Today we picked up our malaria medication and the remainder of our travel pharmacy. The suitcases are ready to be packed. While it would be great to continue this blog during our trip I doubt we will have wifi access to be able to do so. So it will have to wait until our return. In the meantime we will enjoy our vacation!!!!!!
We know so far that our guide will be Leban and that he loves to draw and paint. We wanted to be better prepared than we were for our trip to Kenya and Tanzania and asked the travel agency about what he likes . We have bought a scetch book and some paint and drawing pencils to give to Leban as a present at te end of our trip. We have been extremely lucky so far both in Kenya and Tanzania with our guides and believe we will be lucky in Ethiopia too .
In Kenya, Jackson was an excellent guide. He could smell the animals. We were often the first car to arrive at a lion or cheetah sighting. Thousands of wildebeest were standing at the Mara river but had not yet started their crossing as part of their annual migration. We decided to be patient and wait and after two and a half hours we were lucky and they started crossing (with the crocodiles waiting patiently for a prey but as there were millions more to follow they would get their food the coming days).
Our Tanzanian guide, Duncan was excellent too. We had some great cheetah and leopard sightings and went hunting with the Hadza bushmen. We became good friends with Duncan who is a big Manchester United football fan. If we had known this upfront I could have brought him something directly from Manchester as I regularly have to be there for work. Shipping things from Europe to East-Africa is not ideal.
Our kids still remember most of the Swahili words they learned from Duncan and can still sing the Jambo song (Tanzanian version) but when I look at the Amharic language guide I downloaded recently it will be so much harder to do the same in Ethiopia. The Amharic alphabet consists of 32 consonants and 7 vowels and is very hard to understand even harder to read.
Today we picked up our Ethiopian visa at the Embassy in Brussels. No waiting times and the process went smoothly. The website of the Ethiopian embassy is well organized so we had already upfront printed out and completed the form and had the required photo at hand. The fee of 17 EUR/person is relatively cheap compared to the cost for some other African countries visa.
We could get a visum too at Bole airport upon arrival in Addis Ababa but we preferred to pick it up before traveling. It should be a formality to get the visum locally unless you are born in Eritrea but we felt more secure to get it upfront. We wanted to eliminate the remote risk of being denied entrance after a night flight with children.
The increasing tension between Ethiopia and Eritrea is however not good news for our upcoming trip. On March 15, 2012 Ethiopian forces have launched a military assault on Eritrea. Ethiopia has accused Eritrea of backing Ethiopian rebels that killed five Western tourists in January 2012.
As Axum is on our itinerary we will be passing through the Afar and Tigray region and be relatively close to the border with Eritrea. The UK government website in their updated safety report of March 15th continues to indicate that traveling on the main road through Axum and Adigrat and the tourist sides close to the road (e.g Debre Damo and Yeha) should be ok but that all travels within 10km of the border with Eritrea should be avoided. We will keep on following the developments closely and if required we will amend our itinerary accordingly.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - The Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced that it is engaged in extensive promotional activities aimed at realizing the vision of “making Ethiopia one of the top five tourist destinations in Africa by 2020.
In an exclusive interview with ENA on Thursday, Public and International Relations Director with the Ministry Awoke Tenaw, said the Ministry is currently promoting actively the country’s rich and precious heritages and natural tourist attractions in nine countries in the world as part of the massive effort well underway to enable Ethiopia attain its vision.
He said his ministry, through the involvement of regional tourist offices and private tour operators, has been advertising, the nine heritages registered as world heritage centers and other famous attractions sites in trade fairs, and other events being held in different countries.
Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Italy and Russia are among the countries where the nation’s major magnificent and spectacular tourist sites are being advertised widely, according to Awoke.
On the other hand, both the government and private sector have been heavily engaged in the development of tourism industry.
Awoke said the government is constructing new infrastructures and expanding existing ones within tourist sites in the country.
Some gravel roads linking highways with attraction sites have been upgraded to asphalt level while several airport terminals have been built around major tourist sites.
The private sector has also been constructing standard hotels, lounges, restaurants and other facilities, he said, adding that the number of standard hotels in the country has now reached above 425.
The construction and expansion of infrastructures in most attraction sites, the rise in the number of tourist facilities, the existence of abundant heritages and of spectacular natural tourist sites and the prevalence of peace and security are the major factors for the rise in the number of foreign tourists coming to the country.
According to Awoke, the stated factors, along the extensive promotional works undertaken in different corners of the world, have enabled to lure a significant number of foreign tourists thereby raise the amount of revenue being obtained from the sector during the reported period.
As a result, the foreign exchange earning Ethiopia obtains from foreign tourist inflow has showed an accelerated growth over the last couple of years. The amount of foreign currency the country secures from visiting foreign tourists has jumped up from only 169 million US dollars in 2006 to over 333.35 million US dollars in 2010.
He said foreign tourist arrivals which were only 330,000 in 2006 have showed a marked growth in 2010 reaching 468,300.
Ethiopia has also envisaged to obtain 773. 5 million US dollars in 2004 Ethiopian fiscal year.
The amount is predicted to be secured from an estimated 700,000 foreign tourists who are anticipated to visit the country during the stated period, according to the five-year Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP).
Ethiopia has different heritages including the Rock Hewn Churches of Lalibela, Fasil Ghebbi, Axum obelisques, Tiya monolithic grave marks, the walled City of Harar and other beautiful natural resources.
(March 10, 2012)
I took my Fuji X100 with me last Sunday through the Marollen quarter of Brussels. It was hanging around my neck with my finger constantly on the shutter and I photographed a few interesting characters that were passing by (See below). While I missed some shots the overall result was not too bad. As I did not wanted to be seen photographing I was not focussing just aiming at where I assumed the person’s face to be. I think if I practice this technique some more it would be great to use in Ethiopia as most of those photographed did not not notice the presence of my camera.
The photo’s above were also taken on the same day, the location this time being the Ethiopian cafe in Brussels. While I did not like the place too much (see my earlier post) the table at the window was nice and gave me the possibility to shoot both the people on the terras as well as those passing by. The inside table added some interesting reflections. The camera was only placed on the table, again just pressing the shutter without any focussing. The camera mode selected was continuous autofocus.
I bought the Fuji X100 second hand just before Christmas and I am not yet sure whether I like it better than my Leica X1 despite the many positive reviews generally rating it better than the Leica X1. One thing I certainly do not like is the charger of the FUJI X100 which contains a loose piece to enable the battery to charge. Knowing how disorganized I am it won’t take long before that piece is lost. The battery only lasted for two hours which is by far too short so it is not very likely that this camera will make it into my fotobag for Ethiopia especially knowing that we won’t have charging sockets regularly available. For my X1 I own a spare battery so that is another reason I may bring that one instead.
Besides struggling which camera’s and lenses to take I am still practicing on how to take discrete street shots. Last year I photographed the Hadza tribe in Tanzania of which I publish some photo’s below. My camera was omnipresent. It is hard to hide a Nikon D300S with either a Nikon 80-400 or a Tamron 18-270 zoom attached. Not that the pictures below are bad but it may not be wise to walk around with a huge DSRL at the Mercado in Addis Ababa.
After the not so successful visit to the Ethiopian coffee house in Brussels earlier today we continued the gastronomic preparation of our upcoming trip to Ethiopia and had diner in Kobob, the only Ethiopian restaurant in Brussels.
What a difference!!!!. The Kobob staff was very friendly. You can drink ጠጀ (Tej), an Ethiopian yellow honey wine, sweet but with a high alcohol content.
The food was plenty and very good. They serve mainly stews (wat).The kids enjoyed the experience of eating with their hands picking up bites of stew with the sourdough flatbread (injera). They still have to learn that they can only use their right hand.
In the Hoogstraat/Rue Haute in Brussels you can find an Ethiopian coffee house named Aksum. Neither the quiche on the menu nor the Cappuccino gave me a very Ethiopian feel. The paintings were from Senegal. The only thing that came close was a St George beer but that was imported from Switzerland and came at a price of 4.50 EUR a bottle. The ceiling was Ethiopian though.