at 2PM.
Cover photo from Wikimedia.