Today more than 10 million women, men and children in Ethiopia are struggling with severe hunger caused by drought. With CAFOD working to respond, Jade Till, from our news team, describes her experience of the country’s rich culture and natural beauty.
Ethiopia is where life happens. Recently, Ethiopia has been in the news due to a widespread drought. What’s rarely told is the wondrous beauty of Ethiopia. It’s a dynamic country, rich in culture and history, I’m fortunate enough to have experienced it.
Probably what Ethiopia is most well-known for is coffee. Anyone who’s met me for longer than five minutes knows I’m a coffee drinker. Ethiopia is why I love, and drink, so much coffee.
I remember experiencing my first traditional coffee ceremony. No matter where I was in Ethiopia or if I was in the city or a rural village, the coffee was always served in a traditional style. Grass (even in areas where I hadn’t seen grass for days) is laid out around the coffee area. The woman making the coffee always wore a traditional, flowing, white gown. The coffee beans would be; washed, roasted, crushed, mixed into hot water, and then placed in a traditional coffee pot. The coffee would be shared and you would always drink seven cups of coffee during the coffee ceremony! Ethiopian coffee is extremely strong; it’s also extremely delicious.
Where to first?
Gondar – no, it’s not a city in Tolkien’s Middle Earth, it’s an incredible city in Northern Ethiopia. The castles of Gondar are World Heritage Sites.
I was in Gondar when Sudan split into two countries. Gondar is only a 3 hour drive from the border with Sudan. Celebrations erupted on the day the two countries, peacefully, came into existence. South Sudan has almost been a country for five years (it’ll be five years on the 9th of July).
Climb to the highest peak
The Simien Mountains are located in Northern Ethiopia.
Monkeys were everywhere! The higher I hiked, the more the mountains looked like the floating mountains in Avatar. It was almost impossible to compute that I had just left areas that were completely brown and baron, and now I were seeing the most majestic of sights!
Whenever I was near one of the many villages scattered within the Simien Mountains, children would ask for empty water bottles. These would be used to collect water from streams so that they can cook and wash, make houses by filling the bottles with a heavy material and stacking them, to create an irrigation system to water crops through drips – mainly to grow herbs such as dill.
The greatest teachers in the world, children
I was in Awassa, in 2011, when drought began spreading across this region of Ethiopia. Awassa is only a three week walk from the Kenyan boarder, meaning many sought refuge there. As the drought spread across the eastern part of the continent, more and more people moved to Awassa.
I wanted to help and make a positive difference. I volunteered at two children’s homes; NGAT and Let Us Change.
Being in Ethiopia taught me many things, so many, but what I learnt from the children will remain with me forever. You choose your community and you choose who you love, meaning you choose your family. These children had nothing, yet they laughed and played. The children’s homes were always a place filled with happiness. There was a constant buzz of life and energy.
Betam amasayganalo Ethiopia
You’re probably wondering by now, “what does ‘betam amasayganalo’ mean?” And, if you weren’t wondering before, you are now. It means; ‘Thank-you very much.’
To all the wonderful people I met in Ethiopia, and for the pure beauty of Ethiopia, I would like to say; “betam amasayganalo.”