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Original ATA News Release
2007 Congress Agenda


Bahir Dar, Lake Tana, Blue Nile Falls
by Jerry W. Bird

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.

Nature's Brush, Fields of Gold and Smoke of Fire
In February, the Jacaranda trees are in full blossom, painting city boulevards and village streets in a soft violet hue. It's a signs that will live in my memory forever. On a peaceful hill near Emperor Haile Selassie's Bahir Dar palace, overlooking the Blue Nile, we stopped to mark the moment on film. How fortunate that the royal gardeners had the foresight to plant a mile long stretch of Jacarandas to frame the entrance to this regal spot.

The Ahramic name for the Blue Nile Falls is 'Tissisat' or 'smoke of fire' &emdash; which describes what many claim to be the most spectacular waterfalls in Northern Africa. Here a wide body of water drops over a sheer cliff more than 45 meters deep. In many photos I have seen, that curtain of spray kissed by a brilliant rainbow. Speaking of rainbows and pots of gold &emdash; in September I'm told it's a sure sign of spring, when the 'Meskel" flower turns entire hills and fields to gold.

Our Grand Tour Edition will feature Ethiopia's Southern regions, and we will follow the tracks of Ethiopia's railway, from Addis Ababa to Djibouti on the Gulf of Aden