Ethiopia has been an amazing place to start a family. We have been so lucky to have had amazing adventures in this place. Here are the top ten things I will miss most about Ethiopia.
1 The Coffee.
The art of coffee was discovered and refined in Ethiopia. Coffee is another example of an ancient culture that has not been forsaken—even in the rush of modern culture. If you go to a coffee house in our town, they will roast the coffee beans in front of you, grind it by hand with a mortar, brew it in an ancient clay kettle, and delicately pour the brew into a small expresso cup. In America, I need cream and sugar, but I could honestly drink that expresso straight here in Ethiopia because it isn’t bitter at all. Nothing matches the taste of Ethiopian coffee and the ceremony behind the taste makes for the best cup of coffee you will ever have.
2 The Culture.
Amidst a continent that has lost much of its tradition, Ethiopia is still steeped in a rich history and tradition that continues to dictate much of the modern way of life. They have their own calendar as well as time. Religious holidays are integral to everyday life. Fasting is normal for people of the Ethiopian Orthodox faith. Traditional fashion is still in fashion. In Ethiopia, you are able to step back in time to a time before any of us were around.
3 The Climate.
Most people think that Africa is just a ‘hot place’, but Ethiopia is not. Much of Ethiopia is situated in the mountains, with a cool mountain climate. In the summer months it is the rainy season in Ethiopia so it takes the edge off any heat.
4 The Fashion.
In an increasingly modern culture, the women of Ethiopia have maintained strong ties to traditional dress, jewelry, and hair. On a day-to-day basis the fashion of the young people in Ethiopia appears like most Western cultures—especially in the capital, Addis Ababa. Girls wear pants and trending kicks; guys wear skinny jeans and trucker hats at a slant. But even as Ethiopia globalizes, there is still a formidable link to tradition and culture during holidays, church services, and celebrations—especially when it comes to fashion.
In the West, fashion is mostly a personal statement of “this is who I am.” In many cultures in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, fashion is a cultural statement of “this is where I come from”. Here in Ethiopia the traditional dress says proudly, “I am Ethiopian.” Of course, embedded into the national pride of fashion, there is still a sense of personal identity. Every dress has its own flair and each hair style is just a bit different.
5 The Dancing.
The dancing here in Ethiopia is nothing that you will ever encounter again. It’s all shoulder movement with the pop of the head as the dancers glide around the dance floor. Each region has its own flair and variation on the traditional dancing.
6 The Food.
Have you ever heard of injera? It’s a spongy flat bread made from an ancient super-grain called teff. Most Ethiopian food is eaten with injera. There is wats, which is a spicy stew cooked with chicken, goat, ox, or lamb. Shiro or degamino, which is a chickpea-based spicy hot hummus dish. Cooked veggies such as beetroot, spinach, and potatoes with carrots. I can’t even begin to describe to you the favor but also the experience of eating Ethiopian food. You take the injera and break off a two inch by two inch piece that you then fold in your hand to pick up the wat, shiro or cooked veggies. The meal is usually followed by coffee and traditional dancing. Woot woot!
7 The People.
I have made some very dear friends in Ethiopia who will be very hard to leave. Some of these friends are people that I am close with and some are just friendly faces that have helped me at the airline office, the bank, and the corner store. Some of my dearest friends in Ethiopia have come to me in a crisis to fix the plumbing or the electrics or the broken water heater. Some of the people that I laugh the most with today started out as rocky relationships, as I complained about some problem or other. Saying goodbye to a community that has loved us and taken care of us in this foreign land will be the hardest part of moving.
8 The Rock Churches.
The ancient rock-hewn churches in the Tigray region have truly been a highlight for me. Not only have I learned so much about Ethiopian history, but I have been able to step away from the city and relax in the beauty of the mountains and the majesty of these ancient churches and paintings. When I am worn out, these churches and their scenery have refreshed me. When I forgot about why I was living in Ethiopia, these places reminded me. When I was tired from the adventure of life here, a hike to a rock-hewn church reinvigorated me. When I lost hope, I found it here in these churches and on the side of these mountains. There are a variety of other ancient attractions and churches including the Churches of Lalibela, Castles of Gondar, and Ruins of Axum. Check out my #GheraltaGuide.
9 The Holidays.
It feels like there is a holiday every week, which is hard for people trying to run a business but great for the social schedule. In the region we live in, much still revolved around the holidays because of the fasting schedule. Many Orthodox Christians fast from meat, dairy, and sugar every Wednesday and Friday, then during many weeks leading up to holidays such as Easter, Christmas, and Meskel they are also fasting. For an Orthodox Christian, if you keep all the fasting days, you can fast over 160 days a year. The day before a big holiday, all the farmers make their way to town with their lambs and goats, herding them through the streets to sell. Many families will buy a lamb or a goat to slaughter on the holiday.
Related Post: Gheralta Guide: The Rock-Hewn Churches of Ethiopia