What we loved…
Food & Drink – Even if you have terrible weather while traveling Ethiopia, you’ll be happy eating and drinking your day away. Food and drink is a way of life in Ethiopia – from coffee ceremonies where they roast, grind and brew the coffee right in front of you to sharing any number of their local beers (home-brewed tella, Walia Lager, Hakim Stout, etc). You’ll love Ethiopian full and smoothies for breakfast, then devour giant sampler platters of lentils, meats, and veggies for dinner. Don’t forget a nightcap of homemade tej (honey wine). Your taste buds are in for an adventure.
Historical/Unique Attractions – Ethiopia has a rich and unique historical background, and a lot of their relics are preserved. They have history abound – ancient christian paintings, giant churches carved out of rock, castles, cliffside churches, the ark of the covenant, some of the oldest human remains on earth, rainbow-colored walled cities, etc. All this combined with its Indian, Italian and Armenian influences in ‘The Roof of Africa’; the word unique barely begins to explain Ethiopia.
Music & Dance – I don’t even know how to begin to describe the vibrant and upbeat Ethiopian music, other than pure fun. And the dance, holy amazing, I don’t even know how they move their shoulders and necks that violently, but trust me, every Ethiopian knows how to dance. Music and dancing is the national pastime. What’s not to love about everyone joyously having the time of their lives every night?
What we didn’t love…
Fermentation Belly – Injera, while tasty, is served with every single meal, and our western bellies just aren’t used to digesting so much fermented flour. Don’t worry, it doesn’t make you sick, it just makes you feel like a cheesy gas medicine commercial, complete with a balloon for a stomach. It’s no big deal, but it might make your friends like you a little less (if you know what I mean).
Terrifying Bus Rides – You know it’s bad when the local man next to you is death gripping the seat in front of him and closing his eyes around each bend. The roads are just now starting to be paved, which will help solve part of the problem. The other problem is the second-hand buses that are no longer able to pass safety regulations in first world countries. They’re over-stuffed with people and cargo, and void of general maintenance. It seems like every night there’s a news story about a bus plummeting off a ‘highway’ into a canyon. As you drive across the country you see the remains of past crashes littering the cliff-sides. Luckily, flying from city to city on Ethiopian Airlines is so easy and beyond cheap.
Faranji – Traveling Ethiopia, you simply can’t walk 100 yards without a public announcement that a foreigner is present. Picture the ‘Shame’ scene in Game of Thrones, but what they’re calling out is “faranji” (aka foreigner). “Faranji” is followed up with a very strong sales pitch. Kids are at your heels for miles, begging for candy, pencils, and money. Adults try to sell you anything – their goods, their services, it doesn’t matter. Beg, borrow or steal, it’s hard to walk in peace while traveling in Ethiopia.