Posts Tagged With: Africa

last day in addis: makush art gallery, st. george cathedral & the ethnological museum

Thursday, November 1:  On my last day in Addis, Ed has to go to work at the embassy all day.  He arranges with his guard to have a friend of his drive me around all day for around $35.  The guide, whose name I’ve now forgotten, is such an easy-going and likeable guy, I end up having a great time.

He begins by taking me to the Makush Art Gallery.  I’m determined to buy a piece of Ethiopian art.  Yesterday morning, while I was twiddling my thumbs at the embassy, someone told me this is the place to go.  I find out very quickly that Makush is an upscale gallery and the prices are quite high.  This trip hasn’t cost me much money and I still have $200 left in my budget.  I end up spending all of it on two pieces from this gallery.

Tossing my two paintings into the back seat, we drive through the streets of Addis, teeming with dusty and obviously poor residents wearing colorful but mismatched clothes.  The streets are dirty and slightly chaotic.  Corrugated tin stalls line up along every street; people are trying to eke out a space to make a living.  It seems there is no rhyme or reason to the layout of this city.  There seems to be no center of town.  It’s just urban sprawl everywhere.

We arrive at the octagonal St. George Cathedral, conceived to commemorate the 1896 defeat of the Italians in Adwa.  It was commissioned by Emperor Menelik and was dedicated to Ethiopia’s patron saint, St. George.  With the help of Armenian, Greek and Indian artists, the cathedral was completed in 1911.  It’s neoclassical style contrasts sharply with the colorful murals inside.

Adjacent to the cathedral is the museum with its large collection of ecclesiastical paraphernalia including crowns, hand-held crosses, holy scrolls, and the coronation outfits of Empress Zewditu and Emperor Haile Selassie, both of whom were crowned here in 1916 and 1930, respectively.  Sadly, we’re not allowed to take photos in the museum.

Next we drive to the Ethnological Museum, set in Haile Selassie’s former palace, and surrounded by the lush grounds of Addis Ababa University. Right outside the entrance to the museum is a spiral staircase that leads to nowhere. The Italians placed one step here for every year that Mussolini held power, beginning from his march to Rome in 1922. The symbol of the Ethiopian monarchy, a Lion of Judah, sits atop the stairs, a symbol of the eventual defeat of the Italians by Ethiopia.

the spiral staircase to nowhere

the spiral staircase to nowhere

the entrance to the Ethnological Museum

the entrance to the Ethnological Museum

Ethiopian artifacts and handicrafts are displayed in the order of the human life cycle, beginning with Childhood with themes of birth, games and rites of passage, followed by Adult themes of beliefs, traditional medicine, war, hunting and even pilgrimages.  Death and Beyond showcases burial structures and tombs.

hunting in Ethiopia

warriors?

warriors?

Also preserved intact in the museum are Haile Selassie’s bedroom, bathroom and changing room.

On the 2nd floor is some amazing religious art, especially diptychs, triptychs, icons and crosses.

In another cave-like room sits the collection of musical instruments, put in the dark to preserve them from the ravages of light and to showcase them in an ethereal way.

We eat lunch at the Lime Tree Restaurant.  After lunch, my guide convinces me to try the wheat grass juice.  It doesn’t sound very appealing to me, but he assures me it will improve my health considerably.  I try it and am surprised to find it’s actually quite delicious.  And I have to say, I feel much better for the rest of the day, and throughout my long overnight trip back to Muscat. 🙂

Categories: Addis Ababa, Africa, Ethiopia, Ethnological Museum, Makush Art Gallery, St. George Cathedral | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

lunch at the lucy gazebo restaurant & the national museum of ethiopia

Wednesday, October 31:  After we drive down from the Entoto Mountains, we head for lunch at the Lucy Gazebo Restaurant, attached to the National Museum of Ethiopia.

the entrance to the National Museum complex

the entrance to the Lucy Gazebo Restaurant

The outdoor Lucy Gazebo Restaurant is lush with tropical plants, decorative sculptures and Ethiopian art.  I start with carrot soup and then eat a delicious chicken avocado pizza with tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms and cheese.

Next door, the National Museum of Ethiopia houses one of the most important collections in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Lonely Planet Ethiopia & Eritrea.

entrance to the National Gallery of Ethiopia

entrance to the National Gallery of Ethiopia

Statue outside the museum

Statue outside the museum

Haile Selassie addresses some young men.

Haile Selassie addresses some young men.

The paleontology exhibit on the basement level showcases the extinct sabre-toothed cat Homotherium and the huge savannah pig Notochoerus.

part of the paleontology exhibit

part of the paleontology exhibit

The most interesting things are the two amazing casts of the 3.2 million year-old Lucy, a fossilized hominid discovered in 1974.  One lies prone in a glass case and the other is standing. Her small frame is a reminder of how small our ancestors were.

According to one of the museum’s curators, the real bones, which are normally preserved in the museum’s archives, are currently on tour in the USA.   Lucy’s tour begins at the Houston Museum of Natural History; after Houston, she travels to Seattle, Boston and back to Houston.  Lucy’s pilgrimage is designed to let the international community know Ethiopia’s importance to the history of humans.

Lucy was discovered in a dried-up lake near Hadar in northeast Ethiopia.  This new species, called A. afarensis walked on two legs, which overturned earlier theories that our ancestors only started walking upright after they evolved larger brains.

When I walk into the basement, one of the museum’s curators is opening the glass case that contains the casts of Lucy’s prone bones. He takes one of the finger bones and hands it over to a group of young men who want to borrow it.  This group is making a film showing primates’ connection to humans through Lucy and they want to borrow the cast finger bone for their documentary.  This seems quite crazy to me, as I cannot imagine a curator at any museum in the USA taking out a piece of an exhibit and handing it over to someone to “borrow!”

The center of the ground floor of the museum showcases a collection of royal paraphernalia including Emperor Haile Selassie’s enormous carved wooden throne.  On the walls of this central area are paintings of Ethiopia’s rulers, including Emperor Menelik, Emperor Yohannes, and of course Haile Selassie.  Surprisingly, among these emperors is a painting of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, the leader of the horrible Derg (Committee) that deposed Haile Selassie in 1974.  Their destructive rule, including the Red Terror, lasted until 1991.

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the top of Haile Selassie’s throne

Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam ~ leader of the Derg

Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam ~ leader of the Derg

On the periphery of the ground floor are artifacts from the pre-Aksumite, Aksumite, Solomonic and Gonder periods.

some statues from early times

some statues from early times

On the first floor, what we in America call the 2nd floor, is a colorful display of Ethiopian art ranging from early parchment to 20th century canvas oil paintings by modern artists, including  Afewerk Tekle’s African Heritage.

one of the paintings in the art gallery on the 1st floor

one of the paintings in the art gallery on the 1st floor

Finally, on the top floor, we find a secular arts and crafts collection, including traditional clothing, weapons, jewelry, utensils and musical instruments.

Categories: Addis Ababa, Africa, Ethiopia, Lucy Gazebo Restaurant, National Museum of Ethiopia | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

hobnobbing with the shorebirds at lake langano

Tuesday, October 30:  This morning, we pack up for our return trip to Addis Ababa.  We eat a breakfast of omelets: Ed has an Ethiopian Omelet with tomato, onion, & chili, and I have an Omelet a la Bishangari, with mango, pineapple, banana and sugar. I’m surprised it has more of a savory flavor than sweet.  We drink fresh papaya juice and coffee.  The tea and coffee set-up harkens back to British colonial days and adds a nostalgic ambiance to our morning.  It’s our last day here and I’m sad to leave.

We take a walk along the lake edge to check out the shorebirds.  The day is crisp and breezy; the clouds are in fine form in a hazy blue sky.  Ed is hesitant to cross outside of the fenced-in area of Bishangari Lodge, but I figure we went there last night and it was perfectly fine, so why not?  He’s afraid we’ll be harassed by the locals for money or handouts.  I’m not worried because I know how to say no and how to ignore people who harass me.  I’m determined to cross no matter what he decides to do.  In the end, he comes along.

speckled pigeon

speckled pigeon

acacia trees on the landscape near the lake

acacia trees on the landscape near the lake

marshland

marshland

Our adventurous foray is richly rewarded.  We see speckled pigeons, little egrets, white and gray pelicans, cormorants, and ducks.  They allow us to approach them without flying away.  We linger for a long time, creeping silently closer.  Finally, after most of them leisurely swim or fly away, showing no fear of us at all, we make our way back to the lodge.  We meet an olive baboon and stroll under more amazing ficus trees.  Then we head back on the road for our trip to Addis Ababa.

a flock of little egrets

a flock of little egrets

pumice-stone moonscape

pumice-stone moonscape

white & gray pelicans

white & gray pelicans

white pelicans and cormorants

white pelicans and cormorants

white pelicans and cormorants

white pelicans and cormorants

more white pelicans and cormorants

more white pelicans and cormorants

white pelicans & cormorants

white pelicans & cormorants

looks to me like a pregnant pelican!

looks to me like a pregnant pelican!

pelicans afloat

pelicans afloat

cormorants

cormorants

the lakeshore

the lakeshore

me in front of a huge ficus tree

me in front of a huge ficus tree

olive baboons

olive baboon

pretty tree

pretty tree

tukul huts

tukul huts

local houses

local houses

scenery on the drive back to Addis

scenery on the drive back to Addis

fields

fields

In the evening, when we return to Addis Ababa, we eat a meal that Ed’s housekeeper/cook Kitay has prepared for us: injera, wat, cabbage & potatoes, lentils.  We top it off with some Montrouge Merlot.  Later, Ed shows me pictures on his computer, but when I want to show him pictures of my time in Greece, he’s not really interested.

As there is really nothing to do in the evening, he suggests we watch a movie.  Just as he’s about to put it on, he says he needs to make a business call to the U.S.  I wait.  And wait.  Finally I go upstairs to read, and hear him chatting away on Skype to his sons.  He is heading back to the U.S. on Saturday, and today is Tuesday, so I figure the conversation will be short.  It isn’t.  As a matter of fact, I give up and get in bed to read, telling him I’m no longer interested in watching the movie.  This is one time I wish I had the numbers of my colleagues so I could join them somewhere in Addis for some fun.

Categories: Acacia trees, Africa, bird-watching, Birds, Bishangari Lodge, Ethiopia, Lake eco-zone, Lake Langano, Pumice stone eco-zone | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

fine feathered friends along lake langano’s shores {sunday}

Sunday, October 28: We spend some time walking along the lake shore where we spot birds of many feathers.  This is where I really discover either my camera’s or my own shortcomings.   My camera takes a lot of great photos, but it doesn’t do certain things well:  1) It doesn’t take good night shots; 2) it doesn’t take good macro pictures; and 3) it doesn’t take good pictures of small things at a distance, like birds.   The zoom lens basically sucks.  At some point, I will definitely need to buy a new zoom lens for my little Olympus PEN  EPL-1.  Either that or upgrade my camera completely.

a Great Cormorant

a Great Cormorant

Great cormorant takes flight

Great cormorant takes flight

Along the lake we wander. We admire the birds, we stare out over a horizon heavy with gray clouds, we listen to the choppy waves hit the shore.  We take pictures.  Ed, being a veteran bird-watcher, knows his birds and educates me as to what is what.  He points out a Great cormorant, a Senegal thick-knee and some spur-winged plovers.

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Senegal thick knee

spur-winged plover

spur-winged plover

spur winged plover

spur winged plover

spur-winged plovers

spur-winged plovers

the spur winged plover takes flight

the spur winged plover takes flight

After our afternoon of exploring the pumice stone area, the beach, and the lakeshore, we head to the Tree House bar where we share a bottle of Gonder Ethiopian red wine.  We toast to our safe arrival at the lake.  We eat a dinner of mushroom soup, black olive salad, pan-fried fish served with French fries, vegetables and pasta, and a crepe suzette for dessert.  Cicadas chirp in the background, a musical serenade.

Lake Langano

Lake Langano

another view of Lake Langano

another view of Lake Langano

acacia tree along the lakeshore

acacia tree along the lakeshore

 

Categories: Africa, Bishangari Lodge, Ethiopia, Lake eco-zone, Lake Langano | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

the beach at bishangari lodge

Sunday, October 28:  It’s a little too cool at Lake Langano for swimming, but that doesn’t stop us from swinging in the hammocks by the lake, listening to the waves roll into shore, and enjoying the chatters & chirps of the birds.

the beach at Bishangari Lodge

the beach at Bishangari Lodge

the sun loungers wait for the sunshine

the sun loungers wait for the sunshine

sticks tied together to make primitive boats

sticks tied together to make primitive boats

loungers and hammocks ~ everything for relaxation :-)

loungers and hammocks ~ everything for relaxation 🙂

groovin' on a Sunday afternoon...

groovin’ on a Sunday afternoon…

chairs near the beach for lake viewing

chairs near the beach for lake viewing

Ed in his hammock :-)

Ed in his hammock 🙂

Monday is a sunnier day at the Langano Lake beach

Monday is a sunnier day at the Langano Lake beach

...but there are no cushions on the loungers

…but there are no cushions on the loungers

the glittery beach

the glittery beach

Categories: Africa, Beach, Bishangari Lodge, Ethiopia, Lake Langano | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

the dry pumice stone eco-zone at lake langano

Sunday, October 28: One of Lake Langano‘s eco-zones is a dry pumice stone area on a piece of land that juts through the lake like a gnarly finger, separating the lake proper from a wetland area. On our first afternoon at the lodge, we take a walk through the area, encountering numerous birds and acacia trees. It feels a little like a walk on the moon, somewhat surreal but lovely .

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first encounter with the pumice stone

pumice under the clouds and an acacia tree

pumice under the clouds and an acacia tree

Pumice stone may have had a more important historical role in our lives than just scrubbing dead skin off feet.  Scientists claim the rock, which is produced as volcanic gases bubble through lava as it solidifies, may have been responsible for the birth of life on earth more than 3.5 billion years ago, according to a 2011 article from The Telegraph: Humans may owe more than smooth feet to pumice, claim scientists.

a whole spread of pumice

a whole spread of pumice

I think it does look like some prehistoric landscape.

more pumice along the lake

more pumice along the lake, not unlike a moonscape

me in pumice land

me in pumice land

Palaeobiologists believe the essential cocktail of chemicals that make up all organisms on earth could have accumulated inside the pumice pores, while other chemicals commonly found within could have kick-started biological reactions under ultraviolet light.

Ed takes a seat on a pumice chair

Ed takes a seat on a pumice chair

dramatic pumice landscape

dramatic pumice landscape

pumice meets lake

pumice meets lake

I’m amazed by this landscape, especially as the light wanes in the afternoon.  We walk along the rocky surface, checking out the birds preening and flitting about along the lakeshore:  pied kingfishers, spur-winged plovers, Senegal thick-knees, Great cormorants, Nyanza swifts.  I’ll feature some of our fine-feathered friends in another post.

and seen in a different light, as the sun goes down

and seen in a different light, as the sun goes down

The next two days, we explore the pumice-stone area a little more, marveling at how it appears in different light.

further down the finger peninsula, along the lakeshore

further down the finger peninsula, along the lakeshore

and shadowed by acacia trees

and shadowed by acacia trees

I love this stunning and peaceful place, where there are only a few quiet and relaxed inhabitants.  Namely us.  🙂

Categories: Africa, Ethiopia, Lake Langano, Pumice stone eco-zone | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

lalibela’s southeastern churches

Friday, October 26: After lunch at the Mountain View Hotel, we head out again with Masala to the southeastern group of Lalibela churches.  On the way, Masala points out The River Jordan and Mount Tabor, named after Jerusalem’s holy sites.  Heading to Bet Gabriel-Rufael, we climb a path alongside of which is a sliver of hewn rock known as “The Way to Heaven.”

We enter Bet Gabriel-Rufael from the top of the church, walking over a rock-carved bridge that crosses a deep trench. Scholars think this church may have been a fortified palace for Aksumite royalty in the 7th and 8th centuries.  The monumental facade is the most interesting thing about this church.

We make our way through a pitch-black tunnel, which Masala likens to the experience to descending into hell.  We emerge into light (likened to heaven) into Bet Merkorios, which some say may have once been the town’s prison.  This is because of ankle shackles found within the church.  Inside is a fresco representing the three wise men, possibly created in the 15th century.

The freestanding Bet Amanuel is a finely-carved church and may have been the royal family’s private chapel.  Its building style is like Aksumite buildings; its projecting and recessed walls of stone mimic layers of wood and stone found in Aksumite buildings.

Finally, we visit Bet Abba Libanos, which is a hypogeous church.  This means it is under the earth’s surface.  In fact, the church is attached to rock at the top and bottom.  Legend says it was built overnight by Lalibela’s wife with the help of a few angels.  It seems to grow sandwiched between slabs of rock.

Here is a gallery of the southeastern churches.  Click on any of the images for a full-sized slide show.

Categories: Africa, Bet Abba Libanos, Bet Amanuel, Bet Gabriel-Rufael, Bet Merkorios, Ethiopia, Lalibela, Lalibela rock-hewn churches | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

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