Ethiopia, the land with the highest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites in Africa, is one of the most overlooked countries in the continent. The commute to this country might be rough, but the journey can be worth it with the natural and cultural sights waiting. This makes Ethiopia one of the places to be for adventurous travellers who enjoy a variety of sights to enjoy.
This country west to the Horn of Africa was not conquered by any European colonial power. The Italians tried to expand their territory in the 19th century, but they failed when met with Ethiopian might led by Menelik II. The ancient history of the country might be a time of peace, but this was disrupted when the Dergs led by communist-backed Mengistu Haile Mariam deposed the reigning monarch, Haile Selassie, in 1974.
A period of social turmoil due to war and famine has affected 8 million people. The USSR retreat in Ethiopian politics has made the region slowly regain its peace and order. Mengistu fled the country to Zimbabwe, which promoted rebuilding in the political and social lives of Ethiopians in 1991.
What to see & do
The cultural highlights make some of the sought-after destinations in Ethiopia. The rock-hewn churches in Lalibela are considered as a major attraction as the rough surface of the landmark harks back to the times when the place was called the 'New Jerusalem'. The two groups of churches are mainly composed of the following: Biete Medhani Alem (Houseof the Saviour of the World), Biete Mariam (House of Mary), Biete Golgotha Mikael (House of Golgotha Mikael), and many other structures.
From there, one can make their way to Harar Jugol, a historical town that used to be an Islamic stronghold. It is considered to be the fourth holiest city as it has more than 82 mosques, three of which were built in the 10th century. About 102 shrines can also be found here for those going on a pilgrimage. The houses also show a fascinating range of interior designs.
The centre of the ancient Ethiopian power is also a place to add to the list. The Kingdom of Aksum was once the most powerful state between Persia (now Iran) and the Eastern Roman Empire. The ruins, including the monolithic obelisks and royal tombs, make a sight to behold due to their cultural significance in the country. The Fasil Ghebbi, the former residence complex of the emperor Fasilides and his descendants is another landmark to explore. The place is composed of palaces and monasteries, as well as public and private buildings for the general population. The architecture harks back to Hindu and Arab designs combined with the Baroque style.
Ethiopia is not just a home to cultural structures, however. There is also the Simien National Park which offers travellers a breathtaking landscape with jagged summits, deep valleys, and sharp, high cliffs. This amazing place sometimes gets covered with mist, which adds to its dangerous appeal. Rare animals can also be seen here, which might allow those on an eco-tour to glimpse extremely rare species such as the Gelada baboon, Simien fox, and the Walia ibex, a goat endemic to the country.
How to get around within Ethiopia
Travellers going around the country will find a reasonably reliable network of buses travelling from one town to another. The buses generally enforce a no-standing policy on the aisles, which can make the ride a bit more comfortable and safer for everyone involved. The commute, however, can be slow with the buses leaving at 6am to start the journey.
Driving, on the other hand, is not possible in Ethiopia. One will need to hire a 4WD with a mandatory driver. There are also documentary requirements to bring, so make sure to have everything in an easy-to-reach pocket whenever there is an inspection.
How to get there
Those going to Ethiopia can book connecting flights to Addis Ababa Bole International Airport. Airlines serving here are: EgyptAir, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, flydubai, Gulf Air, Kenya Airways, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Saudia, Sudan Airways, Turkish Airlines, and Yemenia.
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