I visited Ethiopia in 2011 and I loved it! Circumstances brought me to Ethiopia instead of Mali and Burkina Faso which were my intended destinations. The war in Mali began in 2012 and these two wonderful countries are no longer accessible, since the situation in Burkina Faso is now also in continuing unrest. However, I was compensated for this, as I was fascinated and fell in love with Ethiopia, this authentic, unspoiled country that made me see Africa with different eyes.
The biggest country in the Horn of Africa is an exquisite place, a vast highland that, just like a gigantic blade, splits in two the Great East African Rift, from Northeast to Southeast, showcasing the magnificent Simien Mountains.
Here you can see the sources of Blue Nile which stretches westwards, with the unique Lake Tana its principal water provider. The Danakil Depression, one of the lowest places on the planet, to the northeast (100m/300ft below the surface of the sea) and the warmest place on earth, considering yearly average temperatures. Volcanoes can be found at a close distance, among which the active one "Erta Ale". Top in natural beauty is lake Dallol, a multicolored natural palette, with Sulfur providing yellow hues, Copper adding reddish shades and Manganese contributing purples! Salt decorates the landscape with immaculate white, odd-shaped patterns, while the water bubbles and sulfur fumes make breathing difficult. Tropical forests abound in the mountains, north and south with a large variety of endemic birds.
From all available evidence, Ethiopia must be the cradle of the human species, as this is where our most distant ancestors were found. Those were Australian apemen Lucy and Selam, dated 3,2 and 3,3 million years respectively. The North caries a heavy load of millennia-long history; the South gave birth to exotic races!
It was known as "Abyssinia" and is one of the oldest countries in the world, with history that goes back 3.000 years. It is believed to have been created during the years before Christ by one of the tribes that settled in today's north Ethiopia. "Etiopik", Noah's grandson is considered as the ethnarch of Ethiopia. Menelik, son of King Solomon and Queen Siva brought to Ethiopia the plates of the Arc of the Covenant kept, to this date, in the Church of St. Mary of Zion in Axum.
Ethiopia is the second country, after Armenia that proclaimed Christianity as the official religion of the state, in 333 A.D. and Ethiopians remain fanatic Christians to this date. Despite of this, Harar, the largest city in Southeast is the 4th sacred city of Islam, with 110 mosques throughout the expanse of the city. In Southwest the descendants of the pre-historic Nile tribes are animists.
A unique culture, deep rooted in antiquity, Ethiopia has a history longer than two thousand years and antique treasures scattered all over the country. The giant obelisks of Aksun, the castles of Gondar (the "Camelot" of Africa), the unique monasteries with the magnificent frescoes in the little islands of Lake Tana, the medieval hanging temples sculptured on rocks, lost in the Tigray area. But, above all, the monolithic churches of Lalibela, the only place I ever promised to return to.
Moving towards southwest, we come to the isolated valley of the national parks of the rivers Omo and Mago, one of Africa's pristine areas, where about 20 tribes, descendants of the prehistoric Nile tribes, resist the passing of time by keeping their traditions and way of life untouched.
I was bewitched by the beauty of nature, the history and the culture of this country, but I also loved its people... Beautiful, kind people, hospitable, very poor but proud. It is impressive that there is no word for "no" in their language; there is just a nod for that! Their complexion is lighter than that of other Africans, but their honey-colored eyes are sparkling, rarely smiling; a shade of sadness always blurs their smile. The sadness of poverty.
Ascetic figures, the older of them, in long, white robes, are reminiscent of Christ's era.
The visitor may be embarrassed with the peculiar cosmetic or painting elements the tribes in the south use on their faces and bodies. Their distant expression and stance places these stout people apart from other Ethiopians.
In Ethiopia you will enjoy an endless photographic puzzle, be it street scenes or people portraits.
An entire nation of 100 million people on the streets. It is not by accident that all top runners in the world are Ethiopians!
Women and children carry water jugs, hay bales, wood bundles, merchandise for selling at the large outdoor markets.
Men drive carts or lead their frail animals to the pasture; hundreds of children with their school bags walk several kilometers a day to go to school.
Alongside the road you can see water streams, with countless laundry stacks and half-naked women, naked men and children, trying to wash in the scant water flow. Children everywhere, large troops of children in the villages, racing in our direction, to beg for candies, empty plastic bottles, clothes and mainly shoes, a luxury item for them.
Portrait photos of these people can bring exquisite results, as they reflect the spirit and soul of this wonderful race!
I shot 11.000 photos in 20 days of wondering about Ethiopia. A one-time record that was never surpassed in other journeys. I will try to acquaint you with this magic land through my photographic work!