Eastern Ethiopia - Mountains, Markets, Meals


Harar - Mountains, Markets and Meals

In the mountains east of Hara, I satisfy my craving for oddities of geology.  The Babille Valley is indicated on the map of Ethiopia as the Valley of Marvels.  The “marvels” are tall rock formations that the elements have sculpted into mind-blowing shapes. 

In Harar I wander through the ancient city to find homes with pastel walls.  At the gates to the walled city I find chaotic markets.

Meals?  Here is the blurb for the Fresh Touch Restaurant in Harar:

“Reasonable prices, a tasty selection of national and international dishes, a leafy courtyard, and a dedicated pizza oven.  The cold drinks are cold and the bittersweet aroma of roasting coffee wafting from the garden stove had us salivating like a hyena.”*

I order a national dish - the spicy goat stew.  I can’t remember when I have had a better goat stew.  So I return for luncheon the next day.

Back in Dire Dawa, I find several other national sights.  I visit a cemetery with the graves of soldiers who died in the Second World War.

Behind the Dire Dawa railroad station is the  old maintenance yard that was built with help of the French.  I stroll among the rolling stock, water towers, roundhouses and repair sheds.  Unfortunately, the site is abandoned, deteriorating and eerie – a cemetery of steel and stone.

For my farewell lunch at the Samrat Hotel, I choose the international buffet. (The General Manager of the hotel is Indian): **

Tuna Salad…Mixed Salad…Roasted Beef…Roasted Chicken…Roasted Goat Meat…Fried Fish…

Minchet Alicha (Minced Beef)…Key Wot (Spicy Beef)…Doro Wot (Chicken Curry)…Misir Wot  (Spicy Lentils)

Tegabino (Chick Peas and Onions)…Alicha Atikilt (Vegetable Stew)…Azza Wot (Fish)…Gommen & Dinnich Wot (Potato and Spinach)

Pasta Al Forno…Tomato and Rice…Injera and Bread…Fresh Fruit

The markets, the marvels, and the meals fulfill my travel needs in Eastern Ethiopia.  I am satisfied, mellow, even a bit high.

If Shakespeare had ever met an Ethiopian, he would have rewritten Romeo’s admiration of Juliet: “Like a bright pearl in an Ethiop’s smile.”  Everywhere I travel the local residents and the hotel and restaurant staff are  welcoming and helpful.  The agents at the Ethiopian Airlines offices are professional and knowledgeable.  Everyone smiles a gleaming white smile.

My thanks and appreciation go to my drivers and companions: Girmay in Axum, Abebe in Lalibela, Mickey in Gondar, Yigerem in Dire Dawa.

Thanks again to Girmay and Abebe for inviting me to their homes.

I met a variety of spirited and energetic travelers: Yoni from Israel; Iris and Simone from Zurich; Paul, a geography teacher from the UK; Bernard from Orleans, France; Michelle and Russell from the UK; Josephine, Desire and Linda, Swedish grad students studying international development; Manfred, a history teacher and his wife Ingrid, a pharmacist, from Germany.

I met Kalli from Texas.  She and her husband Jacob have an Internet business.  They can live anywhere, and they do.  Last month they were in Kenya.  Now they are in Ethiopia.  Soon they will go to Turkey.  Perhaps, on my recommendation they will go to Uzbekistan.   

Many young men and women work in Ethiopia with non-governmental organizations or international companies.  Jana is a nurse from Norway.  Livia is a consultant on refugees to the UN.  She is posted in Uganda but is headed for Afghanistan.  She is touring with her parents Etienne and Eva, from Belgium who work as translators.  I met two American women, who are teaching proper midwife techniques in rural areas.  Mike from Pittsburgh works for CARE.  Mark works for COKE! 

My fellow travelers and ex-patriots are “All in the same boat” or “All on the same caravan.”  We confront Ethiopia and are challenged by her; yet we accept her.  We embrace her.  We smile a bright smile.  

*Ethiopia.  Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd. 2009. p 224.

** www.Samrat-hotel.com

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