Enchanting Ethiopia

No longer off the beaten tourist track, Ethiopia is now a direct flight from Dublin. Louise Hogan explores.

In a small one-bedroom house in northern Ethiopia, a woman is serving a powerful brew. The aroma is distinct and earthy. It takes just a single sup to confirm. Yes… it’s beer. Although the gritty brown liquid sloshing around my cup is a tad stronger than your average Smithwicks.

This is one of the amazing things about Ethiopia. Not the earthy home brewers (signalled by a pole with a red flag on top of their houses), but the universal welcome almost everywhere you go.

More and more people are set to experience those welcomes, too. Ethiopian Airlines has just launched direct flights between Ireland and Addis Ababa, making it easier than ever to get a taste of this unique and enchanting culture.

But back to that little brewery. I may be a newbie to Axum. I may just have seen the 2,000-year-old obelisks in its Stelae fields for the first time, but it’s clear that the people propped atop of boxes around the room are on more familiar territory. After a bit of negotiating, through an obliging local translator, farmers Mersea (68) and Berhe (75) tell me about their difficult lives “fighting with oxen” in the hot sun.

Ethiopia is a country of 94 million souls. Its people talk in a myriad 200 dialects. But Mersea’s story is strong and simple. He tells me of great changes from the time of the “cruel” Derg government that “killed many people” during the late 1970s and early 1980s. “Today we have justice, peace and schools,” he says.

Read more at: The Irish Independent

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