Men of letters in Ethiopia are commonly said to have two faces, one turned toward the light (which is the Christian faith and spiritual life) and towards the shadows (which represent the practices of magic and healing that are dignified with the collective name of wisdom.) The same may be said of Ethiopian art. The introduction of magical or talismanic art fro the Hellenistic cultures of the eastern Mediterranean probably dates from the fourth century, the same period that saw Christianity spread throughout the country.
While the craft of writing was considered a minor art for the most part (in the West), this talismanic art enjoyed a different status to civilizations of the East. For the diciples of Plato or Pythagoras, and later the alchemists and kabbalists, the letters of the alphabet were endowed with a significance that was integrally linked to the creation of the universe. The art of writing in its most erudite form was a powerful and creative art. But while the physical or plastic expression of this thinking did not progress in the West and in the eastern mediterranean, it underwent a prodigious development in Ethiopia, evolving in the course of certain hybridizations into an art form. These figures, with both talismanic and Christion aspects usually combined with texts on scrolls, had therapuetic as well as devotional powers. Unlike the other Orthodox communities, Ethiopian Christians did not use icons in their homes for their devotions, although these were commissioned for parish churches; instead, they employed scrolls to safeguard the body as well as the soul. A priest would be summoned to the home to bless the inhabitans and read these scrolls.
Alongside this healing tradition, Christian art experienced three different periods of expansion and triumph, the Asumite period (4th to mid-7th century), then from 1400 - 1500, and finally, between 1660 and 1760. Its monuments experience terrible damage during times of political and religious upheaval specifically around the tenth and sixteenth centuries.
When the West became aware of Ethiopian art in the late 1800's, it was essentially through the illuminated manuscripts from the royal library, many of which were painted during the previous century in a style that appealed to European tastes. The destruction ordered by the Muslim leader Imam Ahmad in the sixteenth century offered little hope of retrieving any earlier works, until a seriess of finds over the past 50 years revealed the art of the fifteenth century. Today, this century is considered the GOlden Age of wthiopian civilization. However, although the art of Ethiopia may now be better documented than that of other parts of the Christian East, our knowledge of its infancy.
Ethiopia has a very rich and diverse music history. The various tribes and ethnic groups of Ethiopia have their own distinct music culture and tradition. The Tigrayans to the north have this smooth, circular dance routine culminated with shoulder and neck movement. The Amharas at the center have dance style dominated by upper body and neck movement. The Oromos to the center and south have this jumping style and full body dance routine. The Gurages have an acrobatic dance that requires high level of arm, leg and body coordination.
Traditional Ethiopian music instruments include the masingo, a one-stringed violin like instrument that is played with a bow; the krar, a six-stringed lyre, played with fingers or a plectrum; the washint, a flute made from bamboo; and various drums. There are three types of drums that are used in different occasions: the negarit (kettledrum), played with sticks, the kebero, played with hands, and the atamo, tapped with the fingers or palm. Other instruments include the begena, a huge, multi-stringed lyre often referred to as the Harp of David; the tsinatsil or sistrum, which is used in churches; the meleket, a long trumpet without fingerholes, and the embilta, a large, one-note flute used on ceremonial occasions.
In addition to the above traditional music instruments, Ethiopian music also includes various types of modern music instruments that are used by bands playing Ethiopian jazz, pop, and the like. Modern Ethiopian music instruments include the guitar, percussion, violin, saxophone, mandolin, clarinet, accordion, etc.
The masinqo is one of the most popular traditional Ethiopian music instruments used throughout Ethiopia. It is one of the fixtures in Ethiopian culture. Although it looks simple, the masinqo can, in the hands of an expert musician, produces a wide variety of melodies. It is often played by wandering minstrels as well as professional musicians, particularly at eating houses and local bars called “Bunna Bet” or “Azmari Bet”. The word Azmari is derived from the Geez word Zemmari, which means “one who sings”. Today, the concept mainly applies to establishments where professional masinqo players and the female singers that accompany them play.
When it comes to Azmari performances, lyrics can be largely improvised or sung with the art of double meaning called Kinie or Semmna Werq (meaning, the literal and the hidden messages). The audience is not supposed to take the lyrics literally – they are challenged to listen carefully to get the “golden” sense. The Azmaris may praise individuals in the audience through their songs to uplift their mood. This favor in Ethiopian culture is usually responded in kind by awarding the performer cash – by pasting a bill on the forehead, or stashing it in the performer’s shirt.
Azmaris also accept verses thrown at them by members of the audience and skillfully incorporate them into their music. In traditional Ethiopian music and Ethiopian culture, the skill at improvisation by the Azmari is as important as his/her vocal performance, or his/her skill at playing the masinqo. With such improvised lyrics, one may appreciate, denounce, advice, teach, entertain, and much more.
In recent years, Azmari Ethiopian music performances have even spread to other parts of the world outside Ethiopia. One can find “Azmari Betoch” in some parts of Europe and North America where there are significant pockets of Ethiopian immigrants residing, including in cities such as Washington DC and Los Angeles in the USA, and London in UK. Although these establishments are not exactly the traditional Ethiopian “Azmari Bet” variety, they offer many of the services their counterparts in Ethiopia provide, including music using the masinqo.
Abebe Bikila – A Flourishing Legacy
It was fifty years ago. September 10, 1960. An unknown Ethiopian runner dazzled the world that day by winning the gold medal in the marathon, the crowning sports event of the Olympic Games. History was made in Rome, Italy at a memorable occasion as the XVII Olympiad presented the world with an extraordinary gift: a young Ethiopian athlete by the name of Abebe Bikila. The first African to ever win an Olympic medal —let alone a gold in the marathon— Abebe Bikila became an instant legend as an awestruck world became mesmerized by the African who won the most difficult and celebrated global athletic event –without wearing shoes.
The astonishing victory and the circumstances surrounding it —no shoes, world record— captured everyone’s attention. Newspapers around the world carried the story. ―Barefoot Bikila First at Rome in Fastest Olympic Marathon,‖ declared the headline of an article published in The New York Times. The article’s first paragraph stated:
A skinny, barefooted palace guard in the Ethiopian Army of King Haile Selassie ran the fastest marathon in history tonight.
Africans and people of African descent in every part of the globe rejoiced. And citizens of the world, regardless of their national and ethnic origins, were short of words to express their admiration for the Ethiopian runner. The Times article continued:
A rank outsider who never had run the distance of 26 miles 385 yards outside his own country, 28-year-old Abebe Bikila won the classic race of the Olympic Games . . . .
Thinking about Abebe Bikila’s historic Olympic victory prompted me to re-visit Tim Judah’s Bikila: Ethiopia’s Barefoot Olympian. Judah’s book is a biographical work that uses many primary and secondary sources to tell the story of an unassuming young man who became a national hero and a world-famous athlete. The article in The New York Times that I quoted above is printed as a prelude to the subsequent chapters of the book.
The book makes several references to the published work of Tsige Abebe, the athlete’s daughter. Another Olympic legend, Mamo Wolde, is also mentioned in several passages of the book. It also gives a detailed account of the life of Onni Niskanen, the extraordinary Swedish man who was Abebe Bikila’s trainer. Several unique and striking photographs are included in the book as well. Most of the photographs, as the author acknowledged, came from Mr. Niskanen’s personal photo album which ―was left to Radda Barnen – Swedish Save the Children in Ethiopia.
It is important to note that the author pledged part of the proceeds from the sale of the book to Radda Barnen. Mr. Niskanen, according to the author, ―was at one point in his long and varied career the director of the charity in Addis Ababa. He advised the charity until his death in 1984.‖ Readers, no doubt, will find Mr. Niskanen’s background, his connection to Ethiopia, and his illustrious partnership with Abebe Bikila quite a captivating story.
Let us go back to that historic day in 1960 . . .
The race began at 5.30 in the afternoon of Saturday, September 10th. The weather was good, the sun shining and the sky brilliantly blue.
The two men who were representing Ethiopia, Abebe Bikila and Abebe Wakjira,
. . . were wearing orange shorts and green shirts. Bikila’s was emblazoned with 11, his number. They went unnoticed, especially as, being unknowns, they had not been ranked in the top 20 hopefuls by the experts.
The author goes on quoting an Austrian journalist who wrote, ―even if there had been half a dozen Abebes, no one would have paid particular attention. The Swedish trainer has said that they are first-class runners, but for most onlookers they are just two men with tongue-twisting names. It was under such a heavy cloud of skepticism that the two Ethiopian athletes started the race. No one, except, perhaps, Coach Niskanen, anticipated a glorious victory from them. No one, indeed, knew that they were on a journey to establish a proud, colorful, and enduring legacy for their nation and continent.
Indeed, a new world record was set that day as Abebe Bikila came in first at 2 hours 15 minutes and 16.2 seconds, twenty-six seconds ahead of the second place finisher. Although he came in 7th, Abebe Wakjira’s role in the race must be equally admired as well. The two athletes made up the Ethiopian team and each did his part to secure victory.
Almost immediately after he had won, Bikila was examined by a doctor. He had only one word to say: “Fantastico!” Bikila’s pulse rate stood at a mere 88, his eyes were clear, he showed no signs of fatigue and there were no indications of bruising on his bare feet. He then told Niskanen that he could have kept going for another 10 to 15 kilometres at the same speed!
The book, certainly, contains ample snapshots of poignant moments. Although I, as a critical reader and, most importantly, as an Ethiopian, maintain some reservations on a few of the author’s assertions and attributed quotes, I still find the book worth reading. I also noticed that the book can use a little bit of editing. Moreover, if the publishers are considering a new edition of the book, I suggest the inclusion of an index. I highly commend the author for writing a valuable book about a subject and an athlete that are deeply embedded in the hearts and minds of Ethiopians, and many around the world.
Abebe Bikila’s trailblazing victory has become the foundation for Ethiopia’s global status as the home of many world-class long-distance runners. His legacy, as his name ―Abebe implies, is a flourishing one.
I would like to conclude my tribute with a quote from the Preface of Mr. Judah’s book:
[Abebe Bikila] . . . became a legend in his own lifetime and a symbol for the new Africa in its years of decolonisation and hope. By the time of his tragic death in 1973, the continent’s dreams were shattered and Ethiopia was on the brink of famine, revolution, war and destruction.
Abebe Bikila, the pioneer Ethiopian Olympic hero, will always be remembered with sincere admiration and gratitude. The proud legacy that he bestowed upon us will continue to inspire generations to come.
Source internet By, Tewodros Abebe
More than 1,000 years ago, a goatherd in Ethiopia’s south-western highlands plucked a few red berries from some young green trees growing there in the forest and tasted them. He liked the flavour and the feel-good effect that followed. Today those self-same berries, dried, roasted and ground, have become the world’s second most popular non-alcoholic beverage after tea. And, as David Beatty discovers in words and pictures, the Ethiopian province where they first blossomed Kaffa gave its name to coffee.
The story of coffee has its beginnings in Ethiopia, the original home of the coffee plant, coffee arabica, which still grows wild in the forest of the highlands. While nobody is sure exactly how coffee was originally discovered as a beverage, it is believed that its cultivation and use began as early as the 9th century. Some authorities claim that it was cultivated in the Yemen earlier, around AD 575. The only thing that seems certain is that it originated in Ethiopia, from where it traveled to the Yemen about 600 years ago, and from Arabia it began its journey around the world.
Among the many legends that have developed concerning the origin of coffee, one of the most popular accounts is that of Kaldi, an Abyssinian goatherd, who lived around AD 850. One day he observed his goats behaving in abnormally exuberant manner, skipping, rearing on their hind legs and bleating loudly. He noticed they were eating the bright red berries thatt grew on the green bushes nearby.
Kaldi tried a few for him, and soon felt a novel sense of elation. He filled his pockets with the berries and ran home to announce his discovery to his wife. They are heaven-sent, she declared. You must take them to the Monks in the monastery.
Kaldi presented the chief Monk with a handful of berries and related his discovery of their miraculous effect.” Devil’s work! Exclaimed the monk, and hurled the berries in the fire.
Within minutes the monastery filled with the heavenly aroma of roasting beans, and the other monks gathered to investigate. The beans were raked from the fire and crushed to extinguish the embers. The Monk ordered the grains to be placed in the ewer and covered with hot water to preserve their goodness. That night the monks sat up drinking the rich and fragrant brew, and from that day vowed they would drink it daily to keep them awake during their long, nocturnal devotions.
While the legends attempt to condense the discovery of coffee and its development as a beverage into one story, it is believed that the monks of Ethiopia, may have chewed on the berries as a stimulant for centuries before it was brewed as a hot drink.
Another account suggests that coffee was brought to Arabia from Ethiopia, by Sudanese slaves who chewed the berries en route to help them survive the journey. There is some evidence that coffee was ground and mixed with butter, and consumed like chocolate for sustenance, a method reportedly used by the Galla tribe of Ethiopia, which lends some credence to the story of the Sudanese slaves. The practice of mixing ground coffee beans with ghee (clarified butter) persists to this day in some parts of Kaffa and Sidamo, two of the principle coffee producing regions of Ethiopia,. And in Kaffa, from which its name derives, the drink is brewed today with the addition of melted ghee which gives it a distinctive, buttery flavour.
From the beginning, coffee’s invigorating powers have understandably linked it with religion, and each tradition claims its own story of origins. Islamic legend ascribes the discovery of coffee to devout Sheikh Omar, who found the coffee growing wild while living as a recluse in Mocha, one famous coffee producing place in Yemen.
He is said to have boiled some berries, and discovered the stimulating effect of the resulting brew, which he administered to the locals who were stricken with a mysterious ailment and thereby cured them.
There are numerous versions of this story concerning the Sheikh Omar, which relate how he cured the King of Mocha’s daughter with coffee, and another where wondrous bird leads him to a tree full of coffee berries.
Arabic scientific documents dating from around AD 900 refer to a beverage drunk in Ethiopia, Known as “buna”, and the similarities in the words suggests that this could be one of the earliest references to Ethiopian, coffee in its brewed form. It is recorded that in 1454 the Mufti of Aden visited Ethiopia, and saw his own countrymen drinking coffee there. He was reportedly impressed with the drink which cured him of some affliction, and his approval made it soon popular among the dervishes of the Yemen who used it in religious ceremonies, and introduced it to Mecca.
It was in Mecca that the first coffee houses are said to have been established. Known as Kaveh Kanes, they were originally religious meeting places, but soon became social meeting places for gossip, singing and story-telling. With the spread of coffee as a popular beverage it soon became a subject for heated debate among devout Muslims.
The Arabic word for coffee, kahwah, is also one of several words for wine. In the process of stripping the cherry husk, the pulp of the bean was fermented to make a potent liquor. The Quran forbade the use of wine or intoxicating beverages, but those Muslims in favour of coffee argued that it was not an intoxicant but a stimulant. The dispute over coffee came to a head in 1511 in Mecca.
The governor of Mecca, Beg, saw some people drinking coffee in a mosque as they prepared a night-long prayer vigil. Furious he drove them from the mosque and ordered all coffee houses to be closed. A heated debate ensued, with coffee being condemned as an unhealthy brew by two unscrupulous Persian doctors, the Hakimani brothers, who were known to produce whatever testimony suited the highest bidder. The doctors wanted it banned, for it was a popular cure among the melancholic patients who other-wise would have paid the doctors to cure them. The mufti of Mecca spoke in defense of coffee.
The issue was only resolved when the Sultan of Cairo intervened and reprimanded the Khair Beg for banning a drink that was widely enjoyed in Cairo without consulting his superior. In 1512, when Khair Beg was accused of embezzlement, the Sultan had him put to death. Coffee survived in Mecca.
The picture of Arabic coffee houses as dens of iniquity and frivolity was exaggerated by religious zealots. In reality the Middle Eastern was the forerunner of the European CafÃ© society and the coffee houses of London which became famous London clubs. They were enlightened meeting places for intellectuals, where news and gossip exchanged and clients regularly entertained by traditional story-tellers.
From the Arabian Peninsula coffee traveled to the East. The Arabs are credited with first bringing coffee to Sri Lanka (Ceylon) as early as 1505. It is said that fertile coffee beans, the berries with their husks unbroken, were first introduced into South-West India by one Baba Budan on his return from a pilgrimage to Mecca in the 17th century.
By 1517 coffee had reached Constantinople, following the conquest of Egypt by Salim I, and it was established in Damascus by 1530. Coffee houses were opened in Constantinople in 1554, and their advent provoked religiously inspired riots that temporarily closed them. But they survived their critics, and their luxurious interiors became a regular rendezvous for those engaged in radical political thought and dissent.
From time to time coffee continued to be banned, the target of religious zealots, and at one time second offenders were sewn into leather bags and thrown into the Bosphorus. But coffee was profitable and finally achieved respectability when it became subject to tax.
Venetian traders had introduced coffee to Europe by 1615, a few years later than tea which had appeared in 1610. Again its introduction aroused controversy in Italy when some clerics, like the mullahs of Mecca, suggested it should be excommunicated as it was the Devil’s work. However, Pope Clement VIII (1592- 1605) enjoyed it so much that he declared that coffee should be baptized to make it a true Christian drink.
The first coffee house opened in Venice in 1683. The famous CafÃ© Florian in the Piazza San Marco, established in 1720, is the oldest surviving coffee house in Europe. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries coffee houses proliferated in Europe. Nothing quite like the like the coffee houses, or cafÃ©, had ever existed before, the novelty of a place to enjoy a relatively inexpensive and stimulating beverage in convivial company established a social habit that has endured for over 400 years.
The first coffee house in England was opened in Oxford, not London, by a man called Jacob in 1650. A coffee club established near all Souls College eventually becoming the Royal Society. London’s first coffee house was in St. Michael’s Alley and opened in 1652. And the most famous name in the world of insurance, Lloyds of London, began life as a coffee house in Tower Street, founded by Edward Lloyd in 1688 that used to prepare lists of ships that his clients had insured. With the rapid growth in popularity of coffee houses, by the 17th century the European powers were competing with each other to establish coffee plantations in their respective colonies. In 1616 the Dutch gained a head start by taking a coffee plant from Mocha to the Netherlands, and they began large scale cultivation in Sri Lanka in1658. In 1699 cuttings were successfully transplanted from Malabar to Java. Samples of Java coffee plants were sent to Amsterdam in 1706, were seedlings were grown in botanical gardens and distributed to horticulturists throughout Europe.
A few years later, in 1718, the Dutch transplanted the coffee to Surinam and soon after the plant became widely established in South America, which was to become the coffee center of the world.
In 1878 the story of coffees journey around the world came full circle when the British laid foundations of Kenya’s coffee industry by introducing plants to British East Africa right next to neighboring Ethiopia, where coffee had first been discovered a 1,000 years before.
Today Ethiopia is Africa’s major exporter of Arabica beans, the quality coffee of the world, and the variety that originated in Ethiopia, is still the only variety grown there. Coffea Arabica, which was identified by the botanist Linnaeus in 1753, is one of the two major species used in most production, and presently accounts around 70 per cent of the world’s coffee.
The other major species is Coffea Canefora, or Robusta, whose production is increasing now due to better yields from robusta trees and their hardiness against decease. Robusta coffee is mostly used in blend, but Arabica is the only coffee to be drunk on its own unblended, and this is the type grown and drunk in Ethiopia, The arabica and robusta trees both produce crops within 3-4 years after planting, and remain productive for 20-30 years. Arabica trees flourish ideally in a seasonal climate with a temperature range of 59-75o F, whereas Robusta prefers an equatorial climate.
In Ethiopia’s province of Kaffa a large proportion of the arabica trees grow wild amidst the rolling hills and forests of the fertile and beautiful region.
At an altitude of 1,500 meters the climate is ideal and the plants are well protected by the larger forest trees which provide shade from the midday sun and preserve the moisture in the soil. Traditionally, these are the ideal conditions for coffee growing.
There are two methods of processing coffee: the wet and the dry. Commercially the wet method is preferred, but the small producer who picks the cherries wild may save time by sun-drying the beans after picking, and the sell them direct to customers in the local market.
At the Haro Farmer’s Co-operative near Jimma the husk of the cherry is removed mechanically and the bean then fermented in water for 48 hours to remove the sugar. The beans are the dried on racks in the sun for about a week before being bagged up and sold at an auction. A smallholder, who may have anything from a half to two hectares, sells his beans to the Co-op which processes them and sells them at auction, returning a share of the profits to the farmer.
In the Jimma district alone annual production is approximately 30,000 tons. Nationally the country produces 200,000 tons a year, of which almost half is for domestic consumption, the highest in Africa.
Some 12 million people are dependent on Ethiopia’s coffee industry, managed by the Ethiopian Coffee Export Enterprise ECEE formerly the Ethiopian Coffee Marketing Corporation. An independent, profit-making organization, ECEE trades on the open market and controls about 50 per cent of the market following liberalization.
ECEE processes its coffee at five plants in Addis-Ababa with a total capacity of almost 500 tons a day and a plant in Dire Dawa. The organization is also building a new 250-ton a day processing plant for washed coffee.
ECEE’s key markets are Germany, Japan, USA, France and the Middle East and are focusing on the US specialty market and Scandinavia. ECEE’s major emphasis is on quality products such as premium blends, organic coffee and original unblended coffees from one specific plantation or farm. Within Ethiopia, there are some distinctive varieties that are highly sought after. The highest grown coffee comes from Harar, where the Longberry variety is the most popular, having a wine-like flavour and tasting slightly acidic.
Coffee from Sidamo in the south has an unusual flavour and is very popular, especially the beans known as Yirgacheffes. In many ways Ethiopian coffee is unique, having neither excessive pungency nor the acidity of the Kenyan brands. It is closest in character to the Mocha coffee of the Yemen, with which it supposedly shares a common origin, and it cannot be high roasted or its character is destroyed. The best Ethiopian coffee may be compared with the finest coffee in the world, and premium washed arabica beans fetch high prices on the world market. No visit to Ethiopia, is complete without participating in the elaborate coffee ceremony that is Ethiopia's traditional form of hospitality. Invariably conducted by a beautiful young girl in traditional Ethiopian costume, the ceremonial apparatus is arranged upon a bed of long grasses. The green beans are roasted in a pan over a charcoal brazier, the rich aroma of coffee mingling with the heady smell of incense that is always burned during the ceremony. The beans are then pounded with a pestle and mortar, and the ground coffee then brewed in a black pot with a narrow spout.
Traditional accompaniments are popcorn, also roasted on the fire, and the coffee is sugared to be drunk from small handless cups.
(Source internet www.selamta.net
Brilliant and beautiful, secretive, mysterious and extraordinary. Above all things, it is a country of great antiquity, with a culture and traditions dating back more than 3,000 years. The traveler in Ethiopia makes a journey through time, transported by beautiful monuments and the ruins of edifices built long centuries ago.
Ethiopia, like many other African countries, is a multi-ethnic state. Many distinctions have been blurred by intermarriage over the years but many also remain. The differences may be observed in the number of languages spoken - an astonishing 83, falling into four main language groups: Semitic, Cushitic, Omotic and Nilo-Saharan. There are 200 different dialects.
Regarding the country â€™s nations and nationalities, which is estimated to be around 80 million, the number of ethnic Oromo accounts about 25.5 million (34.5 %) while Amhara is 19.8 million (26.9%), Somali 4.5 million (6.2 %), Tigre 4.4 million (6.1%).
The Semitic languages of Ethiopia are related to both Hebrew and Arabic, and derive from Ge'ez, the ecclesiastical language.
The principle Semitic language spoken in the north-western and central part of the country is Amharic, which is also the official language of the modern state. Other main languages are Tigrigna, Guraginya, Adarinya, Afan Oromo, Somalinya, Sidaminya, Afarinya, Gumuz, Berta and Anuak.
The Tigrigna- and Amharic-speaking people of the north and centre of the country are mainly agriculturalists, tilling the soil with ox-drawn ploughs and growing teff (a local millet), wheat, barley, maize and sorghum. The most southerly of the Semitic speakers, the Gurage, are also farmers and herders, but many are also craftsmen. The Gurage grow enset, 'false banana', whose root, stem and leaf stalks provide a carbohydrate which, after lengthy preparation, can be made into porridge or unleavened bread.
The Cushitic Oromo, formerly nomadic pastoralists, are now mainly engaged in agriculture and, in the more arid areas, cattle-breeding. The Somali, also pastoral nomads, forge a living in hot and arid bush country, while the Afar, semi-nomadic pastoralists and fishermen, are the only people who can survive in the hostile environment of the Danakil Depression. Living near the Omo River are the Mursi, well-known for the large clay discs that the women wear inserted in a slit in their lower lips.
The people of Ethiopia wear many different types of clothing. The traditional dress of the Christian highland peasantry has traditionally been of white cotton cloth. Since the time of Emperor Tewodros 11 (mid-1800s), men have worn long, jodhpur-like trousers, a tight-fitting shirt and a shamma (loose wrap).
The Muslims of Harar, by contrast, wear very colourful dress, the men in shortish trousers and a coloured wrap and the women in fine dresses of red, purple and black. The lowland Somali and Afar wear long, brightly coloured cotton wraps, and the Oromo and Bale people are to be seen in the bead-decorated leather garments that reflect their economy, which is based on livestock. Costumes to some extent reflect the climates where the different groups live - highlanders, for instance, -use heavy cloth capes and wraparound blankets to combat the night chill. In the heat of the lowland plains, light cotton cloths are all that is required by men and women alike.
Traditional dress, though often now supplanted by Western attire, may still be seen throughout much of the countryside. National dress is usually worn for festivals, when streets and meeting-places are transformed into a sea of white as finely woven cotton dresses, wraps decorated with colored woven borders, and suits are donned. A distinctive style of dress is found among the Oromo horsemen of the central highlands, who, on ceremonial days such as Maskal, attire themselves in lions' manes or baboon-skin headdresses and, carrying hippo-hide spears and shields, ride down to the main city squares to participate in the parades.
Ethiopians are justifiably proud of the range of their traditional costumes. The most obvious identification of the different groups is in the jewellery, the hair styles and the embroidery of the dresses. The women of Amhara and Tigray wear dozens of plaits (sheruba), tightly braided to the head and billowing out at the shoulders. The women of Harar part their hair in the middle and make a bun behind each ear. Hamer, Geleb, Bume and Karo men form a ridge of plaited hair and clay to hold their feathered headwear in place. Arsi women have fringes and short, bobbed hair. Bale girls have the same, but cover it with a black headcloth, while young children often have their heads shaved.
Jewellery in silver and gold is worn by both Muslims and Christians, often with amber or glass beads incorporated. Heavy brass, copper and ivory bracelets and anklets are also worn.
Ethiopia also has a rich tradition of both secular and religious music, singing and dancing, and these together constitute an important part of Ethiopian cultural life. Singing accompanies many agricultural activities, as well as religious festivals and ceremonies surrounding life's milestones - birth, marriage and death.
(Source Internet www.selamta.net)
Lake Awassa lies to the west of Awassa town, the capital of the Southern Peoples' Region, and c.275 km south of Addis Ababa. The Awassa basin is in an old caldera in the middle of the Ethiopian Rift Valley, between the Abijata-Shalla basin to the north and that of Lakes Abaya and Chamo to the south. The walls of the caldera form steep walls to the north and east of the basin while most of the flatter areas are intensively cultivated.
Lake Awassa is in the lowest portion of the caldera, along with a previously extensive wetland, Lake Shallo and the Shallo swamp. The swamp drains into Lake Awassa through a small river called Tiqur Wuha, which means 'black water'. There are no outlets from the lake, but water may seep away through the underlying volcanic ash and pumice.
Awassa is a freshwater lake, even though the system appears to be closed. The level of the lake varies considerably from year to year and a dyke has been built to prevent the town from flooding. The surface area ranges between 8,500 and 9,000 ha and the maximum depth is c.18-22 m. The shoreline varies between 50 and 65 km in length.
Awassa is the smallest of the Rift Valley lakes, but is highly productive. It has a rich phytoplankton (over 100 species have been identified) and zooplankton that support large populations of six fish species. The most important commercial species is Oreochromis niloticus, but there are also good populations of catfish and Barbus. The shoreline is gently sloping and mostly covered with vegetation that can extend 50 m or more into the lake.
There are extensive beds of Cyperaceae and Typha spp. The dominant floating aquatic grass is Paspalidium geminatum, with other floating plants including Nymphaea coerulea, Pistia stratiotes and the smallest flowering plant in the world, Wolffia arrhiza. The lake supplies Awassa with all its water, and supports a thriving local fishery. The town and Lake of Awassa form a popular resort for local and foreign visitors.
Significant numbers of congregatory waterbirds occur on the lake, with c.20,000 birds counted along less than 25% of the shoreline in January 1999. It is particularly important for Fulica cristata. Over 300 Leptoptilos crumeniferus (and 120 nests) were counted in November 1997, the largest concentration of this species in Ethiopia. The population of this species (and of other waterbirds such as cormorants and pelicans) has risen steadily during the 1990s, probably due to the decline in fish populations in Lake Abijata (site ET048). Other waterbirds occurring in good numbers include Alopochen aegyptiacus (1,464), Dendrocygna viduata (900), Plectropterus gambensis (712) and Threskiornis aethiopicus (311). Other species of interest include Nettapus auritus, Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis, Circaetus cinereus, Falco ardosiaceus, Prodotiscus zambesiae, Centropus monachus, Salpornis spilonotus and Lagonosticta rubricata. Two Ethiopian endemics occur, Poicephalus flavifrons and Lybius undatus, along with at least seven Afrotropical highlands biome species: Oriolus monacha, Lybius undatus, Nectarinia tacazze, Corvus crassirostris, Agapornis taranta, Passer swainsonii, Serinus citrinelloides and S. striolatus.
Awassa is the regional capital, and the site for an important Agricultural College that includes fisheries biology in its curriculum. The college will soon become part of a new University of Southern Ethiopia, the administrative centre for which will be in Awassa. The University complex will include Wondo Genet College of Forestry and the Arba Minch Water Technology Institute. There is serious interest being expressed in introducing biodiversity subjects into the curriculum. Awassa could also prove a good site for formal bird studies. As Awassa is a closed ecosystem, it will be important to monitor the effects of a rapidly expanding urban centre and tourist industry on the natural history of the area. Shallo swamp feeds Lake Awassa, and thus the lake and indeed the town depend on the swamp, which in turn is in urgent need of detailed surveys.
Debre Damo monastery is situated on an isolated mountain in northern part of Tigray. It is unique compared with most Ethiopian monasteries. Debre Damo was built, in the sixth century AD, with curved wood panels, painted ceilings and walls dedicated to the legend of Saint (Abune) Aregawi. The history of Debre Damo is centred on the "Nine Saints" who came to Ethiopia from Syria to spread Christianity in the Tigray region. One of them was Saint Aregawi who settled on the mountain of Debre Damo. The other eight saints settled around Tigray countryside and all have their own church named after them.
Debre Damo is magnificent in terms of its location and extensive collection of priceless manuscripts that have remained intact until today. It has become a prominent monastic and educational centre for the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Many books have been written there and distributed to churches throughout Ethiopia.
Debre Damo is only accessible by climbing up by a rope, which is made of "plaited leather", lowered from the cliffs, which visitors tie around their waist and are then pulled up by a monk at the top of the cliffs. It is only accessible to men and male animals. Women and even female animals are forbidden to set a foot into the monastery, and must remain under the cliffs and pray from there.
The feast of Saint (Abune) Aregawi is celebrated on October 14 Ethiopian calendar (October 24 Gregorian calendar) which culminates in a pilgrimage to Debre Damo from all over the country.
A traditional Ethiopian food basket container also called an "Agelgil". Inside is a basket and the outside is covered in sheepskin with carry-on string and decorated with cowries’ shells that are supposed to bring good luck and fertility. Handmade and used by Ethiopian herdsmen as a food container, a "lunch box" of sorts if you will.
Dimensions are diameter 8 1/4" inches (21 centimeters), height about 4" inches (10 centimeters) and total length with strap 18 1/2" inches (47 centimeters). It can be made a big size and small one for using a decoration too.
In rural area especially the house wife uses Agelgil everyday to take a lunch to her husband to the farm place. Being surrounded by green area and have lunch from Agelgil is common for the hard worker farmer as well to his wife from her husband "gursha" is there. Gursha is hand feeding. After all coffee will be serve.
In the urban area people they use it Agelgil for picnic and most restaurant you will be serve by your choice vegetarian, non-vegitarian or you can order the mix flavour one.
(Source Internet and editor)
First time Meskel experience
By Melanie Preijer - Journalism volunteer for three months from Netherlands.
Two weeks ago, on Sunday, September 26, the eve of Meskel, the Demera (of which the actual celebration day is on the 27th), it was an important celebration time for Ethiopian Orthodox-Christians throughout the country.
Every year on this bank holiday the light of the cross is commemorated and me, a Dutch girl coming from a different background where this celebration day is not as important, wanted to find out about the story of the True Cross, the way people celebrate and the happiness it brings to those who believe.
Around three o’clock me and my other fellow Western European visitors arrives at sunny Meskel Square and sat down against the hills which are enclosing the square from where the priests are holding the speeches and chanting their prayers.
Luck seems to be on my side when I met Daniel, a young Ethiopian man and student who is definitely prepared share with me his in-depth knowledge about the finding of the True Cross and how it all once started.
‘It was queen Eleni who started it,’ he pensively begins. ‘After Jesus was crucified and after he rose up to heaven, the cross was buried. Those people who were frightened and who didn’t believe, like the Pagans, wanted to hide the Cross somewhere. For about 320-400 years time the Cross was buried under all sorts of rubbish When Queen Eleni one day prayed to God. She had known the stories about Jesus Christ and the Cross that was carrying out miracles and now she was eager to find it, wondering where it had gone.’
After discussing the name of the old man in the story with two fellow companions and in between standing up and saying prayers, Daniel continued his story about Queen Eleni, aka Saint Helena, who took up her journey to the promised land and ended up in Jerusalem. Kirkos, the old man, whom the queen was advised to speak to, by an angel of God, told her to bring incense and to lit it. He instructed her to follow the stream of smoke, informing her that the cross was hidden at the certain point the smoke would descend to the earth. Here is where she started the digging for some time.
‘After the Cross was found, it continued doing the same miracle, healing people. Then the Christians decided to share and the right part of the cross was given to Egypt,’ Daniel ventures, ‘and because of its close relationship with Ethiopia at the time, the part of the cross eventually found its way to my country. It was Atse Zera Yacob who brought it here, after his father, Emperor Dawit (1382-1411), died on his way. And every place the piece of wood was put, it started to shake. Atse Zera Yacob next held a silent prayer for two weeks and started fastening.
Then after 7 days God appeared in a dream and eventually told him in Ge’ez where to put the cross: ‘Anbrwe meskelye bedibe meskel’. In other words Atse Zera Yacob had to find a place which was naturally shaped like a cross. He searched and found the place. And the place is called ‘Gishen Debre Kerbie!’.
Ever since that Sunday of the Demera, I have started reading articles on the web, and I found that most of them do exactly cover the things I was told by Daniel. But the following extract from an article is worth the article mentioning in this regard. It says, 'The old monastery of Gishen Debre Kerbi is probably one of the most holy sites of the entire orthodox churches in the country. Popularly known as the ‘second Jerusalem,' this church claims to possess a piece of the 'True Cross’. 'In the reign of Dawit (David III) (1382-1411)", wrote Sylvia Pankhurst, who was a renowned British scholar in Ethiopian studies, "a piece of the 'True Cross' was brought from Jerusalem to Ethiopia. This occasioned much pious rejoicing.’
Apocryphal sources, oral as well as written, still however seem to give different versions of the story. However, all agree on the central theme about the coming of the holy object to the sacred sanctuary. Hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians pay their annual pilgrimage to Gishen on the 1st of October.
Source: ANRS Culture, Tourism & Parks Development Bureau
Apart from the fact that the tales around Queen Helena are reality mixed with fiction, and it is therefore hard to extract the true history from this legend, St Helena is venerated not only in Orthodox churches but also within the Roman Catholic Church, Lutheran Church and Anglican Communion. A number of Protestant denominations as well celebrate the Feast of Exaltation of the Cross on September 14th, the anniversary of the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The actual finding of True Cross was commemorated on the 3rd of May in the past, but after 1970 it was dropped by the Vatican from the Roman Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar.
Within Western Europe, the feast of the Finding of the True Cross nowadays is less of importance and seems to be fading away. Nonetheless, the cross itself is respected very much by the Roman Catholic Church and it remains to be a central theme on Good Friday, a day still considered important and acknowledged throughout Europe.
I’m not proud of anything else apart Christ his Cross, it says on the cover of a brochure in which the whole history about the cross, the reasons why and how to celebrate is explained in Amharic.
‘Every time you see the cross you are reminded of all the suffering Jesus has gone through, how difficult it was to be on the cross, and the Via Dolorosa which he had to go. And this was all because he loved us. For Ethiopian people the cross is a symbol for freedom and salvation. And it’s understood to mean ‘I belong to Jesus’,’ Daniel explains.
I interviewed three different Ethiopian people on this day. The first person was a middle-aged man, and I asked him what he thought of the celebration. He said: ‘Our country’s celebration is different from that of other countries. But it all started off with the Emperor of Sava. What distinguishes Ethiopian Christianity is the way the priests are singing, focusing on the history of the cross, in this case. But the dressing style is different as well.’
I asked him what this celebration meant for him and he told me that he was very happy because of the spiritual experience, adding after the bonfire he used continue the ceremony in his own way back home, sharing meat and fruits together with neighbours.
An elderly woman said she felt very joyous on this holiday and that this celebration day was a very nice occasion to remember the symbol of the cross. What makes her happy in particular is the style of raising the priest, and also the fact that it’s all about history and law, religion and churches.
She wears a nice dress and prepares special food for this holiday. ‘This is just different from other days,’ she adds.
‘Are you attending this service ceremony every year?' I just ask.
‘Yes, I get here every year to receive spiritual things from God.’
Next I asked the opinion of a young man, who thinks that this is a very good celebration for Ethiopia and part of Ethiopian culture. He always looks forward to this time of year and he likes to see people all around him wearing new, beautiful clothes, including himself. ‘Look at the guys in white and the people who wear new clothes,’ he points out. ‘This is all for the celebration!’
When he arrives back home tonight after the bonfire, he will enjoy the Kitfo, served with cabbage, and enjoy some Tej. Also there will be spiritual singing at his house.
The fact that everybody celebrates this together, sharing the good times with family and neighbours is what makes him feel happy.
I also spoke to some of my fellow European companions, individuals from Western Europe and asked about their point of view.
An elder French lady, named Francien, told me she was stupefied to see so many people from all over Ethiopia celebrating the day. She thinks that it’s interesting for herself. to see the celebration She herself is originally Catholic but doesn’t go to church anymore. ‘I believe in God but not in religion,' she says, adding in a fascinating way, ‘but it’s a real pleasure to be here, a celebration with many different colours, many different faces, and ethnic groups that all come together to celebrate!’ She feels happy to be there.
I’m informed that in France there seems to be a return to old traditions, which means that this group of people, known as ultra-traditional Catholics, want for example to bring back the mass in Latin, virginity before marriage, no anti-conception, against abortion and so on. Those people are intolerant and Francien thinks the group is slightly growing.
Gritt, a German girl, said that she doesn’t have a religion and that she actually doesn’t believe in God. However, she regretted the fact that she did not understand much of what was said and announced through the speakers at the square as it was all in Amharic. Therefore, she felt a bit bored.
According to her, in Germany only Christmas and Easter are still celebrated in religious terms. She said it is during these days only that a large group of people still attend or consider going to church. She feels sad to notice how lazy Germans have become, not going and visiting a church on other days anymore.
Gritt emphasizes that it is important to keep traditions alive “They keep you down to earth, you remain standing with two feet on the ground. You will concentrate more on that what actually matters, focusing on some sort of destiny.”
(Source the Reporter newsletter)
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