the lalibela saturday market

Saturday, October 27:  This morning, I wake up feeling sick.  I don’t know what it is, but it involves severe cramps and a wicked headache, as well as general malaise.  I blame the malaria medication I am taking.  At the advice of doctors in Nizwa, I was to begin one medication on Thursday, upon arrival in Ethiopia, which I did.  However, on Friday, I was supposed to take another medication, and then switch back on Saturday to the first medication.  Whatever they gave me for Friday obviously has some bad side effects, as I wake in the middle of the night feeling horrible.

It effects my entire day today.

I cannot even eat breakfast.  As Ed eats a delicious-looking omelet, I just sit and nibble on some plain toast.  He asks if I want to skip our visit to the Lalibela Saturday market, but how can I?  I love local markets and I can’t bear the thought of missing it. So I tell him, no, I want to go.  We have a flight back to Addis Ababa at 12:45.  I will just put one foot in front of the other and visit the market.

The market is spread out over a big dirt area in the middle of the town.  The villagers have set up tarps or temporary stalls made of eucalyptus poles and textiles. Some just sit under umbrellas to hide from the sun.  Some people spread out their grains or vegetables or textiles on tarps or blankets on the ground.  It’s hot, dusty and chaotic.

Click on any of the pictures below for a full-sized slide show.


People are selling everything imaginable from firewood to salt blocks.

Up to this day in Ethiopia, salt is a precious commodity for people and their animals, and is even used as a kind of currency, according to Lonely Planet Ethiopia & Eritrea.  Afar nomads and their camels, even today, travel to the salt lakes in the Danakil Depression in eastern Ethiopia, where they cut by hand rectangular blocks of salt, known as amole, and then spend weeks traveling by caravan to market, where they barter with the bars.

We see these salt blocks for sale, along with teff (the local grain used to make the Ethiopian staple bread injera).  The low quality teff is dark and course, while the more expensive, high-quality teff is pale and smooth.

Also for sale are dried peppers, cabbages, onions, peas and lentils, whole wheat, collard greens and numerous other grains and greens.  Also for sale is chat, made from the leaves of the shrub Catha edulis.  Deemed by the WHO as a drug of abuse that can produce mild to moderate psychic dependence, it is banned in most Arab and Western countries, according to Lonely Planet.

At the market, we also find traditional clothing, colorful textiles and blankets, live chickens, and long eucalyptus poles used for construction.

People come from miles around, mostly on foot, to the Saturday market.  The lucky ones have donkeys to carry their goods, but most people carry their goods on their backs or their heads.  It’s amazing even after we leave the market how we pass hordes of people heading to the market, from literally miles and miles away.

The rest of the day, I feel miserable.  We catch our plane to Addis Ababa, but we have to endure an extra hour flight as the plane makes a stop in Gonder.  When we arrive back in Addis, I take a long bath and a long nap.  I have decided to stop taking the malaria medication.  I will just take my chances.  Tomorrow we head to Lake Langano, about three hours south of Addis by car.  I don’t want to be sick for that trip!

Categories: Africa, Ethiopia, Lalibela, Saturday Market | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “the lalibela saturday market

  1. Pingback: Lalibela, Ethiopia « a nomad in the land of nizwa

  2. Wow, these are such colourful photos, Cathy. It looks very like some of the markets we saw in Peru.

    • Peru? I thought you were going to say South Africa. Amazing that markets can be so similar on different continents! It made me sad, though, to see people scraping by on so little. Yet, they seemed happy.

  3. The colors are outstanding! While I love visiting these markets, I cannot imagine always shopping this way, in the dirt and the heat, without the luxury of our indoor shopping centers. But I wonder too – is this way of life more stressful than ours, or perhaps a bit less? I guess it all depends upon what you grow up with, what you’re used to, doesn’t it?

    • Carol, I love the colors and the bustle of activity too, but I cannot imagine shopping this way either. People sitting in the dirt huddled under umbrellas to escape the heat ~ it all made me quite sad. Being sick didn’t help. But I’m really glad I didn’t miss it. I would have never known what an African market is like. The young people seem very happy, but the older people, I have to say, seem very stressed. I’m sure they have a huge burden of responsibility for their families.

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