Explore the mysterious and ancient land of Abyssinia
The geology and geography of Ethiopia is fascinating with the Danakil Depression in the north east of Ethiopia, several hundred meters below sea level, sitting at the apex of the Great Rift Valley. A volcano – Ertale with its crater lake of bubbling magma is a view into the centre of the earth and the other worldly formations of salt, sulphur and potash seem from another planet. Salt blocks, excavated from the floor of the depression, are carried up to the highlands on camels, with caravans stretching as far as the eye can see.
These highlands, the biggest block of mountains in Africa, have numerous peaks reaching above 4,000 meters. The highest peak, Ras Dashen is 4,533 meters and sits at the eastern edge of the Simien mountains. This mountainous terrain is formed into gorges and canyons by two powerful river systems: the Blue Nile and the Tekeze, that each flow out into Sudan.
The remoter parts of these highlands are home to the Ethiopian Wolf, the rarest of the dog family in the world. While its cliffs provide refuge to troops of stunning Gelada baboons, a long-haired ape that is endemic to Ethiopia. These mountains and escarpments provide a home to the many birds of prey that soar on the thermals, including the mighty Lammergeyer, various vultures and eagles, buzzards and kites, hawks and falcons and the like. There are also countless birds found in the fields and lakes of Ethiopia, many are endemic to Ethiopia, guaranteeing bird enthusiasts a rewarding time.
In a period of history that appears through the mists of time when the early saints of the Ethiopian orthodox church worked miracles and when legends of the priest king ‘Prester John’ travelled to western Europe, many of these mountains also became home to monks and priests who had churches cut into the rock. The greatest single cluster of these is found in Lalibela, but further north in Tigray some 130 such churches were excavated. In addition to those churches cut into the case rock, others were built in hidden locations. Some in caves, others a top amba mountains (a flat block of mountain with cliffs all around), some in gorges or on ledges.
The Ethiopian Orthodox church has many unique rites and ceremonies that go back to the dawn of Christianity that can be seen today. Even further back in time legends tell of a beautiful queen – the Queen of Sheba, Mekeda in Ethiopian tradition, visiting King Solomon in Jerusalem. She bore his son: Menelik, who took the Arc of Covenant back to Ethiopia where he founded the Solomonic dynasty, a line from which Haile Selassie even claimed to descend.
This is a land with a history that goes back the Axumite civilization that traded with Ancient Egypt. It is a land where farmers still till the land with ox drawn ploughs and villagers stream along the age old country paths that take them to the weekly markets.
The origins of humanity can be traced back to Ethiopia and the Rift valley with Lucy (known in Ethiopia as Dinkenesh) discovered in 1974 in the Awash Valley being the most famous human remains. Over the last few millennia Ethiopia has become home to many different Ethnic groups and its lands have allowed a variety of cultures to develop with a result that few, if any countries can compete with the cultural diversity and depth of history.
APA 2016 recommends Tesfa Tours, which organises special treks in conjunction with farming communities that own guesthouses in remote mountains. These treks will take you through parts of this magical land, hosted by the local farmers and walking through the most stunning landscapes.
Tesfa Tours also have guides in the major historical centres to show you the monuments to Ethiopia’s rich history, and drivers to take you from one location to another. The owner and manager of Tesfa Tours, Mark Chapman, has been working in tourism, and particularly a tourism that supports local communities in Ethiopia for close to 20 years. So let Tesfa Tours help you to see this magical, mysterious and unique country.