February 2014 Archives

A Coca Cola Timkat

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Bystanders

Watching the Timkat parade go by. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Timkat Throngs

Marchers from three churches merged, and spectators joined, as the Timkat procession entered a large square and approached the road leading to the ceremonial grounds. There were probably several hundred thousand people in the densely packed crowd. I scrambled to the top of our bus to get a better view. Each of these pictures shows just a small fraction of the total. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Timkat Marchers

Groups of marchers - uniformed, musicians, and just plain folks - accompanied the ark as it was carried from the church to the ceremonial grounds - a march that took several hours. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Beginning the Timkat Procession in Addis

We flew back from Bahir Dar to Addis Ababa to witness the huge Timkat celebration in Ethiopia's capitol city. The actual "baptism" takes place the next day, but on Timkat eve replicas of the arks are brought from several churches and paraded to the ceremonial grounds. Click photos to enlarge them.

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The crowd in front of one of the churches as the ark is brought out.


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The fellow in red robes bears the ark, very solemnly.


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This striking old man flitted around the scene. It doesn't show in this photo, but he wore a cartridge belt around his waist, filled with colored ballpoint pens.

Lake Tana Icon Paintings

Some icon paintings on the wall of the monastery on an island in Lake Tana, Ethiopia. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Lake Tana Monastery

A monk, some staffs, and some shadows through a reed wall in a monastery on an island in Lake Tana. Click photos to enlarge them.

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On Lake Tana

Lake Tana is thought to have several dozen islands, 19 of which have or had monasteries on them. We visited one.


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The locals get to the islands in papyrus boats.


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A scenic lakeshore location near where we boarded our boat back from the monastery.


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View of the lake from our hotel, with bird feeders.

Ethiopian Market Town

On the way to Bahir Dar, we stopped at a small market town - picturesque as usual. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Threshing and Winnowing

We drove from Gondar to Bahir Dar, a tourist town on the shores of Lake Tana, near the source of the Blue Nile (more later). Along the way, we passed this fellow threshing and winnowing some of his wheat crop. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Gondar Folk Festival

In the late afternoon we went to a folk festival in Gondar, where people from different groups from all over the province performed, cooked, sold crafts, and competed in a good-natured way for best-in-show honors. Sort of a state fair, Ethiopian style. It was fun to wander around and to interact, however fleetingly, with people who generally seemed surprised to see outsiders interested in their world.

Click photos to enlarge them.

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Gondar Grotesques

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Buzzards in the trees near the church


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Trees that have overgrown a wall near the pool of Emperor Fasilides. The pool will become a Timkat baptismal site in a couple of days.

Click photos to enlarge them.

Interior of Gondar Church

Interior of the church in Gondar. The ceiling and walls are covered with hypnotically- repeating, icon-style paintings.

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Carrying a replica of the Ark of the Covenant around the church. (Similar to carrying the Torah scrolls around a synagogue.)

Click photos to enlarge them.

Timkat Flags in Gondar

Colorful Timkat flags decorating the grounds of a church in Gondar near the palace complex. Timkat celebrates the baptism of Jesus, and is the major religious holiday of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. In a few days we will return to Addis Ababa to observe the largest Timkat celebration, but there are festivities all over the country. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Gondar Landscaping Techniques

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This poor guy bundled all that hay into one big package, bigger than he was, then carried it away.


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No lawnmowers here, not even scythes - just sickles to cut the grass. How to keep four people employed.

Click photos to enlarge them.

Gondar Palace Walls

Weathered walls, colored yet monochrome, moody ... Click photos to enlarge them.

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Gondar: Intrinsic Frames

A frequent piece of advice for making your photography more interesting is to take advantage of existing frames in the composition. Here are a couple of examples from the palace complex in Gondar. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Gondar Castle Complex

Leaving Lalibela, we flew to Gondar. As an ancient capital of the Ethiopian Empire, it is notable for its complex of royal castles. Click photos to enlarge them.

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The Landscape of Lalibela

Lalibela is located in high, mountainous country, with plenty of big rocks to carve out those churches. Here are some pictures of the landscape, the first two taken from our appropriately names "Mountain View Hotel". Click photos to enlarge them.

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Lalibela People

Lalibela isn't just rock churches, it's also people doing what they do. Here are four examples. Click photos to enlarge them.

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High-school kids going to school


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Bringing the donkeys home in the evening


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Hanging out at a rock church


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Waiting for the show to start

Lalibela Church Doorways

Click photos to enlarge them.

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World Heritage Huts

The area around the Lalibela rock-hewn churches is kept as historically genuine as possible - a condition of the UNESCO World Heritage designation. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Rock-Hewn Windows and Doors

Everything in the Lalibela churches is carved from the rock: windows, doors, decorations, etc. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Lalibela Priests

Each of the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela has a priest who is its principal guardian. There are eleven such churches, and I got reasonably good photos of six of the priests. Each has a slightly different costume and cross. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Lalibela Churches

Some of the monolithic rock-hewn churches of Lalibela are covered by modern roofs with metal supports, to shield them from the elements. These lead to interesting shadows and - when coupled with people - to dramatization of the scale of these structures. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Saint George Details

Details from the Church of St. George in Lalibela. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Lalibela Sunrise

From Axum we flew to Lalibela, where we had two days to explore the famous monolithic rock-hewn churches. I'll begin with the second day, since that presents a pretty sunrise picture and then a couple of photos of the most famous of all the churches, the Church of Saint George. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Last Shopping in Axum

In the morning, before leaving Axum to go to Lalibela, we did a little last-minute shopping. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Shadows on a shopfront on a sunny morning.


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Old craftwork.


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A shopkeeper reacts to a low bargaining bid.

Axum Vistas

Axum has more than stelae and religious treasures. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Axum Scenes

A few scenes in Axum.

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Portrait of the former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, as a student. This is near the Ezana Stone, which is written in Sabaean, Ge'ez and Ancient Greek in a similar manner to the Rosetta Stone.


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Drawing water from the "Queen of Sheba's Bath" (actually a reservoir).


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Donkey carrying water from the reservoir.

Axum Portraits

Some photos of children in Axum. They seem skeptical of us tourists. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Under the Stelae

There are tunnels and passages in the ground under the Axum stelae. Their purpose is not clear, but they are seemingly very old. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Wedding Amongst the Stelae

The area containing the Axum stelae seems to be a popular place to hold wedding celebrations. Here's one happy - and regal - couple with their friends. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Axum Stele

Aside from the Ark of the Covenant, Axum is best known for a number of tall stelae, or obelisks. They have an interesting history, as related for example here. (click to enlarge)

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Axum Cathedral

More photos from the New Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion in Axum, Ethiopia. Click photos to enlarge them.

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A priest


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Opening an old holy book of icon paintings


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Playing some church music for the tourists

New Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion in Axum

There are two Cathedrals of St. Mary of Zion in the complex of churches in Axum. The old one, built originally in the 1500s, was destroyed and rebuilt; it admits only men. According to Wikipedia

"The New Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion stands next to the old one, and was built to fulfill a pledge by Emperor Haile Selassie to the Our Lady of Zion for the liberation of Ethiopia from the Fascist occupation. Built in a neo-Byzantine style, work on the new cathedral began in 1955, and allows admittance to women. Emperor Haile Selassie interrupted the state visit of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II to travel to Axum to attend the dedication of the new Cathedral and pay personal homage, showing the importance of this church in the Ethiopian Empire. The Queen visited the Cathedral a few days later."

Women, although admitted, are confined to one side of the Cathedral. (Tourists are allowed to roam freely.) It's a spacious, colorful place.

Click photos to enlarge them.

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Axum Church Scenes

Axum is perhaps best known for a small, old church claimed to be the location of the Ark of the Covenant (which nobody is allowed to see). It is in the middle of a complex of newer churches. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Church tower with jacaranda tree


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Dome as pigeon roost


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Making concrete the old-fashioned way

Axum Angularity

A miscellany of images from our early hours in Axum. Nothing much unifies them except their general location and a certain striking angularity. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Stairs in our hotel. I was struck by the geometry and reflections.


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Cactus tree - large and stark.


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Shepherd driving his sheep over stony ground near the Queen of Sheba's palace.

The Stones of the Queen of Sheba's Palace

From Harar we flew back to Addis for an overnight, then flew to Axum, the next historic city on our itinerary. We went first to the very stony ruins thought to be the palace of the Queen of Sheba. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Harar Scenes (3)

Three last photos from Harar, all outside the walls of the old city. Click photos to enlarge them.


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Across the street from our hotel, showing the typical wooden (eucalyptus) scaffolding and concrete construction, also (typically) unfinished and not currently being worked on.


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Barber shop in late afternoon.


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Feeding the hyenas, who take raw meat from the fingers or lips of volunteers, a popular evening diversion for tourists. Here's a video and a photo essay.

Harar Scenes (2)

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Men run the sewing machines in Harar.


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Click photos to enlarge them.

Harar Scenes

The old city within the walls has a distinctly medieval feeling. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Harar Portraits (2)

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Children of Harar

Ethiopian children are enormously photogenic. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Sugar cane is the universal sweet.


Entering Harar

Harar is an ancient, strongly Islamic, city in the east of Ethiopia. Its old walled city is on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Click photos to enlarge them.

After arriving in Harar and checking into our hotel, we drove around the walls, admiring the ancient gates.


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We passed a wedding procession, whose dancing women invited us to join in. (We didn't.)

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Market Town

On our way to Harar, we stopped for a while at a colorful market town. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Bundles of chat (khat), the mild narcotic plant widely used in Ethiopia, like coca in Peru and Bolivia.


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Seen Along the Road

On the drive from Dire Dawa to Harar. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Portraits Along the Road: Dire Dawa to Harar

Early in the morning of our third day in Ethiopia, we flew from Addis Ababa to Dire Dawa (the second largest city in the country, because it is close to Djibouti, which Ethiopia uses as its main port). From there we drove through the countrysid to Harar, stopping along the way for photo ops and to experience a colorful market. Here are some portraits from the drive.

Click photos to enlarge them.


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Ethnographic Museum

Toward the end of our second day in Addis Ababa, we went to the Ethnographic Museum of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies. The name sounds a bit musty, and the museum lives up to its name, but there's still a lot of interesting stuff.

Click photos to enlarge them.

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One out of hundreds of icon paintings in Ethiopian Orthodox style.


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Pages of a sacred book.


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Portrait of Haile Selassie, reflected in a mirror in his bedroom.

Addis Merkato (3)

The last of three groups of photos from the Addis Merkato, the largest open-air market in Africa. Click photos to enlarge them.

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These yellow water jugs are seen throughout the country. We also saw them in Madagascar.


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The scavenging pile at the end of the Merkato.

Addis Merkato (2)

More images from the gritty and tumultuous Addis Merkato in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. One more batch to come. Click photos to enlarge them.

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It was surprising to see this drawing in an otherwise rather straight-laced market.

Addis Merkato (1)

The Merkato in Addis Ababa is the largest open air market in Africa. It's rather chaotic, crowded, and dirty - not as elegant as the bazaars in Istanbul or Marrakesh. But it's a fascinating environment for street photography. Here are some pictures as we walked through the Merkato. Two more sets will follow tomorrow.

Click photos to enlarge them.


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There's lots of construction going on all over the country, with scaffolding made of thin eucalyptus trees.


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The creamy white stuff is a cheese-like substance made by fermenting the root of the false banana fruit.

Addis Ababa Refreshment and Relaxation

We took some breaks from our first-day touring in Addis Ababa to visit some places for refreshment and relaxation. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Afternoon stop for some good, strong Ethiopian coffee. The lion is a national symbol of Ethiopia.


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Restaurant and cafe of the Itegue Taitu Hotel, built in 1898 by Empress Taitu Betul, the wife of Emperor Menelek II. It was the first hotel in Ethiopia. The central portrait in the upper photo is of Emperor Menelik II.


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Injera dinner and dance performance at the Hebir Ethiopia Cultural Restaurant. The lion's mane, used here as a headdress, is a traditional trophy of a young man's entry into manhood.

Addis from the Bus

On our first day (Friday, January 10) we drove through various neighborhoods of Addis Ababa in our minibus to get a general feel for the place. Addis is a city of 4 million people, and one of the leading cities in Africa; but it's by no means prosperous except in a few enclaves. Here are some photos from the bus window. Click photos to enlarge them.


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Addis Ababa Portraits

Having completed my chronological summary of our trip to Ethiopia, I'm going back for a more comprehensive look - starting with portraits from our first two days in Addis Ababa. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Lecturer at Olympic Club


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Children outside National Museum


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Woman at National Museum


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Employee at coffee shop. Ethiopia is famous for its coffee.


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Shopkeeper in his stall in the Merkato

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