Tag Archives: Ethiopia

Ethiopian Art, Crafts, and Icons

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I was going to write a “Crafts in Ethiopia” blog entry like my Crafts in Rwanda entry from February.  Then I realized that in Ethiopia there is heavy overlap between art, craft, and religious icons. Some of the works I brought home are between these categories. For example, if the two paintings on goat skin above were not religious in content, I would consider them crafts; however, because one is depicts Saint George and the other represents the Holy Trinity, and both are heavily inspired in design by ancient icons still in active church use, I am not sure into what category they fall.

The image below of coffee drinkers is clearly craft – even though its media, design, and execution are very similar to the paintings above. The baskets, woven scarves, and jewelry items pictured below are also crafts. The silver cross ear rings and bracelet are something else – maybe religious crafts? The great variety, symbolism, and social importance of Ethiopian Orthodox crosses puts them in another category.

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Images Copyright 2014 by Katy Dickinson

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Great Ethiopian Food: Injera and Coffee

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Ethiopian coffee is some of the best in the world. According to the displays in the delightful Ethnological Museum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is the original home of the Coffee Aribica plant, and the word coffee refers to the Ethiopian province of Kaffa. We enjoyed the coffee ceremony which formalizes the roasting, grinding, and serving of the beverage.

While in Ethiopia last week, John and I regularly ate meals on injera (a sourdough-risen flatbread with a unique, slightly spongy texture traditionally made out of indigenous teff flour), followed by wonderful coffee, sometimes accompanied by popcorn.  Injera is served either in rolls or as the platter for a variety of wat or tsebhi (stew).  We particularly liked the fasting (non-meat) wat – largely made from lentils or chickpeas.  We often drank St. George beer with the meal (or Ambo sparkling water), with coffee after.

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Images Copyright 2014 by Katy Dickinson

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Lalibela, Ethiopia

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15 years ago in California, I bought a silver cross inspired in design by Bet Giorgis, the Church of St. George, in Lalibela Ethiopia. A few days ago, John and I finally visited Lalibela and saw the inspiring medieval monolithic cave churches in this World Heritage Site for ourselves.  Mostly built in the 12th century, Lalibela today is a major tourist and pilgrimage site, featuring good food (especially at the Mountain View Hotel, and the interestingly modern Ben Abeba restaurant) and comfortable hotels with lovely views.

John and I only had one day to visit Lalibela. After the early morning flight from Addis, we saw the cave church at Na’akueto La’ab, the northwestern church group, and Bet Giorgis. The building outsides are well maintained, and the churches themselves are in active use by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Inside are ancient painting and icons, worn rugs, big drums, and benches. Long curtains protect the holy space – inside of which is a replica of the tablets in the original Ark of the Covenant – itself said to be in the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion (in the town of Axum in the Tigray Province, Ethiopia). There are remains of frescoes on some church walls plus elaborate ceiling carvings.  The churches vary in size and design but all are carved from red basalt below ground level – from the living rock.

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Images Copyright 2014 by Katy Dickinson

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Tolkein in Ethiopia

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I did not expect to find Tolkein in Ethiopia but he was there, in sound anyway. I grew up reading J.R.R. Tolkein classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings. My brother Pete Dickinson once won a bet that he could identify any single line in any of these four books by chapter and scene. I could probably still win that bet.

In the year that I have worked with the Ethiopian diaspora group People to People, I have tried hard not to think of Tolkien’s city Gondor when I hear the of the Ethiopian city of Gondar, or of Sauron’s evil fortress Barad Dur when visiting Ethiopia’s Bahir Dar. Flying home to San Francisco yesterday, I was delighted to meet a Swedish professional who lives in Bahir Dar who confessed to having the same problem. When he said he and friends had gone to Ethiopia’s lava lake to throw in rings, I felt comforted. I was not the only one to think of Mount Doom when hearing about Erta Ale.

I will not even start on how being called “Forengi” (foreigner) by kids on the street in Ethiopia made me wonder if I had somehow developed the big ears of a Star Trek Ferengi

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Images Copyright 2014 by Katy Dickinson

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Pan-African Medical Conference, African Union, Addis

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Last week, People to People was a host organization for the first-ever Pan-African Medical Doctors & Healthcare Conference, held in the African Union Hall in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The conference Keynote Speaker was Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission. Other remarkable dignitaries who attended included Mulatu Teshome Wirtu (President, Ethiopia) who addressed the conference after Dr. Zuma, and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ethiopia). Former President of Ethiopia Girma Wolde-Giorgis joined the closing dinner for the conference. PAMDHC brought together leading professionals in their areas of expertise – including a People to People panel on Triangular Partnership, moderated by former US Ambassador to Ethiopia, David Shinn. Panelists included:

  • Dr. Costantinos BT Costantinos, Professor of Public Policy, School of Graduate Studies, Addis Ababa University.
  • Dr. Anteneh Habte, Chairman of People to People’s Board of Directors, and Medical Director, Veterans Affairs Medical Center (Martinsburg, WV).
  • Dr. Egbe Osifo-Dawodu, Founding Partner at the Anadach Group,  global healthcare strategy firm.
  • Dr. Dawd S. Siraj, Associate Professor of Medicine at the Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University.

The conference was put on by US Doctors for Africa, People to People, and Zambian International and Investment Centre (ZITIC).  I had to leave the conference during the first morning to interview US Ambassador to Ethiopia Patricia M. Haslach for People to People Radio – more about that in a later blog.

Internet access and wifi in the otherwise-excellent Capital Hotel and in the African Union building were not reliable – so this is my first opportunity to post to my blog since 19 May.

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Here is what the African Union campus looks like from the air – on 22 May as we flew from Addis to Lalibela:
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Images Copyright 2014 by Katy Dickinson

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Blue Nile Gorge Road Trip (Addis Ababa – Debre Marcos)

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Here are detailed photos of our drive from Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, past the Debre Libanos monastery, through the dramatic 1 Km. (.62 miles) deep Blue Nile Gorge, to the city of Debre Marcos. I had never heard of this remarkable area, other than as one of the sources of the Nile, but I highly recommend a visit, so long as you have a sturdy truck for the rough road.

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Images Copyright 2014 by Katy Dickinson

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Blue Nile Gorge, Debre Markos, Bahir Dar Ethiopia

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The People to People team (US and Ethiopia-based doctors, plus me) have been visiting partners and supporters, friends and family this weekend before the start of the Pan-African Medical Doctors & Healthcare Conference this week in Addis. We drove from the capital Addis Ababa through the dramatic Blue Nile Gorge to Debre Marcos (staying at the Gozamen Hotel in Abiyot Square), then to Bahir Dar on Lake Tana (staying at the Summerland Hotel). In addition to seeing the lovely and fertile countryside, institutions we have visited include:

Dr. Enawgaw Mehari (President and Founder, People to People) presented six boxes of chemistry, math, biology and other college texts to Debre Marcos University. During the Debre Marcos University tour, we visited some cows (part of the farm school), and their computer lab.  Dr. Enawgaw also presented a donation check of $1833 raised by 8-year-old Emma Jewel Lewis and her family in West Virginia to the girls of the Amanuel Care Center, where we visited some beehives and talked with 14 of the 56 girls. With their education and P2P support, the girls ambitions are to be a:

  • pilot
  • medical doctor (5 girls)
  • economist (2 girls)
  • journalist
  • law
  • business administration
  • engineer

We also visited six of the Amanuel Care Center girls who have already started their university studies on our way out of Addis. We were impressed by our tour of the clinic and diagnostic lab of the Addis Vision Higher Clinic. I am still uploading photos.

We have enjoyed eating many meals on injera flatbread and have been honored to join traditional dancing.  I particularly like the delicious results of the coffee ceremony. All along the way, our car has been regularly stopped by donkeys, cows, dogs, goats, and people dashing across the road, very exciting at night. I suggested adding reflectors to the animals’ tails…

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Images Copyright 2014 by Katy Dickinson

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