It is impossible for a tourist to Ethiopia to miss out on experiencing the East African country in every way possible. Hosts and hotels ensure that one gets a load of food, art, entertainment and culture no matter how short the stay. That was the case when our reporter visited recently.
Ethiopians love to show off their culture and ensure that even their young can market the country to every tourist no matter their ages or status.
Upon arrival and making acquaintances, the tour guide asked tourists: “Is this your first time in Ethiopia?” For those who said “yes,” his response was: “Oh, then you must have tasted injera?” For those who said “no,” his response was: “You must taste injera.” The most famous word for the rest of that day was ‘injera’ as first timers inquired about what it was and why it was so talked about, and those who were familiar made efforts to describe what it is.
To support these explanations about injera, a sourdough-risen flatbread with a light texture and somewhat sour taste, the tour guide and staff of Ethiopian Airlines who organized the Family Trip took the Nigerian tourists to Yod Abyssinia restaurant.
Yod as it is popularly referred to by locals, one of Addis Ababa’s pioneer traditional restaurants, was established in 2003 and is on the list of Addis Ababa’s top 10 restaurants. It is almost a must-visit for most tourists as their hosts, when they want to give them a treat of Ethiopian food, would usually suggest that they went to Yod and add: “You will see a lot of dances from all over Ethiopia and many of our musicians too.’
Indeed, the dances a major accompaniment for the cuisine, were as varied and as appetizing as the array of food available. The dancers thrilled the Ethiopians as much as they thrilled the tourists who were often dragged on stage to try their skills on Ethiopian dance steps.
Another cuisine experience for the Nigerian tourists was when they had lunch with ‘Lucy.’ Lucy Lounge and Restaurant located inside the National Museum of Ethiopia (NME) compound, is said to celebrate the roots of humanity in Ethiopia in its food, art gallery and festivities. The ambiance lush with gazebos, tropical plants and art make dining all the more enjoyable.
‘Lucy’ regarded as the mother of Ethiopia whose partial skeleton is a specimen of Australopithecus afarensis is a direct ancestor of modern day humans. Her ancient bones were discovered in the town of Hadar in the Awash Valley of Ethiopia’s Afar Depression, by Donald Johanson and Tom Gray on November 24, 1974.
There was a party to celebrate the discovery where the Beatles’ song ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,’ played over and over. It is not recorded at what point, it was agreed upon that the fossil should be named Lucy. She was renamed Dinknesh which means ‘wonderful’ in Amharic.
Lucy is estimated to have lived 3.2 million years ago and is the first hominid skeleton to be discovered. She is the missing link in the evolutionary spectrum showing the deep roots of human species on the African continent.
The ‘lunch with Lucy’ was capped with a one-on-one encounter with her remains at the NME.
The museum is home to Ethiopia’s artistic, cultural and archaeological as well other historic treasures. Of these fossils, Lucy’s is the most famous. Lucy is one of the early hominids. In 2000 and 2004 respectively, retrieved remains of Salem, an A. afarensis specimen considered to be the earliest child and estimated to be 3.3 million years old, were added to the basement gallery.
The concept of a museum was first introduced in Ethiopia in 1936, with an exhibition of ceremonial costumes donated by the royal family and their close associates. The NME as it stands today grew from the establishment of the Institute of Archaeology, founded in 1958 to promote and facilitate the archaeological research mission in the northern part of Ethiopia by French archaeologists.
Tour materials describing the museum’s structure inform that the NME at present has four main exhibition sections, with the basement is dedicated to archaeological and paleoanthropological sections.
They inform that: “The first floor contains objects from ancient and medieval periods, as well as regalia and memorabilia from former rulers, who include Emperor Haile Selassie.”
Displayed on the second floor are art works in chronological order, from traditional to contemporary. They include murals, from the famous Ethiopian artist, Afewerk Tekle and other Ethiopian artists. An ethnographic display is on the third floor where the museum tries to give an overview of the cultural richness and variety of Ethiopians.
Stepping out and going sightseeing, well-prepped children approached tourists with stretched out arms which displayed colorfully woven baskets, trinkets and jewelry, backed by cheerful and disarming smiles. They skillfully engaged tourists in conversation about the art of the items, what part of Ethiopia they originated from and how they learned to craft them from their peers, older siblings or parents.
As if they were seasoned business people they struck hard bargains which tourists gave in to because the children overpowered them with their skills or with their charms and attempts at speaking English with American accents.
On almost every street around the cities our reporter visited from Addis, Lalibela and Axum to Mekelle, Negesh and Adwa among others, there were displays of art works with big eyed and colorful characters depicting traditional everyday Ethiopian life. As against other parts of the world where street art is commonly carried out on paper or canvass, treated leather mostly from goat skin is what the artists here use. With delicate strokes from their brushes and colors spread out on palettes, they create pieces for postcard and bigger sized works which they sell off to tourists.