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Ethiopia - 1974

Anne Crosman


Ethiopia in 1974 was great.  Emperor Haile Selassie was still being held under house arrest and the political leaders, I believe, were the military.   We saw the beautiful capital of Addis Ababa, surrounded by blue mountains, and took a couple of trips to the countryside, where we saw women by the side of the road spinning wood into yarn, and Coptic priests taking part in a ceremony.  But because of the tense political situation, we never went to Lalibela, the area north of the capital, which some in our group sorely wanted to visit.  

We stayed in the Hilton Hotel, but even the water in the bathrooms  was not safe to use for brushing our teeth.  I know -- I forgot and brushed with the tap water, and was sick as a dog for one day.

What I most remember about Ethiopia was the poverty.  Beggars with leprosy staked out corners just a few blocks from the hotel.  Many poor people in the great open-air market were selling Coptic bibles and other religious antiques that legally were not allowed to be taken out of the country.  But nobody checked and many in our group bought.  I refused to buy anything like that.   I did buy a small rug at the open-air market, paid for it and for the
shipping, then never received it.  Clearly the keyword here is "caveat emptor," buyer beware.

Ethiopia's political situation has been if-fy for a while -- Selassie was murdered while under house arrest and the country has never been stable since.  

One of the most dramatic memories I have of Ethiopia is the Coptic priests we met.  Their dazzling white robes contrasted with their dark chocolate skins, and the photographs I took of them were striking.  Their faces were so dark, they almost disappeared into darkness, but their eyes sparkled, as holy men's do.  

The food in Ethiopia was tough on my stomach, which is usually very sturdy.  I'd recommend everyone take it easy with smaller, rather than larger portions, the first couple of days.  The Ethiopian stews that are so famous contain a lot of spices I was not used to.  Even in Ethiopian restaurants in America, I must be careful.