Back to Addis Ababa

From Lalibela we headed back to Addis Ababa, visiting Gondar and Bahir Dar on the way.

Gondar

Gondar was the capital for a succession of kings in the 17th and 18th centuries. Each king built himself a new castle within the Royal Enclosure, so by the end of the dynasty there were six castles, plus a library, steam house and lion cages. Many of the castles are somewhat ruined, mainly by British bombing in WW2. We explored the Royal Enclosure with a local guide, and were impressed by the architecture. Other castles we’ve seen in Africa have been built by colonising powers, not by the local people.

Castles in the Royal Enclosure

Castles in the Royal Enclosure

The first castle

The first castle

Interior doorways in the first castle

Interior doorways in the first castle

In Gondar we also visited the church of Debre Birhan Selassie, which is noted for the paintings covering the walls. These are mainly biblical scenes, plus extracts from the apocryphal Story of Mary.

Gateway of Debre Birhan Selassie church

Gateway of Debre Birhan Selassie church

Interior wall paintings (note the Holy Trinity)

Interior wall paintings (note the Holy Trinity)

The Devil

The Devil

Our last sightseeing was at the Pool of Fasilidas, which was crowded with men and boys swimming and jumping into the murky water. There was a great holiday atmosphere, as the day was the feast of St Michael.

The Pool of Fasilidas

The Pool of Fasilidas

Jumping in the pool

Jumping in the pool

The holiday atmosphere continued in the town centre, where we stopped for lunch. It was crowded with masses of people, many very smartly dressed. There were groups of people dancing and chanting on the steps of one of the buildings, and a procession was in progress with a number of floats.  We would have liked to stay longer.

One of the members of the crowd

One of the members of the crowd

A band of singers on the steps

A band of singers on the steps

Spectators in their finery

Spectators in their finery

One of the floats

A float representing the Timkat festival

Bahir Dar

The journey south to Bahir Dar was complicated by the number of festival celebrations taking place on the main road in the towns and villages on the way. Often we had to detour, or crawl slowly through crowds of chanting, stick-waving celebrants.

Dancers with sticks

Dancers with sticks

Bahir Dar is on the shores of Lake Tana, and from a hill which also houses a palace built by Emperor Haile Selassie we were able to get a view over the lake, the town, and the Blue Nile which flows out of the lake.

Lake Tana and the Blue Nile

Lake Tana and the Blue Nile

The next day we did a boat trip on the lake, to the Zege peninsula, where we walked up to the church of Ura Kidane Mihret. The inside is covered with paintings, with biblical themes as well as more legendary subjects.

Boating on Lake Tana

Boating on Lake Tana

Church of Ura Kidane Mihret

Church of Ura Kidane Mihret

Mary and child

Mary and child

Man riding a startled lion

Man riding a startled lion

A kaleidoscope of paintings

A kaleidoscope of paintings

Later we drove 30 kms on rough roads to reach the Blue Nile Falls. Because of a hydroelectric scheme, there is much less water going over them than previously, but it is still an impressive sight.

Crossing the Blue Nile

Crossing the Blue Nile

The Blue Nile falls

The Blue Nile falls

Addis Ababa

From Bahir Dar we took an evening flight back to Addis Ababa.  We were due to spend two nights at the Saro Maria Hotel, where we’d stayed on our first night there.  However, when we arrived we found that there was no room for our group, because of a large conference taking place.  We had to go to another hotel across the road – not much of a punishment as it was quite luxurious (huge room, jacuzzi bath etc); sadly our pleas to be allowed to stay there for the second night went unheeded.

On the intervening day we had a tour of the city. The first stop was at the Holy Trinity Cathedral built by Haile Selassie. This was more in the style of Italian neo-baroque than Ethiopian, and it had some good stained glass.

Holy Trinity Cathedral

Holy Trinity Cathedral

Side view of the cathedral

Side view of the cathedral

Stained glass (Adam and Eve)

Stained glass (Adam and Eve)

Light reflected on Haile Selassie's tomb

Light reflected on Haile Selassie’s tomb

We also visited two museums. The National Museum houses a replica skeleton of Lucy, the early hominoid ancestor of the human race, who was found in Ethiopia.  The day tour ended with a visit to the Mercato, allegedly the biggest market in Africa – it was certainly crowded and chaotic enough.

Lucy, perhaps the mother of us all

Lucy, perhaps the mother of us all

In the evening we went for dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant with live entertainment, consisting of a small band and six dancers who did a number of energetic routines in a variety of costumes.

Dancers, shaking it all about

Dancers, shaking it all about

The dance troupe

The dance troupe

We were very anxious to get an internet connection in Addis, as we’d been out of touch during the previous few days.  In particular, we wanted to find out where our next destination would be!  We’d planned to go on to New Zealand, but there was a chance we’d be needed in Ghana, if the project we’d worked on recently got the go-ahead. We finally heard that Omega Schools had withdrawn from the project, so when we leave Ethiopia, we will definitely be off to New Zealand.

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