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Original ATA News Release
2007 Congress Agenda


Haile Selassie's Palace reflects Addis Ababa's Royal Legacy
by Jerry W. Bird..

African lionThe Royal Palace of Emperor Haile Selassie, a highlight of the ATA 25th Jubilee Congress, was an exciting venue on our journalists' group tour in February 2000. Ethiopia, realm of the romantic Queen of Sheba, King Lalibela, and a host of other royals, has always been a magnet for hordes of invaders and generations of explorers. Today it attracts travelers like ourselves, representing all walks of life from around the world. Each visitor is eager to discover the country's legendary fascination and perhaps unlock its mysteries.


Royal Rails and the Lion of Judah
Having originated a magazine series called, "Railways of the World," I am always keen on new experiences in rail travel. Seeing future opportunities here in Addis, I joined my associate Yohannes Kifle and an attractive BBC female reporter to tour the classic train depot in the heart of Addis Ababa. Here we boarded two sets of antique railcars, which were once the pride of the Emperor and family, and a had a close up look at a vintage 1950s 'Lion of Judah' engine.

Given Aladdin's 3 wishes, I would restore Emperor Haile Sellasie's 'Lion of Judah' railway engine, hook it up to the prized set of French and British coaches, and operate luxury excursion
tours on the Franco-Ethiopian Railway.

Built in the 1930s, the 482 mile line stretches from Addis Ababa, via Nazaret, the Rift Valley and Dire Dawa, to Djibouti, a French protectorate on the Gulf of Aden. In a 5-minute BBC interview, hoping my message would cause a spark, I said, "Think of the much needed income such a tour would generate for the Ethiopian economy." I've followed the last decade's amazing railway renaissance.
After a visit to Emperor Selassie's palace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa's ornate railway station (gare) is the ideal venue for such an historic journey. Yes, the lordly Lion of Judah's engine lacks wheels, and the dust covered coaches shows neglect from being shunted aside during the Marxist regime.

However, with some good old fashioned TLC (tender loving care) each museum piece would soon be in shining order. The Emperor's train is still not widely available for public view; fortunately we and our BBC friend received special permission.