Monday, April 25, 2011

The Omo Valley

One place I really would like to visit in Ethiopia is the Omo Valley. There are many tribes living there who are truly unique. Nomads, cattle herders, with traditions that are so different from anywhere else.
An example is the Hamer people in the Southern Omo Valley. They are not many, a little over 40 000 and they are semi-nomadic. Since cattle is the most important thing to them, they make sure their cattle has enough pasture to graze. When this runs low, they simply up and go! Building a new village wherever they find good pasture grounds, staying there until this is exhausted. Usually a village is made up of some 20 huts, plus pens for the goats and cattle.
Even the initiation to become a man for the Hamer people involve cattle. A young man has to run across the backs of a row of cattle four times, naked, before he will be called a man and be able to marry. (If he falls down, he could be given a chance at another occasion.)
There are many tours operating to the Omo Valley, it is becoming a very popular place with tourists. The nature and wildlife down south is also very impressive, with hippos, crocodiles and an impressive birdlife.
At times the Omo Valley is not recommended for travelling because of tribal fighting, so it is good to check with the embassy before planning anything!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ethiopian Coffee

To have a cup of coffee in Ethiopia is truly an experience. Nothing like pressing a button and putting a cup under a machine! No, it is a whole ceremony, which can take hours.
To start with the coffee beans are washed with water. This will remove the husks, as well as any dirt. Then, they are slowly roasted on an iron plate put on a charcoal fire. All of this will be done in front of the guest. Slowly the whole room will be filled with the beautiful aroma of freshly roasted coffee. When the beans have got the right colour, the coffee will be pounded in a wooden kind of mortar into a powder. This is often done outside, it makes a lot of noice.
While the coffee is being pounded, the water is put on the fire in a small clay-pot with two spouts. One on top for putting the water and coffee, and one on the side for pouring the coffee. Sometimes popcorn are prepared before boiling the water. This is for the so-called Coffee Breakfast. Popcorn, roasted grain, or sometimes bread, is always served while waiting. These are eaten long before the coffee is ready, to keep you going while waiting! 
The coffee will now slowly boil in the clay-pot on the charcoal-fire. When ready, the pot will be put aside for a few minutes, allowing the grounds to settle in the bottom of the pot. The cups will be washed with water in front of the guest, sugar put in the cup, and the coffee poured to the brim. When you finish the cup will be collected and more coffee will be boiled by simply adding water to the pot. Naturally, this second cup will be weaker than the first. Three cups are often boiled, each with a different name. This is why it can take hours to have a cup of coffee- or three!
Ethiopian coffee is now available in many countries. Starbucks has different varieties for sale, and you can also find it in other shops. In the Ethiopian restaurants, a lady will often perform this ceremony to entertain the guests. Make sure you try this wonderful coffee!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Travelling to Ethiopia

My first time travelling to Ethiopia, I was so excited! After so many years of dreaming about going to Africa, I was finally on my way. We decided to visit a couple of neighbouring countries first, after travelling so far, and spending so much money, we wanted to get the most out of it.
When we came to Ethiopia, we first spent a few days in the capital, Addis Ababa. The civil war had ended less than two years earlier, with the dictator, Mengistu Hailemariam, ousted, and a new government installed. The country was still in a daze, people were worried about what the future would bring. And they were very tired after almost two decades of suffering.
Despite all of this, they received us in the most hospitable and caring way. Especially when we ventured out of the city, taking the bus to the other provinces. Some were so poor they lived in mud-huts. But we were invited in to drink a cup of yogurt, or eat a piece of dry bread. Nobody should be allowed to leave the village without proper hospitality.
This took place almost twenty years ago, but I still remember what a wonderful trip it was. A part of my heart was left in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is truly a unique country, with a very old culture. True, the country is changing, not only for the better. But a lot of the old values are still there, at least in the country-side. This country is so worth a visit!