The Blue Nile Falls: This site was in the area of Bahir Dar. Walking up to meet this beautiful waterfall, I saw some of the greenest scenery of my life. You are reminded once you get the view, how beautiful Ethiopia really is. I would highly reccommend this hike, and to go early so you can walk to the suspension bridge and walk up close to the falls!The Blue Nile Falls was/is magical.
We were able to go with a group of people also visitng from various hotels in the area. Going in a group significantly lowers your price for the drive and the tour. Once we got to the park, we paid an entrance fee (which is half the normal price if you show your student ID), and we split the cost of a tour guide (came out to 300ETB). The guide walked us to the falls, and back down. He wasn’t totally necessary, as the path was pretty clearly seen, but he was nice to have if you have slower people in your group.
As you walk up several children who live on the mountain will ask you to buy their commodities or give them money. This is a bit overwhelming, you walk by these beautiful children feeling guilty that you can’t give money to all of them.They were also so sweet about helping you up a rock, or catching you when you fall. If you are compelled I’d say give some money, but there are many children so it is hard to give to everyone. The tour guide helps you navigate through them. And as always, be compassionate and understanding whether you decide to give money or not.
I joked that it looked like Bahir Dar was filtered by the “Lo-Fi” setting on Instagram. The area is gorgeous! Bahir Dar is slower, country-er, and greener than Addis Ababa. While Addis may be a economic and industrial hub, Bahir Dar, though also a developing city, remains lush, living along side with nature. This trip was less about tasks and events and more about being introspective and stress free in a lush place. It is the perfect get-away from Addis when you’re craving some color, nature and serenity!
Lake Tana Monasteries: Early Saturday morning, around 9AM, I got on a boat and toured around Lake Tana. The weather was perfect, and being on the water brought peacefulness to our minds and bodies, which was perfect because we were about to tour 4 monasteries. Each monastery was on a small island on Lake Tana, each had a specific meaning to the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Church. What was beautiful about these monasteries is that they were vividly painted (as seen above) with stories from the Bible, as well as stories relating to Ethiopia (which intertwine with Biblical stories) that aren’t in the Bible. It was beautiful to see both ancient and living spirituality portrayed here.
Once again go in a group, it cuts the costs down by half. Women, bring a scarf to cover your head. They will say that foreigners don’t have to cover their heads, but be mindful that these places are extremely religious and spiritual. Women cover their head to show humility, whether you agree with it or not, you are an outsider and covering your head shows that you too respect the culture and religion.
The whole trip takes a couple hours, about 3-4. The boat ride in itself is beautiful and peaceful; it alone seems like a treat .
Lake Tana: This lake is the origin of the Nile River. I’m not quite sure if I can put into words how peaceful and beautiful this site is, but I’ll try. Especially coming from a building and car filled city, Lake Tana offered much needed calm. You just have to go and sit there and experience it for yourself!
Around the water there are locals washing their clothes, bathing, going for a swim, and just enjoying the serenity of the water. This specific location was in the Kuriftu Resort. They let us come and soak up the sun, the tranquility of the water, and the good energy for free – something unheard of in New York!
FYI: there will be lots of naked young men bathing, playing and swimming. Us Americans may not be used to this, but its normal here. It is not weird, it is just different. Be aware that you probably will see this.
Art + Culture: The first picture is of a poetry reading we attended at Fendika (Melaku Belay’s bar/art gallery/Azmari Bet; mentioned in the previous picture post). There were several Ethiopian poets and musicians who preformed in both Amarigna as well as English, but to my surprise this poetry reading also included international artists who were visiting, living here, and some even Skyped in. The poetry and music included social justice, personal, comedy, traditional, modern, and transformative pieces. We enjoyed the flowing of art while sipping Tela (teff beer) and munching on some teff pizza (yes, teff!).
The first picture is of an art featuring the work of Julie Mehretu, a returning Ethiopian. Her work is predominately abstract acrylic and pencil which uses an architectural style of painting and drawing which draws upon the social networks of complex cities, and environments. In this collection, several of her paintings used a technique of layering, symbolizing how new cities grow and are created from older communities, ideas, and people. Not wanting the flow of creativity to end, we joined some of our new friends from Fendika for dinner, drinks and a series of heated debates on Hip Hop, Beyonce Politics, Westernization of developing countries, and Feminism.
Lots of passion, anger, laughter, happiness and enlightenment from these experiences and people!