An incredibly diverse country, Ethiopia is mysterious and full of adventure. A&K resident Africa expert, Patrick Clementson, shares his favourite experiences from his trip to Ethiopia.
A Village Welcome
Often some of the most memorable experiences are totally unplanned. While driving from Jinka to Turmi in the south of the country, we saw a lady from the Bena tribe ploughing her field. My guide commented that this wasn’t normal practice so clambered over the fence to find out why she was at work in the field. A friendly conversation ensued and we were duly invited into her home to meet her family and share some tella, a local fermented drink made from sorghum and maize. It was a warm and welcoming experience that I’ll never forget.
The Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia is home to eight different tribes with a population numbering around 200,000. They have lived there for centuries and follow many ancient practices. Market visits in this region are a fascinating experience and a unique way to observe the social interaction and commercial dealings between the different tribal groups. Market day is an important part of their week and a privileged experience for the visitor.
The food in Ethiopia was an absolute highlight. The use of spices, in particular cayenne pepper and fenugreek, is widespread with a hot paste called berbere the base for the national dish, wat, a spicy stew made from beef, goat, chicken or pulses. The vegetarian meal, called a fasting plate, was delicious and comprises different lentil and chickpea dishes served with traditional flat bread, enjera. Chili is ingrained in Ethiopian cooking and is widely available around the country. Locals will often eat a raw green chilli at the table – a mistake I only made once!
Wildlife viewing is one of my passions so the prospect of seeing a gelada baboon in its natural habitat had me super excited. Found only in the Simien Mountains of northern Ethiopia, the gelada baboon, sometimes called the bleeding-heart baboon, is the world’s most terrestrial primate (aside from humans). As grass-eaters, they are the last surviving species of ancient grazing primates. Photographic opportunities are excellent as they pay very little attention to visitors.
Travel to Ethiopia on our ‘Tribes & Traditions of Ethiopia – Small Group Journey’
23 April – 08 May 2018
05 November – 20 November 2018