Published: February 3rd 2011December 28th 2010
Arrival in a new country at 2am never seems as bad after an upgrade to Business Class! After recently being status downgraded to silver on BMI, I was thinking of flying another airline, but for the first time ever they decided to upgrade me, so good job I changed my mind. 3 course meal on proper china with metal cutlery and champagne in a real glass. How flying should be!!
Due to my short amount of time before meeting friends in Lalibela, I have opted for a flying tour of the North. I also tacked on some extra hotel stays and airport transfers, although after my experience with the local tour operator of Rwanda I am nervous... So far, so good, met at airport with a minibus, no problems at all. Check in to hotel is painless too, but straight to bed!
Buffet breakfast is mainly Ethiopian style, but luckily there is bread and eggs, as my tired stomach is not ready for new experiences yet. I meet the tour operator to pay, see photos and discuss the itinerary, then back to bed! In the afternoon, after changing some sterling into Birr, I hire a taxi for the afternoon. Expensive, but
I'm too tired to haggle too much. 330Birr for the afternoon. We first visit the National Museum, many artefacts of Ethiopia have been stolen through the years, they now have very strict export rules. A few of the items in the museum have been returned from the Italians and British who stole them previously, but many items are lost forever. The thrones of King Haile Selassie and his wife have been returned, there are also many royal outfits and crowns on display. The higher floors are paintings, photos and rural life artefacts. The basement is what I've come to see, the palaeontology of Ethiopia. Ethiopia is known as the cradle of life since a skeleton showing the link between apes and humans, Lucy. The actual bones are in a vault under protection, but replica models are on display. It looks like a small human but with a chimps head, amazing to see. Other parts of Africa have since found similar specimens, some being older, but Ethiopia is not willing to lose its title. They are proud to be the start of the human race.
Next stop St George's Church. The entrance includes a guide so is very informative. 20Birr entrance,
20Birr extra to take photos. First we enter the church, we have to remove our shoes as they follow the old testament. Inside we are shown the priests musical instruments for service. A small metal implement that has 5 coins which ring when shaken, a cross on a stick and a large drum. The guide sings a few songs, although I don't understand a word. In the centre of the church are many paintings and murals, many by the famous Ethiopian artist Afewerk Tekle, also a few mosaics by him. St George is the saint of Ethiopia, as he is England, so there are many depictions of him around the church.
Along side the church is a small museum of exhibits. At the top is a 20tonne bell, but there is no view when up the tower. The museum houses many royal robes, religious items used in the past and presents from other nations. There are many Axum crosses and many items from Haile Selassie.
Haile Selassie was the Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930, but was previously called Prince Regent Ras Tafari. In his reign the first constitution was written and he brought the country under a centralised rule so
he is hailed as a great leader. The religion Rastafarianism takes its name from his pre-coronation name. Selassie fled the country in 1936 when the Italians invaded and reclaimed his throne in the 1940s once the Italians were defeated. The Derg deposed Selassie in 1974 and made a socialist state.
Last stop the Holy Trinity Church. I am too late for a guide, but an old man who looks like a priest unlocks the door for me to take a look anyway. My taxi driver is Christian so he visits both churches with me. This one has the remains of Haile Selassie and his wife, also 2 thrones where they used to sit for service and which no-one else may sit on. The stained glass windows are impressive, even though the church is relatively new compared to ones I've visited at home.
Back to the hotel for a rest, then the same taxi driver meets me at 7 to drive me to dinner. Another expensive ride, but the service is quite slow once the restaurant gets busy so I don't mind paying as he had to wait for me to finish. I eat at Restaurante Castelli, a celebrity
haunt, the Nobu of Addis Ababa... No celebrities today that I see, but it is made up of many small rooms so there could have been. Not checked celeb news to see who's being charitable over here at the moment. The food is fantastic, homemade ravioli in meat sauce and a chocolate dessert. Dinner costs for 200Birr and the taxi is 250Birr!!
Early night for the start of my tour tomorrow!
There are more photos below