But pray do tell dear friend,
tell me, what better way to Be Africa if not by starting at the roots?
What better way to Be Africa if not by reading all things African, for Africa and by Africa?
But further still, do tell, what better way to Be Africa than to actually Travel Africa?
I mentioned here that my main goal for 2016 was to BE Africa and to me the only way I could do this is either by reading and experiencing Africa through African writers or my all time favourite thing in the world; TRAVEL. Travel Africa.
And so, just like that, my first African trip in 2016 was to one of the places that could very well be the cradle of mankind itself. Ethiopia 🙂
I have been to Uganda, Tanzania and South Africa and all were very different experiences, as expected, despite the fact that they are all African countries, but Ethiopia was special.
Ethiopia in itself stands out as different and special mainly because it was my first African trip alone and the first African trip that I paid for all by myself. (Can you tell that I’m still proud of myself? )
I was set to leave on the Eve of my birthday at 2:oopm and in 2hrs I had landed at Bole International Airport. Hayat and her father were waiting for me and a long embrace with Hayat is what followed after running into her arms. It had been about 3years since we were last in Sweden and it was the last time I saw her.
We kept in constant communication and the plan was to meet her in Dubai but it so happened that she was going back home for the Summer and I thought what better time to take my leave and go relax away from home with one who had become my heart in the past few years?
Ethiopia was many things; relaxing, new, exciting, cultural, eye-opening, adventurous, fun and even fattening. (Yes, I gained some weight on my little trip up North)
I got to experience the culture first hand and it was like a breath of fresh air. It was a community so tightly knit and rooted in their culture , a thing I had not experienced in this intensity back home. The way of the people transcended from their livelihood to their food and the most beautiful thing was that they were all Ethiopian before they were Tigray, Harari or even Hamar. A far cry from the response you would get if you asked a Kenyan what they are. They would probably respond along tribal lines rather than a simple “I’m Kenyan.”
Ethiopians are a people of culture and dance is a big part of this culture.
Picture this, walking into a night club, girls dressed to the T, bottles on deck and after your all time favourite club banger, a cultural song is dropped and the whole club breaks into dance, cultural dance, shoulder , neck and waist movements but mostly shoulder movements. It was nothing like I had ever seen before and in no time I was moving my shoulders in the best luyha and kamba shoulder imitations I could master.
All this dance after a proper meal of Ethiopian dishes, Injera and the like. I have to say, I didn’t really like Injera, but I LOOOOVED fetira and even though it is a breakfast food, I could have it all day everyday.
I have to say I liked the orange sauce and the chicken with the egg though:)
Back in Sweden at our friend Nardos’ house, we had a mini coffee ceremony after a hearty meal on Christmas day and that was my first experience of the Ethiopians love for coffee. While we did not have a coffee ceremony when I was in Addis, we drank coffee every passing day and sometimes more than once. The city was pouring over with coffee house after coffee house and I could see why. Coffee just like in Sweden (Fika) translated into a time for togetherness and bonding, for catching up and sharing. Coffee meant you and me, me and you, together , friends, let’s bond. It made me quite Nostalgic for Sweden I must say 🙂
While culture was a big part of my Ethiopian experience , I couldn’t help but look out for development and comparisons with Nairobi. Nairobi is an advanced African city but I have to give it to Ethiopia for getting and operating a very functional Metro while we wait for a standard gauge railway that will not roll out immediately with electrification.
What was more impressive is that Ethiopia is Ethiopia by Ethiopians. A nation that has seen no colonial master and basically started from the ground up with a bright future ahead. Watch them sing “Started from the Bottom” when they experience a boom in their economy, which by the way is stronger than the Kenyan one.
Corruption seems to be a sad given in many African countries including Ethiopia but at least, they are experiencing new and good change. Slowly but surely.
Ethiopia was a journey of the heart, a coming of age story for me and one more country off my checklist. I thoroughly enjoyed waking from my deep slumber at a loose 11:30pm and only starting my day at about 1:00pm. I enjoyed the lovely food that Samiha stuffed me with and the trips to the national museums and palaces that Hayat and her father took me on. I loved the great work out I got from partying almost on a daily as I oohed and aahed at the beauty that was Ethiopian women.
I enjoyed the lovely night drives on the highway in search for fries and burgers after a night out and even the exhausting day that was spent in Merkato (Equivalent of Eastleigh) in search of silver and Diiras. The thrill there after of boarding the “Matatus” and even of evening walks out in the city.
I loved the alone time that I would get to myself to think and reflect about my life and to sneak in a selfie or 10 here and there. I loved the escape from the norm that was Ethiopia and I loved the comments I got when I was back home on how well rested I looked and how much my skin was glowing.
I loved that I did get rest. I loved that this little trip made me long for days at work (Lol) and that it shut me out of the world (connectivity issues) for a few days. I had to painfully accept that I am not the type to do without communication but it was refreshing to have my phone away for a little while.
I loved the hospitality I received from Hayat and her family and all the Ethiopians I met. I love that I met Zikra. You know when you meet a good soul and you just know that you will cross paths again, that was her. I loved that this goodness towards others came from a stranger on the plane who gave me a quick course on Ethiopia before we landed and helped me contact Hayu when my phone had died on me.
I loved that I met Nardos and her family and it was like Sweden all over again. I loved that time a random guy in the club singled me out and was like, ” You must be Kenyan, from Nairobi yes? ” I loved the attention I got, I obviously looked different and definitely not Ethiopian. I have been mistaken for being Rwandese and few times Tanzanian by Kenyans back home so it was a pleasant surprise that for once someone who didn’t know me singled me out as KENYAN! 🙂
I have blabbered on quite a bit and yet I do not feel like this post does justice for what Ethiopia was for me but it will have to do.
It is a great thing when you know that you have people in different parts of the world who got you if you ever decide to pop by. It lets you call more than one place home. You can bet on it that I will be back home. The when and why is unsure but I shall return Ethiopia, for now,
Love and Love,