Wednesday, October 24: Tomorrow, October 25, is my birthday! At my age, this shouldn’t be anything to celebrate. After all, who wants to be a year older? Yet. I always believe in celebrating my birthday (hey, at least I’m still alive!) and I love to have people celebrate with me. In addition to it being my birthday, it is also Eid al-Adha in the Arab world, and so luckily my birthday coincides with a 9 day holiday in Oman. Lucky me!
Eid al-Adha is the “Festival of Sacrifice” celebrated by Muslims the world over to commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael in obedience to God. Lucky for Abraham, God intervened and provided his faithful servant with a ram to sacrifice instead of his son. The actual Eid al-Adha holiday is Friday, October 26, but the government grants a week off, as does the university.
Soon after the clock strikes midnight on this 57th birthday of mine, around 1:00 a.m., I will hop in my car, suitcase in hand, and head to Seeb International Airport in Muscat for a 4:50 a.m. flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I dread the early hour of this flight, but I’m excited about my trip. As all of you know, I LOVE to travel!! I’m happiest when I’m thrown into a foreign culture and left to my own devices.
I came across this quote today on Facebook. It gives me food for thought. I am thankful that in the last six years of my life, I have been able to do things that I used to say I would do “someday.” I am still trying to do this, as much as I possibly can, despite the fact that often I have to sacrifice a lot in this life journey of mine.
My long-time friend, who works in the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, will be my travel companion and guide. He has been in Ethiopia for a year already, so I’m lucky to have someone who knows Ethiopia. He has planned some fun excursions, and I’m happy to have him work out the logistics. I can’t wait!!
So far, here’s what he has planned. Aware of the fact that I will arrive without having had any sleep, he hasn’t planned much for my first day, even though I arrive at 7:30 a.m. I told him not to worry, I will be too excited to sleep anyway. He says we can go celebrate my birthday at an Ethiopian restaurant within walking distance of his house.
Early the morning of the 26th, we have a domestic flight and private tour of the 13th and 14th century rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, where we will stay overnight in the Mountain View Hotel Lalibela. The next morning, we will go to Lalibela town’s weekly open market and then fly back to Addis that afternoon.
The morning of the 28th, we will drive 3 hours outside of Addis Ababa to Lake Langano, where we will stay two nights at an eco-lodge called Bishangari Lodge. According to the lodge’s website: Imagine a natural retreat of outstanding beauty that combines five unique ecological zones, a secluded setting that is host to over 400 bird species, a diverse range of wildlife, spectacular array of plant life and un-spoilt biodiversity. Bishangari Lodge is less than 250 km south of Addis Ababa, situated on the shores of Lake Langano. Bishangari’s secret has been safe thanks to its inaccessibility.
The lodge has been designed on sound environmental principles utilizing solar power and biogas for energy. The lodges have been constructed using natural materials and traditional techniques, without compromising on the quality and luxury of the accommodation. It is a natural retreat of outstanding beauty that combines five ecological zones;- wetlands, beach and lake, the forest, the dry pumice rocks and the acacia shrub.
The rest of our time, we will spend exploring Addis Ababa and all the city has to offer.
According to Visit 2 Ethiopia, Addis Ababa is the capital of modern Ethiopia and gateway for most tourists, as well as the political and commercial heart of the country. Now a city of around 4 million people, it was founded by Emperor Menelik II in 1877.
The name Addis Ababa means “new flower.” This big, sprawling, hospitable city is more than 2,200 meters high in the foothills of Entoto Mountain. Addis Ababa is one of the third capital cities in the world with high altitude, after Katmandu and La Paz. Modern buildings and wide-open boulevards stand side by side with historic churches, palaces and monuments, as well as simple country-style huts. The air is filled with the scent of flowers and eucalyptus trees, and the rich vibrancy of a city that is home to so many cultures.
Modern Addis Ababa also plays a vital role in hosting many international organizations, including the AU, ECA (the Economic Commission for Africa), and other multi-national organizations, who all have their headquarters here. Addis Ababa is as well one of the most crowded diplomatic cities of the world.
I’ll see you all when I return home on Friday, November 2!