Ethiopia Simien Mountains

By Levison Wood

“It has taken Ethiopia a long time to shake off its international image as a nation blighted by famine, pestilence and civil war. In 1985 Bob Geldof and his gang of activists raised awareness of mass starvation in the Horn of Africa with the famous Band Aid concert which went a long way to generate support and money for the people in need. An inevitable consequence of this though has been to brand Ethiopia as a symbol of despair. When I visited the African country recently I expected the worst; bloated children, emaciated old women and fly-ridden cattle; a tear-jerking collection of skin and bones. What I encountered was a totally different experience.

Driving through the highlands of Ethiopia I was totally unprepared for the sheer greenery and abundance of beauty. Long grass savannahs were interspersed with dramatic and ear-splitting waterfalls. Tall and magnificent mountain ranges loomed on the horizon and gorges carved their way deep into the earth. Small, neat villages without a spot of litter line the well-paved tarmac roads and we don’t see another car for hours. This is clearly a poor place since no one can afford to buy petrol but there is a sense of pride and community here that is unique. Young boys eagerly stroll into the hills carrying stacks of firewood in smart blazers, lent down from the previous generation, perhaps donated in 1985. They smile as we drive past and a group of curious girls wave coyly nearby. Read more