From Robert Eilets Ethiopia Gallery

In The Queen of Sheba's Footsteps
by Jerry W. Bird

Franco - Ethiopian Railway from Addis Ababa to Djibouti on the Horn of Africa
Given Aladdin's 3 wishes I would: (1) Restore Emperor Haile Sellasie's original 'Lion of Judah' railway engine that's standing all alone in the train yard. (2) Hook it up to the Emperor's prized set of antique French and British crafted coaches, and (3) Operate a twice daily luxury tour on the Franco-Ethiopian Railway. Built in the 1930s, the 482 mile line stretches from Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, via Nazaret, Rift Valley and Dire Dawa, to Djibouti, a French protectorate on the Gulf of Aden. In a 10 -minute BBC interview at the Gare (Railway Station) I commented, "Think of the much needed income such a packaged tour would generate for the Ethiopian economy.

Discover Historic Lalibela
Lalibela's Bet Giyorgis, most famous of the eleven rock-hewn churches in this mountainous area, is believed to have been built in the late 12th or early 13th century by King Lalibela. These incredible edifices, which were carved inside and outside from solid rock, are ranked among the wonders of the world. Our team of North American journalists came to Ethiopia with few preconceived notions, yet each had some special areas of concern. For every member of the group, it was a first time journey to this ancient, mysterious, storybook land. What a spiritual awakening it proved to be. The tour of Ethiopia's Historic Route began in Addis Ababa, the capital and geographical center. For starters, Ethiopian Airlines, flew us north to Lalibela, the holy city; to Gondar- Africa's Camelot, and to Bahir Dar on Lake Tana, source of the Blue Nile. Dire Dawa and the walled city of Harar in the eastern sector completed the agenda. Nothing I had read about the Holy City of Lalibela, its mysteries, legends, saints and monarchs, could have prepared me for what we were about to encounter on this trip. The brief morning flight from Addis Ababa's Airport north was a delight, winging through the cloudless skies, as an ever-changing panorama of awesome gorges, deep canyons and broad plateaus unfolded below.

Oldest Human Ancestor Discovered in Ethiopia: An international team of scientists working in Ethiopia's Afar Depression recently announced the discovery of hominid fossils that belong to the oldest human ancestor ever found. The fossils which date back between 5.2 and 5.8 millions years ago, are significant because they indicate that the ancestors of present-day humans split evolutionary company with apes more than 5 million years ago. The specimens are recognizable as early hominids and distinguishable from early chimpanzees, because some of their teeth characteristics are shared exclusively with later hominids. In addition, the bones have a distinctive feature found only in primates that walk upright on two feet, unlike apes, which do not walk bipedally. This new fossil discovery also supports Darwin's theory that hominids arose in Africa. More->

duated with a BA., as an Economics major with a minor in Public Administration.

Birth of Coffee: There is an old Ethiopian legend that says that a young goatherd noticed his herd becoming unusually frisky after eating some bright red berries. After trying some himself, he found that they had the same stimulating effect on him. A monk from a neighboring monastery also tried these berries after he found the young goat herd in this state, and to his amazement, he also found that the berries helped keep him and others alert during their night prayers and thus spread the use of coffee. More->

Ethiopian Airlines Wins Friends , Influences People: How many of our under 30 generation have read his books, or even know about Dale Carnegie, I could never guess. Yet this one man's simple concepts have changed millions of lives dramatically and positively for generations, not just in North America, but around the world. In my opinion everyone should read at least one of his inspiring books. Like Napoleon Hill, another author who has inspired folks around the world, he leads by example. The management at Ethiopian Airlines has the type of action-based thinking and 'hands on' approach Carnegie talks about on every page of his best seller, "How to Win Friends and Influence People." Speaking of winning friends, the way our group of 11 journalists was catered to during a Tourism Ministry sponsored flight from the USA to Addis Ababa -- and around the country on its regional routes, left its mark indelibly on each of us. Following the Historic Route Tour to Lalibela, Gondar, Bahir Dar-and Lake Tana, I had the opportunity of working at the company's head office for several days, laying the foundation for this issue and an updated (Post Congress) edition of Africa Travel Magazine. That was when I experienced the "Spirit of Ethiopian Airlines" first hand. More->

Wine and Roses: My inner child loves surprises, and to discover a freshly cut sweetheart rose nestled on one's pillow is a touch that transcends time and space. This was the first surprise the Sheraton Addis reserved for our group, and much more awaited us as we checked the nooks and crannies of this elegant hotel and its spacious, luxuriant, terraced grounds. Later, we discovered ornate vases of roses literally everywhere; in the restaurants, around the lobby and corridors, at the pool-side -- and at a festive wedding we attended. Airports: Nationwide expansion sets stage for tourism More->

Bahir Dar, Lake Tana, Blue Nile Falls
A pleasant surprise occurred on day 3 of our Historic Route journey through Ethiopia. Following a short flight on Ethiopian Airlines from Gondar to Bahir Dar Airport, the gut-wrenching condition of the road leading west led me to believe our group of 11 journalists would be staying at some dusty lakeside village. However, like several of my colleagues, I was completely bowled over when tall palms and jacarandas suddenly appeared out of the blue. Like part of a royal procession, we entered a modern, well laid out community with broad, tree-lined boulevards. Bahir Dar would rival many seaside retreats on the Mediterranean or Florida. En route to Lake Tana, I spotted a huge resort hotel complex nearing completion &emdash; a sign of positive things to come. After checking into our hotel, we boarded a motor launch for a spin around Lake Tana, which is Ethiopia's largest lake. We're told there are 37 small islands on the lake, and most of them shelter monasteries and churches, some dating back to the 13th century. On most inland bodies of water of this size, one might encounter powerboats and sleek sailing craft, but on Lake Tana in Northern Ethiopia, leisure gives way to practicality. Here, the waters are alive with a fleet of 'tankwas' , papyrus canoes, carrying charcoal and firewood to market in Bahir Dar. More->

A Storybook Land: I've never been to Tibet, but the spiritual presence and views we saw during our corkscrew journey up the hillside would easily fit that image. Small wonder this storybook land has such a spiritual presence, a proud tradition and a way of life that has survived three millennia, despite an outside world of hate, conquest, treachery, trial and turmoil. The thatched villages, shepherd boys, terraced farming methods, simple forms of irrigation and donkey power, attest to the fact that time has stood still &emdash; as well it should. Coming from North America it's hard for us to realize that this is the way it has been in this part of the world since time immemorial.

Rocks of Ages: During my recent African excursions, I have been awed by mankind's glorious creations, offset by a Jekyll and Hyde capacity for evil. While we were shocked by the slave castles of West Africa's Gold Coast and Zanzibar's dungeons, we saw the result of godly forces at work in the 12th century rock -hewn churches that have made the Holy City of Lalibela a magnet for Christian pilgrims and historians.

Many come for the famous church festivals in Ethiopia, such as Timket (Epiphany) and other times of celebration and devotion. Souvenirs of King Lalibela are everywhere, as a continuing tribute to his glory and greatness in creating these wonders of the world. Our official photographer, Robert Eilets couldn't get over the abundance of photo opportunities in Lalibela's streets, at the famous stone churches and around every bend in the road leading to this remote highland community. Next time, we vowed to allow an extra day for photography alone.

Footnote: Back in Addis Ababa, it was our turn to be interviewed -- this time by Ethiopian press, radio and television. To a person, each journalist agreed it was a positive experience with no feelings of concern or anxiety about personal health and safety. The climate in mid February was perfect, and the hospitality of the people was second to none. What a beautiful prelude to the ATA congress, Africa's 1st major tourism event of the new millennium. More to come, including map and photos.

Continued: (Holy Route North) Gondar- Ethiopia's Camelot


Ethiopia Story
ATA World Congress
Addis Ababa
Bahir Dar
Rift Valley
South Ethiopia

Ethiopia Index
Arts and Crafts
Coffee History
Fashion Shows
Felasha Village
First Impressions
Hon. Yusuf Sukkar
Oldest Human
River Adventures
Thirteen Months
Tour Itinerary
Wine & Roses

Air Travel
Ethiopian Airlines
Ghion Hotels
Hilton Addis
Imperial Hotel
Lall Hotels
Sheraton Addis
Taitu/ Finfinne
New Resorts