Ethiopia is a place with a lot of subtlety so that I often paused to ask myself, what country am I in? (The Omo Valley in the southern part is outside the scope of this post.)
Ethiopia is the only African country never colonized by Europe. Any visitor to the country is bound to notice that people in Ethiopia to a person have a good level of self esteem. After some bit of conversation, the locals would frequently ask me about what Americans think of Ethiopia and about how it is to live in America.
The locals mostly spoke Ameringha but a good number were proficient in English too. Or so it seemed. Perhaps the people’s self confidence made it seem that way. Although there was a four year occupation by Italy just prior to WWII, its most noticeable consequence is the frequent menu option for Spaghetti Bolognese at local eateries. And you could get good coffee mostly everywhere.
Coffee ceremonies seemed frequent. They start with roasting the beans and then they bring them around so everyone sitting about the coffee circle can inhale the aroma. Then they use those beans to make three successive pots of coffee. Courtesy requires that you sit out the whole thing, like enforced down time.
This is the country where the skeleton of Lucy, an early hominid, was found so they probably have had a lot of experience in figuring what works. An intriguing note at the Archeology Museum in Axum said in 10,000 B.C., followers of a cult of the serpent sacrificed goats and virgins and milk to a serpent! I suppose they took their coffee black.
Most locals said “welcome” to me as I wandered about. They liked my using the bits of their language I was able to muster. People seemed ready to take a moment to enjoy anything pleasant that might come along. Domestic animals were visibly well cared for and a hotel owner estimated 45 percent of the population still kept to the tradition of sleeping with their livestock. For me, that gave a whole new spin to the nativity scene.
Ethiopia is very fertile country and could likely produce enough to be the continent’s bread basket. But with the corruption that centralization can bring, it is understandable that the country continued with its non-mechanized, family farm economy. While Ethiopia seemed well fed and sufficient, it also seemed to hold a lot more potential than it let on.
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Those were my observations from January 2012. I’ve been told I missed al lot. For a 2014 comment on matters, see the article at the address below.