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Ethiopia : Indigenous Cultures, and Ancient Civilizations

Focus On: Indigenous Cultures, Religious History

with Alison M Jones and David Anderson

View Alison's Images of Ethiopia Here

Ethiopia, known in Europe as Abyssinia, was home to the most ancient kingdom in Africa. Its alphabet is over 2,000 years old. Unlike any other African country Ethiopia was never colonized. The tenth largest country in Africa, Ethiopia is dominated by diversity and known as the cradle of humanity – the home of “Lucy,” now 3.18 million years old. We will see her remains in the Addis Ababa National Archaeological Museum. The thriving capital of Addis will be our entry and exit points for our tour through Ethiopia’s incredible ethno-cultural heritage.

The tribal people who live in Ethiopia’s remote lower Omo Valley are among the very few remaining on our planet who do not depend on technology for survival. We will spend ten days camping in comfortable tents on the Omo River bank under Cape Mahogany trees and in the Omo Delta where fishing in the shallow slower waters provides local sustenance. Immersing ourselves in their cultures, we will visit many villages of diverse tribes.  We will go by boat to villages where access is otherwise very difficult. By 4x4 we will visit local markets and any ceremonies happening at the time. We will photograph the Omo herdsmen’s daily lives, as we learn about their rites of passage, traditional body decoration, symbiotic relationships from tribe to tribe and polygamous social structure which follows the paternal line of the Mursi, Karo, Hamar, Nyangatoum and other tribes.

Flying north over the Rift Valley lakes into the Abyssinian Massif, we will spend 7-8days in the ancient towns of Axum and Lalibela. Although the Kingdom of Axum was most prosperous probably from the 4th or 5th centuries BC its written history begins in the 1st century AD. Over 300 stelae and obelisks are in Axum..  Of the 7 great stelae, the one remaining standing is inspiring. The Axumite sovereign possessed power on both sides of the Red Sea and it wasn’t until the 9th century that Axum’s power waned. While there we will visit important churches and the Ark of the Covenant brought from Jerusalem to Ethiopia by the son of Solomon and Ethiopia’s Queen of Sheba.

Lalibela is a place of meditation and prayer. It is home to more World Heritage sites than most African nations. A town known for its cruxiform windows, monsastic hermit caves, and famous 11 rock-hewn churches, Lalibela also boasts a wealth of artistic treasures ranging from manuscripts, crosses, icons and canvases, which we will be shown in the rich interior shafts of light that suggest the timelessness of these ancient artifacts.

Our tour will conclude back in Addis as we celebrate the connections we’ve made with Ethiopia’s diverse, tolerant, and hospitable people – perhaps over a great cup of Ethiopian coffee, the drink of friendship that was discovered here.

Photographer Escorts: Alison M. Jones and David Anderson

Maximum Participants: 6

Our Itinerary | Itinerary Images

Monday, 10 September 2007
Addis Ababa

We will each be met upon arrival and transferred to the Addis Hilton Hotel.  On arrival, each of us will be given (and billed for) new, single birr notes (the Ethiopian currency) to be used for photographic tips, particularly in the Omo Valley where the traditionally expected rate per person photographed is 2 birr (about 25 cents). Tonight marks the end of the millennium according to the Ethiopian calendar, tonight will be similar to Time Square on December 31, 1999 . What a great night to be in the capital city! Let’s party! Addis Hilton

Tuesday, 11 September 2007
Addis Abada - Adadi Mariam - Melka Kunture - Tiya 

Happy New Year! Our day trip will expose us to Ethiopian landscapes, ancient buildings, and an archeological site.  Our first stop is at Adadi Mariam, a cave church located about 50 miles south of Addis Ababa and dating back to the Lalibela era. It is one of the holiest places in the region. The area has spectacular scenery, surrounded by beautiful hills.  We will then proceed to Melka Kunture that lies near the Awash Gorge.  The archaeological site here dates back to over 1.5 million years old, and is believed to be the home of Neolithic man.  

Our final stop will be at Tiya, designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.  We will visit and photograph the peculiarly engraved stelae that are believed to be from the 12th and 14th century.  We then will drive back to Addis observing the scenery en route. We overnight again at the Hilton Hotel.Addis Hilton

Wednesday – Thursday, 12 - 20 September 2007
Addis - Jinka – Omo River Valley Camp

We will be transferred to the Addis airport for our flight to Jinka where we will be met by our escort and driven through Mago National Park to the Omo River Valley. Here we will photograph tribal cultures that are infrequently visited by Western Tourists, as access is very difficult.  Only in September-October is the river high enough to allow boat access to these remote Omo river and Delta villages. Furthermore our very experienced Dutch guide is the only operator who navigates tourists downriver.

In the Omo River Valley we will settle in for six days at our exclusive riverside camp under Cape Mahogany trees in large individual tents, each with a view onto the river. All the amenities of traditional African luxury tented safaris will be provided, including European cheeses, the finest meats from Kenya, and individual loo tents. Daily from Lumale to Omo Valley villages will be via both canvas-covered boats and 4X4’s in order to have the best possible encounters with the remote Omo tribes. We will immerse ourselves in the cultures of the Karo, Nyagatom, Mugugi, Mursi and Hammar Koke. It is most likely (although not guaranteed) that we will be able to witness unique rites of passage and village dances, as well as the daily lifestyles of these villagers. 

After 6 nights in Lumale Camp, we will navigate down the river to the Omo Delta where the river spreads out to enter Kenya’s Lake Turkana.  We will stay here in smaller, yet still individual “fly camp” tents for another 3 nights visiting villages of the Dassenach fishermen and cattle farmers. Here the birdlife is rich with waterfowl, feasting from the protein-rich shallow delta waters. Lumale Camp and Omo River Valley Camp

Friday, 21 September 2007
Omorate - Addis – Axum

Our charter flight departs from Omorate to the ancient town of Axum in the northern highlands of Ethiopia, via Addis for a refueling stop. We observe dramatic scenery changes en route and will then be met upon arrival and transferred to our hotel.Yeha Hotel

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Axum is the prime historical site in the North of Ethiopia.  It was once the center of a great empire and the seat of learning for the ancient Ge'ez language and literature.  We will tour the city of Axum’s Stelae Park, St. Mary's Church, Coronation Yard, Queen of Sheba’s palace ruins, Axum Museum and the quarry where the stelaes used to be made. Not to be missed is the Sanctuary Chapel, repository of the Ark of the Covenant, brought here 2,000 years ago by King Menelik I, son of the Queen of Sheba of Axum and King Solomon of Israel. Yeha Hotel

Sunday, 23 September 2007
Axum - Yeha

Today we will drive 36 miles from the town of Axum to Yeha, observing the lush highland scenery en route. Yeha is a 5th-century B.C. temple. It was Ethiopia’s first known capital and is considered the birthplace of the country’s earliest civilization.  This temple displays incredible skills in stonework and is in fact the oldest building still standing in Ethiopia. Its famous, well-preserved stone temple is 12 meters in height with 52 layers of masonry.Yeha Hotel

Monday, 24 September 2007

We will be transferred to the Axum Airport for our schedule flight to Lalibela. Lalibela, considered by many as the Eighth Wonder of the World, is the home of Ethiopia’s most famous churches and the scene of many major religious ceremonies still observed by the Ethiopian Coptic Christians who represent the world’s oldest Christian religion. We will visit about half of the 11 magnificent Churches of Lalibela, which were hewn out of the solid rock of Lalibela between 800-1200 A.D. and are still active worship places. These Churches include Bete Medhane Alem, Bete Mariam, Bete Maskal, Bete Danaghel, Bete Golgotha, Bete Mikael, and Bete Giorgis.

The architecture of these churches evokes the same awe one feels when visiting the Pyramids.  The scale, design and effort expended to build these glorious labyrinthine monuments are overwhelming. Our guide and resident priests will guide us through grottos into tapestry naves and heavily columned areas of worship that were built with superhuman strength, intricate workmanship and grand concepts.  Some sanctuaries are in deep trenches, while others stand in open quarried caves. A complex and bewildering maze of tunnels and narrow passageways are still used by monks, priests and worshippers. 
Roha Hotel

Tuesday, 25 September 2007
Asheten Mariam

After an early breakfast, we will take a mule trek through lush fields and small villages to the Asheten Mariam Monastery. Each mule will have its own handler who will help us carry our equipment and control our mule during many photographic moments as we ascend through mountainous paths passing by remote villages. King Lalibela excavated the monastery that is our trekking destination. It is stunningly hidden under a ledge in the mountain overlooking the town of Lalibela. We will return to Lalibela on our mules for lunch, and then resume visits to the rest of the eleven rock-hewn Churches of Lalibela we have not yet seen:  i.e. Bete Amanuel, Bete Markorios, Bete Aba Libanos, and Bete Gabriel-Rufael. Roha Hotel

Wednesday, 26 September 2007
Yemrehane Christos  

Today we will drive to the Yemrehana Christos Church. Lying 20 km northeast of Lalibela, this exquisite church is a masterpiece of Axumite wood-and-stone construction and renowned for its interior decoration and crypts draped with richly woven fabrics.Roha Hotel

Thursday, 27 September 2007
Nakuto Le'abe

This day we will take an excursion to the Nakuto Le’Abe monastery.  In 1270 King Nakuto Le’Abe abdicated his throne and went to a cave to lead a hermit’s life. This cave has become and remains a monastery with dramatic settings. This evening, we will experience an event that is celebrated only once each year. Meskel is a cebrated by dancing, feasting, and lighting a massive bonfire. The celebration goes on all night so do not expect to get much sleep tonight. Roha Hotel

Friday, 28 September 2007
Lalibela – Addis Abida

We will be transferred to the airport for our flight back to Addis and met upon arrival and transferred to the Hilton Hotel.  In the evening we will all be treated to a farewell dinner in a traditional Ethiopian restaurant with tribal dancing and a beautiful coffee presentation at the end of our meal.Addis Hilton

Saturday, 29 September 2007
Addis Ababa

On our last day, we will begin a city tour of Addis with a drive north up to Mount Entoto. The panorama from the peak (3200 meters) is breathtaking. Descending down to Addis, which was established in 1887 by Emperor Menelik, we will proceed to the Ethnographic Museum, which displays a very large collection of Ethiopian crafts and items of historical interest. The Archeological Museum that houses the 3.4 million years old fossils of ‘Lucy’ (perhaps our earliest ancestor) adds a vast archeological perspective to all that we will have experienced during our time in the Omo and the highlands. After lunch, we will visit the Trinity Cathedral, the largest and most revered of all Addis Ababa churches, which was built in 1941. Finally, we will drive through Merkato, the largest open-air market in Africa. We return to our hotel where a day room will be available for pre-departure preparations.

The Price of Adventure

Per Person Double Occupancy

Safari Land Cost: $12,500.00 per person excluding scheduled airfare

Scheduled air within Ethiopia: $445.00 per person (subject to change)

Early Booking Bonus!

Send in your deposit by 30 January 2007 and $500 per person will be deducted from your final invoice. Your final payment is due 1 July 2007.

Carbon Offset Calculator
The airport code for your destination is ADD.

Single Room Supplement: $2,500.00

Deposit: $2,500.00

Your Safari Includes:

All accommodation on a shared basis; meals as specified; all drinks (excluding spirits and liqueurs) in camps; all indicated excursions and transfers; air charter in and out of Omo Valley as specified; services of the camp guides and staff; English-speaking tour guide from 21 September; entrance fees; meet & greet service on arrival; and accommodation Value Added Tax.

Your Safari Excludes:

International flights or airport taxes; all items of a personal nature; meals, drinks, tours & transfers etc not specified above; cancellation, baggage or medical insurance; visas; any new Government taxes; telephone and other communication charges; and all items of a personal nature.





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