Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – While Ethiopia has a great equestrian tradition and one of the largest horse populations in the world, its related history is quickly being lost. One man is out to try to change reverse this trend, mapping a trail that a medieval Ethiopian emperor traveled in his mission to establish a protected forest, writes Makda Getachew, Special to Fortune.
Zara Yakob, known by his throne name Kwestantinos I, who reigned over Ethiopia in the 15th century, is known for one of the earliest environmental protection acts in Africa, planting trees at the endangered Menageseha Suba Forest and decreeing its protection. Today, the juniper trees planted by the king still stand in the forest as a lasting testament to his actions.
Nearly 600 years later, Yves Stranger, a British citizen residing in Ethiopia, is trying to revive this historic link from Ankober to Menagesha Suba by creating a 300km horse trail between the two places.
Ethiopia boasts a long equestrian tradition, with its late emperors’ war names such as Abba Tateq and Abba Dagnew referencing their horses. Even today, horses are used for transportation in parts of the Ethiopian Highlands, although much of their prestige has been forgotten.
With this history and tradition in mind, as well as helping his family’s business, Stranger decided to mark the trail, in partnership with Equus Ethiopia, Sunarma, the Ethiopian Heritage Trust, the Frankfurt Zoological Society, and Ankober Palace Lodge. Equus Ethiopia, established by his wife, Lydia Fantaye, organises treks and horse rides using its own horses from a stable in Sululta, 25km north of Addis Abeba.
Stranger’s vision is to recreate the king’s travel, galloping across the lush landscapes of the Ethiopian Highlands, in what historians know as one of Africa’s earliest acts of environmental protection.
“If you just say to people, come and horse ride, well, that is one thing, but, if you tell people that there is a story behind it [and that] it is linked to the Ethiopian Middle Ages, then, it has got a bit of meat on it,” Stranger says. Read full story on Addis Fortune.