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Original ATA News Release
2007 Congress Agenda


By Oliver Smith 09 Jul 2015

The world’s best tourist destination? It’s not Spain, the US, or even Telegraph Travel readers’ favourite country New Zealand, but Ethiopia, according to the European Council on Tourism and Trade
The East African country, which suffered a series of famines in the 1980s but can boast some of the continent’s most dramatic landscapes, was praised by the non-profit association of EU tourism organisations for its “excellent preservation of humanity landmarks”. 
The country’s highlights include the monolithic rock-hewn churches at Lalibela; the Simien Mountains National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site that is home to a number of endangered species, including Ethiopian wolf and walia ibex; and the otherworldly Danakil Depression, with its colourful sulphur and salt lakes. 
Other attractions flagged up during the annual ceremony were Fasil Ghebbi, the residence of the Ethiopian emperors during the 16th and 17th century; Harar Jugol, containing 82 mosques and 102 shrines, and the Konso Cultural Landscape, featuring 55km of stonewalled terraces and fortified settlements. 
In its application for the award, the Ethiopian government identified tourism as a key area if it is to tackle poverty. “Ethiopia is the deserving candidate, with a perfect record of promoting social-friendly tourism, and a ecological and poverty reduction strategy based on tourism,” said Senator Ionel Agrigoraoiei from the European Council. 
The group clearly enjoys backing an underdog – last year’s winner was Zimbabwe; in 2013 it was Laos. 
However, few of the candidates that applied for consideration this year were typical tourist destinations – they included Nigeria, Algeria, Congo DRC, Jordan and Kazakhstan. 
Just 20,000 Britons visit Ethiopia annually, but Kuoni, the luxury tour operator, tipped it (alongside The Philippines and La Reunion) for a surge in visitors earlier this year. 
Its trips feature Lalibela, the low-key capital Addis Ababa, the towns of Gondar and Bahir Dar, the Bale Mountains National Park and the Simien Mountains National Park. 
Parts are off-limits, however. The Foreign Office advises against all travel to within 10km of the borders with Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya and Eritrea, and to parts of the country's north-eastern and south-eastern regions.


While in Ethiopia on two occasions during ATA's 25th Jubilee, our editors had the opportunity of experiencing the hospitality and services offered by Getachew Habte Jesus, (below) and our professional guide at
Abay Travel & Tourism near Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa. Abay's fleet of vehicles is brand new, and we were impressed with the knowledge and courtesy of the driver assigned to us. The following is a typical tour of Ethiopia's famous Holy Route:

Axum: Ark of the Covenant
(from previous page).
Axum, Ethiopia's most ancient city and capital of the historic Axumite state, is the site of many remarkable monolithic stone stelae, or obelisks, the three most important being decorated to represent multi-storied buildings, complete with doors and windows. The largest obelisk, which was 35 metres long and weighed 500 tons, is the biggest piece of stone ever cut by humanity anywhere in the world but today it lies broken on the ground. Near it stands a smaller but nevertheless most impressive 24m high obelisk - the pride of Ethiopia. A somewhat larger obelisk was taken to Rome, on the orders of the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, in 1937, but its return to Axum is expected. Plans are also under consideration for the re-erection of the fallen obelisk. Axum, in its glory days, was a great commercial centre, issuing its own currency and trading with Egypt, Arabia, Persia, India and even Ceylon.

Queen of Sheba
The settlement was also the site of Ethiopia's oldest church, which dated back to the coming of Christianity as the state religion, early in the 4th Century. The original building has long since disappeared but a structure erected on its site by Emperor Fasiladas in the early 17th Century is till there.A nearby outhouse is the reputed repository of the biblical Ark of the Covenant. This historic relic cannot be seen but visitors there can see and photograph a number of the remarkable crowns that belonged to several notable Ethiopian monarchs of the past.

Just out of the town, the remains of an early Axumite palace, popularly thought to have belonged to the Queen of Sheba, are well worth a visit. The remains are located at Dangur, near the mountain from which the obelisks were originally excavated. The beautifully worked tombs of several ancient Axumite rulers and the local archaeological museum are also worth a visit. Lalibela, a medieval settlement in the Last area of Wallo, lies at the centre of an extensive complex of rock churches.
Some can be reached by one or two hours' drive, others are a full day's journey. Lalibela has 11 remarkable rock-hewn monolithic churches, believed to have been built by King Lalibela in the late 12th or early 13th Century.

These notable structures are carved, inside and out, into the solid rock, and are considered among the wonders of the world. Each building is architecturally unique but each reflects beautifully executed craftsmanship, and several are decorated with fascinating paintings. These astonishing edifices remain places of living worship to this day. Sof Omar, a tiny Muslim village in Bale, is the site of an amazing complex of natural caves, cut by the Wab River as it found its way into the nearby mountains. The settlement, which is a religious site, is named after a local Sheikh.

Sof Omar: Visitors to Sof Omar make their way -armed with torches and official map - underground, far into the bowels of the earth, beside a subterranean stream, and there can see an extraordinary number of arched portals, high, eroded ceilings and deep, echoing chambers. Some 35 per cent of the Ethiopian population is Muslim. Nearly half the population is Christian, belonging to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, whose 4th Century beginnings came long before Europe accepted Christianity. A further small percentage of the population adheres to traditional and other beliefs, including Judaism.

Ethiopia. like many other African countries, is a multi-ethnic state. Many distinctions have been blurred by intermarriage over the years but many also remain. The differences may be observed in the number of languages spoken-an astonishing 83, falling into four main language groups: Semitic, Cushitic, Omotic and Nilo-Saharan. There are 200 different dialect. The Semitic languages of Ethiopia are related to both Hebrew and Arabic, and derive from Ge'ez, the ecclesiastical language. The principle Semitic language spoken in the north-western and central part of the country is Amharic, which is also the official language of the modern state. Other main languages are Tigrigna, Guraginya, Adarinya, Afan Oromo, Somalynya, Sidaminya, Afarinya, Gumuz, Berta and Anuak. The Tigrigna-and Amharic-speaking people of the north and centre of the country are mainly agriculturists, tilling the soil with ox-drawn ploughs and growing teff (a local millet), wheat, barley, maize and sorghum. The most southerly of the Semitic speakers, the Gurage, are also farmers and herders, but many are also craftsmen. The Gurage grow inset, 'false banana', whose root, stem and leaf stalks provide a carbohydrate which, after lengthy preparation, can be made into porridge or unleavened bread.

The Cushitic Oromo, formerly nomadic pastoralists, are now mainly engaged in agriculture and, in the more arid areas, cattle-breeding. The Somali, also pastoral nomads, forge a living in hot and arid bush country, while the Afar, semi-nomadic pastoralists and fishermen, are the only people who can survive in the hostile environment of the Danakil Depression. Living near the Omo River are the Mursi, well-known for the large clay discs that the women war inserted in a slit in their lower lips. The people of Ethiopia wear many different types of clothing. The traditional dress of the Christian highland peasantry has traditionally been of white cotton cloth. Since the time of Emperor Tewodros 11 (mid-1800s), men have worn long, jodhpur like trousers, a tight fitting shirt and a shamma (loose wrap)

The Muslims of Harar, by contrast wear very colourful dress, the men in shorftish trousers and a coloured wrap and the women in fine dresses of red, purple and black. The lowland Somali and Afar wear long, brightly coloured cotton wraps, and the Oromo and Bale people are to be seen in the bead-decorated leather garments that reflect their economy, which is based on livestock. Costumes to some extend reflect the climates where the different groups live-highlanders, for instance, use heavy cloth cape sand wraparound blankets to combat the night chill. In the heat of the lowland plains, light cotton cloths are all that is required by men and women alike. Traditional dress, through often now supplanted by Western attire, may still be seen throughout much of the countryside. National dress is usually worn for festivals, when streets and meeting-places are transformed into a sea of white, as finely woven cotton dresses, wraps decorated with coloured woven borders, and suits are donned.

A distinctive style of dress is found among the Oromo horsemen of the central highlands, who, on ceremonial days such as Maskal, attire themselves in lion's manes or baboon-skin headdresses and, carrying hippo-hide spears and shields, ride down to the main city squares to participate in the parades. Ethiopians are justifiably proud of the range of their traditional costumes. The most obvious identification of the different groups is in the jewellery, the hair styles and the embroidery of the dresses. The women of Amhara and Tigray wear dozens of plaits (sheruba), tightly braided to the head and billowing out at the shoulders. The women of Harar part their hair in the middle and make a bun behind each ear. Hamer, GXeleb, Bume and Karo men form a ridge of plaited hair and clay to hold their feathered headwear in place. Arsi women have fringes and short, bobbed hair. Bale girls have the same, but cover it with a black headcloth, while young children often have their heads shaved. Jewellery in silver and gold is worn by both Muslims and Christians, often with amber or glass beads incorporated. Heavy brass, copper and ivory bracelets and anklets are also worn.

Music: Ethiopia also has a rich tradition of both secular and religious music, singing and dancing, and these together constitute an important part of Ethiopian cultural life. Singing accompanies many agricultural activities, as well as religious festivals and ceremonies surrounding life's milestones-birth, marriage and death. Traditional musical instruments in widespread use include the massinko, a one-stringed violin played with a bow; the krar, a six-stringed lyre, played with the fingers or a plectra,; the washing, a simple flute' and three types of drum-the negarit (kettledrum), played with sticks, the kebero, played with the hands, and the atamo, tapped with the fingers or palm. Other instruments include the begena, a huge, multi-stringed lyre often referred to as the Harp of David; the tsinatseil, or sistrum, which is used in church music; the meleket, a long trumpet without finger holes, and the embilta, a large, simple, one-note flute used on ceremonial occasions.

Though often simply made, the massinko can, in the hands of an expert musician, produces a wide variety of melodies. It is often played by wandering minstrels, particularly near eating houses, where the musicians entertain the diners. The rousing rhythms of the negarit where used in times gone by to accompany important proclamations, and chiefs on the march would be preceded by as many as 30 men, each beating a negarit carried on a donkey. The tiny atamo is most frequently played at weddings and festivals, setting the rhythmic beat of folks songs and dances. Modern-style bands have come into existence in recents decades, and there are noted Ethiopian jazz musicians. Such bands are especially to be heard in the capital.

Addis Ababa: With a population of more than two million people, Addis Ababa is not only the political capital but also the economic and social nerve-centre of Ethiopia. Founded by Emperor Menelik in 1887, this big, sprawling, hospitable city still bears the stamps of his exuberant personality. More than 21,000 hectares in area, Addis Ababa is situated in the foothills of the 3,000 metre Entoto Mountains, and rambles pleasantly across many wooded hillsides and gullies cut with fast-flowing streams. Wide, tree-lined streets, fine architecture, glorious weather and the incongruity of donkey trains along the boulevards make Addis a city of surprises and a delightful place to explore. The clear mountain air gives the city the bracing atmosphere of a summer highland resort. It enjoys a mild climate, with an average temperature of 61 degrees Fahrenheit.

Addis Ababa stands at the very heart of Ethiopia and there is much to do and to see. The city has a flourishing cultural life, with regular exhibitions and lectures. There are many opportunities to experience Ethiopian music, song and dance, to visit museums and to see the city sights. The Horticultural Society and Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society both organize visits to local gardens and trips out into the countryside. And after all that, what better than to sample some of Ethiopia's culinary delights? Injera, a large, soft, pancake like crepe, forms the basis of most Ethiopian meals, served with a communal tray on which are a tempting array of spicy sauces. Also distinctive is the Ethiopian traditional drink, tej, a honey wine, or mead. Traditional restaurants abound in Addis Ababa, and offer entertainment in the form of the ubiquitous massinko minstrels and traditional dance troupes. There are also many other specialist restaurants in the city, including Chinese, Italian, French, Indian, Armenian, Arabic and Greek. The Ethiopian experience is thus one that offers something for everyone. Truly, there is no other place on earth quite like it.

Sample Itinerary by Abay Travel & Tourism

DAY 1: Morning transfer to the Airport for the flight to Axum upon arrival be transferred to Yeha Hotel. P.M. sight seeing of Axum which includes:-
a) The Stelae Park
b) St. Mary's Church
c) Emperor Ezana's Park;
d) Tombs of the Kings;
e) The bath of the Queen of Sheba;
f) The Ruins of Queen Sheba's Palace, overnight in a hotel in Axum.

DAY 2 : AM fly from Axum to Lalibela & Transfer to Hotel P.M. sight seeing in the town.a) the Eleven Rock - Hewn Churches of Lalibela
b) Tour of the town. Overnight in a hotel;

DAY 3 : AM transfer to the irport for the flight of Gondar upon arrival
transfer to Hotel PM visit Gondar which includes:
a) the Imperial Castles;
b) Debre-Berhan Selassie Church
c) Quesquam Mariam Church;
d) Felasha village;
e) Bath of Emperor Fasiledes, overnight in a hotel;

DAY 4 : A.M. fly from Gondar to Bahir-Dar & transfer to Hotel.
P.M have sight seeing of Bahir-Dar which includes:-
a) The mighty Tississat Falls ( The smoke water)
b) Boat trip on Lake Tana to visit the monasteries of Ura Kidane-Mihret & Bete-Mariam.

DAY 5 : Transfer to Bahir Dar Airport for the flight back to Addis

The cost for the above tour program for a group size of :
4-7 PAX is USD 430.00 Per Person;
8-11 PAX is USD 396.00 Per Person;
12-15 PAX is USD 376.00 Per Person;
16-19 PAX is USD 367.00 Per Person;
20-23 PAX is USD 346.00 Per Person;

Cost includes : Hotel accommodation out of Addis on B/B basis & double room sharing all ground transportation all sight seeing, entrance fee guide service, portages. Cost does not include: Any air fare, visa, Air Port tax & all other expenses of personal nature. Single room supplement out of Addis is USD 15 per person and per night.

For the above and a full selection of tours to other parts of Ethiopia, and neighboring countries, contact:

P.O. Box 2901 , Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Phone: 61-43-87, Fax: 251-1 61 43 87

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