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Friday, December 9, 2016

11/11: Last Post From Addis - Another Incredible Day

Last night we arranged that the taxi driver who drove us back to the hotel to pick us up this morning to drive us to Addis Ababa's Holy Trinity Cathedral, wait there while we visited it and then drive us to the National Museum. Both places were hard to get to using public transportation.

Temporary highway closure, Addis Ababa style!
I joked with the driver that his taxi was the Mercedes of Ethiopian taxis as it actually had a knob to roll down the window and was in otherwise pretty good shape!

On arrival at the Holy Trinity Cathedral also known as the Selassie Cathedral, several people told us we needed to buy tickets prior to entering. Pretty official looking tickets and a tad cumbersome for any memento album!
The cornerstone of the church was laid in 1931 by then Emperor Haile Selassie. The massive and ornate cathedral is the second-most important place of worship in Ethiopia, ranking behind the Old Church of St Mary of Zion in Aksum.
The exterior had a rather Arabic façade. 
The former patriarchs of the Ethiopian Orthodox church:
The celebrated Ethiopian painter Afewerk Tekle who died in 2012 at age 80.
The churchyard also hosted the graves of many patriots who died fighting the Italian occupation. The sign said 'Visit here the timeless history and heritages.'
To the west of the cathedral was the tomb of the famous British suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst. She was one of the very few people outside Ethiopia who protested Italy’s occupation; she moved to Addis Ababa in 1956. 
A nearby sign said, 'Here are the passed but the living legends.'

We noticed a number of women praying quietly against the wall of the church but, just a moment later, saw a guard moving them on with his baton. What a shame they weren’t allowed to stay as I saw no harm in what they were doing or how they were conducting themselves.
The interior was lavishly decorated by ecclesiastical paintings in both the modern and medieval Ethiopian styles. 

There were some grand murals, the most notable being Afewerk Tekle’s depiction of the Holy Trinity, with Matthew (man), Mark (lion), Luke (cow) and John (dove) peering through the clouds. There were also some brilliant stained glass windows.

The cathedral was the final resting place of Emperor Selassie and his wife, Empress Menen. Their identical granite crypts were placed there in November of 2000, 25 years after the emperor’s death following a colorful reburial procession.

Even though the Cathedral looked and felt so much older than it was, it was still a place to offer praise and reflect on Ethiopia's troubled past. As the taxi driver was waiting, we only took a few moments to look at the Selassie Museum on the church grounds.

On the way to the National Museum, the taxi driver passed by Parliament, Queen Elizabeth and King George streets, even though Ethiopia was not one of Britain’s colonies or outposts.
The collection at the National Museum is ranked among the most important in sub-Saharan Africa but it looked more like an aging office building when we first saw it.

Statue of Haile Selassie – he was so short, he was always shown standing on a podium.

One of the monuments was a replica Ormec Head from Mexico Square.
A number of the items in the museum’s collection had been taken from Ethiopia to England and Italy for 'safekeeping.' This 18th C. velvet and silver parasol belonging to Empress Mentewab was, according to the museum, illegally taken to England but bought at auction in 1991 and returned to Ethiopia.
This chair made its way to Italy during WW II and only returned home in 1972.
Among the collection of lavish royal paraphernalia was Selassie’s enormous and rather hideous carved wooden throne!
The ceremonial robe was made with ostrich feathers, silk and velvet; the headdress was made from a lion’s mane!
This and other large stone female figures were thought to have been fertility symbols of a pre-Judaic religion. It was interesting that the figures had braided hair identical to the style worn by modern Ethiopian women.

Many of the statues were headless – probably decapitated by early Christians who converted many early pagan temples to churches. 
One almost perfectly preserved statue, thought to be 2,600 years old was seated in a six foot high stone cask adorned with engravings of ibex.

In the basement, there was an interesting exhibit called Taming Deep Time: I am not a science buff but I found the following description fascinating as it related the concept of time in a way I could easily appreciate. 'In our lifetime, we are used to counting time with minutes, days and years. So what do 'millions of years' really represent to us? How can we figure the stunning time spans involved in the history of humanity? Here's a trick: imagine that the earliest known human ancestor appeared just 60 seconds ago, instead of 7 million years ago (Ma). Look when each of these events would take place during this minute when each second corresponds in realiy to 116,667 years.'

There were detailed notes on discovering archeological sites: fieldwork, collecting data, preparation and curation, analysis and finally publishing the data and the results found by each scientist so they are made available to the international community. The palaeontology exhibit contained fossilized evidence of some amazing extinct creatures, like the massive saber-toothed feline Homotherium and the gargantuan savannah pig Notochoerus. 

Africa is the cradle of humanity. Indeed, from the earliest known fossil hominids until 2 Ma, hominid species are known only in Africa and nowhere else on earth. Out of the several African countries where early hominid species have been found, Ethiopia has the richest and most complete record.

Lucy is the common name of AL 288-1, several hundred pieces of bone fossils representing 40 percent of the skeleton of a female of the hominin species 'Australopithecus afarensis.' In Ethiopia, the assembly is also known as Dinquinesh, which means ‘thou art wonderful’ in the Amharic language. I never knew before reading the information that ‘Lucy’ acquired her name from the song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" by the Beatles, which was played loudly and repeatedly in the expedition camp all evening after the excavation team's first day of work on the recovery site! After public announcement of the discovery, Lucy captured much public interest, becoming almost a household name at the time. I well remember learning about the discovery as a young adult but never dreamt I would one day be visiting Ethiopia, the land of Lucy's birth.
Lucy became famous worldwide, and the story of her discovery and reconstruction was published in a book by Johanson. Beginning in 2007, the fossil assembly and associated artifacts were exhibited publicly in an extended six year tour of the United States. The exhibition was called Lucy’s Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia. There was discussion of the risks of damage to the unique fossils, and other museums preferred to display casts of the fossil assembly. The original fossils were returned to Ethiopia in 2013, and subsequent exhibitions have used casts.
This is the skeleton of 'Selam' which means peace in many Ethiopian languages. It was discovered in 2000. She represents the earliest and most complete skeleton of a child human ancestor ever discovered in the history of paleoanthrolpology. That was a new subject for me! She was about three when she died about 3.3 million years ago, i.e. about 150,000 years before 'Lucy.'
On another floor, there was a vivid display of Ethiopian art ranging from early, possibly 14th-century, parchment to 20th century canvas oil paintings by leading Ethiopian modern artists. 
Unfortunately, the rope barrier was placed too far away from many of the paintings so we couldn’t look at the pictures in detail, nor read the tags! I had to zoom in with my camera to read them, if they had them that is!
The Trinity: Traditional oil painting on canvas.

Afewerk Tekle’s massive 'African Heritage' was one of the more notable pieces. We had just seen his grave at the Holy Trinity Cathedral.
Another of Tekle’s works was called 'Demera' and was painted in 1974.
Wood and horn household utensils:

Hunting weapons:
Traditional armaments of the Ethiopian Royal Class:

Headrests from different ethnic groups:
Decorative leather clothes:

Traditional decorated cotton clothing:
A bronze statue of Haile Selassie:
The sad state of the WC!
One of the first cars in Addis Ababa:

Cute seeing the turtles on the grass even though we had had our 'turtle fix' after just spending a couple of hours with them in Oman.

The National Museum certainly grabbed our attention and our time far more than either the Red Terror Museum or the Addis Ababa Museum that we had visited a couple of days ago. But, beyond the paleontology exhibits, the other floors seemed to be suffering from a lack of attention and funding. Most exhibits didn't have any sort of caption/description and many were extremely poorly lit. 
I loved how the restaurant next door played up on the museum's main attraction with its name!
From the museum, we walked north to Addis Ababa University to see its Ethnographic Museum. En route, we passed the large roundabout at Siddist Kilo that we had seen briefly yesterday with our guide.
The monument was dedicated to the Ethiopians who had died in the retaliatory massacre that followed the attempted assassination of the Italian Viceroy in 1937.
The main gates of the university:
I thought it interesting that the university named its library after JFK.

It was impressive seeing the awareness given to those with disabilities on the campus.

After seeing so little in the way of any landscaping or beauty in the city, it was so pleasant to be surrounded by the little oasis that was the AAU campus.

This was one of the megalith markers from the World Heritage Site in Tiya, a town 50 miles south of the capital, that we had almost decided to visit to see its collection of 36 funeral columns or stelae. Instead we had visited Bishoftu yesterday, probably a good choice in hindsight since we saw these stelae.

The Ethnographic Museum/Institute of Ethiopian Studies was in a two story building that was the former palace of Haile Selassie.
Before getting even inside the museum there was an intriguing set of stairs spiraling precariously skyward near the palace’s main entrance. Each step was placed by the Italians as a symbol of Fascist domination, one for every year Mussolini held power starting from his march to Rome in 1922. 

A small Lion of Judah, the symbol of Ethiopian monarchy, sat victoriously atop the final step, and was added after Liberation.
The university was renamed AAU after the Ethiopian Revolution in 1974 from Haile Selassie University.
I read that the name ‘Ethiopia’ came from the Greek word ‘Aethiops’ which means ‘the land of the burnt faces’ as the land south of the Pharaohs was called.

Fly whisks made from an assortment of animal hair:
It was very impressive seeing the huge variety of Ethiopian Orthodox crosses. Each one represented a different area of the country and was used for varying religious occasions. Many of the crosses became the property of the museum when they were condiscated at the border when people tried to leave without the proper export documents.

Judaism in Ethiopia: It was with particular, personal interest that we read about the Beta Israel, as the Ethiopian Jews refer to themselves, who are located in northwest Ethiopia. They are widely known as the 'Falasha' with its connotation of exile. They number no more than 2,300. Though some still speak an ancient Agaw language, most speak Amharic, the most common language in Ethiopia.They had been farmers until their refusal to convert to Orthodox Christianity in the 15th century. Since then, they have been known as craftsmen: potters, weavers and blacksmiths. The Beta Israel believe in the God of Israel. Their religious fundamentals are based on the Old Testament shared with the Orthodox and some additional texts.

The Beta Israel religion is generally described as having had broadly equivalent practice with the wider Jewish world except they don't know Hebrew or follow post-exile practices after the Babylonian exile. On the other hand, influences of a number of non-Jewish beliefs have crept into the Beta Israel theology. One of these is the almost universal acceptance of the belief in the eveil eye or shadow. Many of them, particularly children, wear special charms, a practice said to be foreign to Judaism. Nowadays, the majority of the Beta Israel community, around 10,000, are living in Israel where they were airlifted in 1991. Steven's great-uncle, Graenum Berger, was largely responsible for the government of Israel's acceptance and recognition of the Beta Israel people as being Jewish.
Christianity in Ethiopia: In Ethiopia, the arrival of Christianity dates back to the 4th century. Angels and saints are venerated as it is believed that God sends them to save the faithful from evil and help them in times of affliction. The Tabot, which is designed after the Ark of the Covenant, is placed in the center of each Orthodox Christian church. It is this symbolic object rather than the church building which is consecrated and accorded extreme reverence.
The believer is duty bound to observe a required fasting calendar. Every Wednesday and Friday are fasting days, except during the 50 day period right after Lent. This tradition commemorates two events, namely the holding of a council in which Jews rejected and condemned Jesus and His crucifixon. The total number of fasting days is about 250 a year, of which 180 are obligatory for all persons. Fasting generally implies one meal a day with total abstincence from meat, fat, eggs and milk. Furthermore, belivers are expected to undergo a rigorous schedule of prayers and penitence.
Islam in Ethiopia: Islam came to Ethiopia by way of he Arabian Peninsula where Mohammed began to preach the first of a series of revelations he had received through the angel Gabriel. More specifically, the coming of Islam dates back to the 7th century when the first followers of Mohammed settled in the Aksumite Empire.
Ethiopian Islam is expressed by two complementary belief forms: urban and rural Islam. The former, mainly professed in the cities with mosques, religious schools and communities follows an orthodox Sunni Islam. The latter is widespread mainly in the southern region of the country where it has gained many converts thanks to the ability to embrace the ancestral customs and traditional beliefs. Muslim prayer beads:
The most unusual Muslim prayer mat I have ever seen was this goat skin one.
This contemporary museum truly came into its own with superb artifacts and handicrafts from Ethiopia’s peoples distinctively displayed. Instead of following the typical static and geographical layout that most museums fall into, these displays were based upon the life cycle. First was Childhood with birth, games, rites of passage and traditional tales. Adulthood probed into beliefs, nomadism, traditional medicine, war, pilgrimages, hunting, body culture and handicrafts. Because I am so woefully behind on these posts, I hope that a few photos alone will give you an appreciation of what we saw.

Coffee in Ethiopia: According to the Museum, Ethiopia is the original home of the coffee plant which still grows in many forested areas.. The word 'coffee' itself comes from Kaffa, a coffee-growing region located in southwest Ethiopia. The coffee ceremony is deeply rooted and possesses a high social significance in the Ethiopian tradition. This rather ceremonious drinking is a time to exchange news of elders and good wishes with friends and relatives. It is also meant to express respect to guests and elders.

Fittingly enough, the last topic was Death and Beyond with burial structures, stelae and tombs. In one area of the country, wooden sculptures were erected for deceased great hunters and warriors in public places or along a pathway. 
The principal male figure, the Hero, is always situated in the middle, his wife or wives to his sides. If the deceased had been a killer of big game such as a lion or a leopard, the animals are carved and usually placed on the ground in front of the group. A number of shields and spears were normally stuck in the earth behind or beside the statues.

Sidama Stelae: Monolithic stelae as burial signs to indicate burial tombs have been used throughout Ethiopia by different people at different times. The varied stelae illustrated the prominent life acts or power exerted by the buried person. The Sidama phallic stelae form specific structures - circles, rows or other shapes - with the corpse buried in the circle. It is thought that the number of stelae in a tomb represented the number of enemies killed by the hero buried there. Many of the prehistoric stelae show the remains of color layers on them.
The Arsi Oromo Tombs: In the Arsi Oromo countryside, it is common to notice some circles marked by stones of various sizes, enclosing mounds of small stones as well as larger carved ones. These mark burial sites.
Other gravesites involve impressive complexes with a substantial central structure with the surrounding stones being carved in linear and geometric patterns. Besides their decorative significance, the various elements of design constitute a sort of sign language and serve to record the deceased person's status and accomplishments in life. The lines, circles and zigzags on carved stones indicate one's family's size, wealth in cattle, accomplishments in war and fame achieved in killing wild animals. Monuments are ofen dedicated to men - surprise, surprise!
I found this to be compelling reading:
From that thought-provoking section of the museum, it was a perfect transition to a small cave-like corridor where traditional music gently filled the air and the black surrounds left us nothing to look at besides a collection of Ethiopian instruments.

The Baganna is a large ten-stringed lyre and is considered to be the most dignified of Ethiopian stringed instruments and only played by men and women of hgh rank. The strings are made of sheep bowels which give it its characteristic high, vibrating pitch. As it's very tall, the player rests it on the floor beside the chair and holds it upright. It is the instrument associated with Lent and the fasting period. It can be used for religious celebrations but never during the service and always outside the church.
The Masingo is a one-string fiddle with a wooden diamond-shaped body and is the only Ethiopian bowed instrument. The string is almost always made out of many strands of horse hair. It would ahave been great if we could have attended a performance where these instruments were played.
One vibrant hall of the museum focused on religious art, with an exceptional series of diptychs, triptychs, icons, crosses and magic scrolls. Magic scrolls, like the Roman lead scrolls, were used to cast curses on people or to appeal to the gods for divine assistance. 
Again, in the interest of brevity, I will leave you with the photos alone.

After having had a double dose of culture with visiting both the National Museum and the Ethnographic Musem, we definitely needed some retail therapy! We schlepped for well over an hour at least to get to Churchill Avenue where we had seen so many shops along there earlier. All I could think of that whole time was I sure hoped the shops would be as appealing as they looked from the bus!

Our patience was rewarded, thank goodness, as there were plenty of items that were very intriguing and the prices were fair in the end.
I was ready to collapse by then as my shoes were giving me real issues. Luckily, we found a nice café by the Lion of Judah Monument where we ordered a pizza. (I noticed I just happened to pick out that same shirt to wear when I began writing this part of the post a few hours ago!)

What a relief walking up the dusty road to our Ag Hotel at the end of the day.
Our view from our room:
And so, our exciting days in Addis have come to an end. Tomorrow, on to Lalibela and its magnificent churches!

Posted at long last from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on December 9th, 2016!


  1. Freda,

    Hate to tell you but no more turtles this trip!



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