During our short stay in Awasa (400km south of Addis Ababa) my friend and I were planning to do one of the hikes in and around the city as recommended in the guide. One of them was a hike up Tabor Mountain, a small hill giving views over Awasa lake. We did the hike, but were violently robbed of all our belongings. The robbers (three against two and armed with knives) were very hostile. When reporting at the police, we found out that two days before two people were robbed and stabbed (and died of the injuries). A week before two tourists were robbed. When talking to the locals they all confirmed that it was dangerous to go up the hill without a guide. They told us that there is a gang residing on the mountain ready to attack whenever a possibility would offer itself. However, all the tourists and expats we talked to were surprised and reacted that they had done the hike, did it regularly or even used is as an daily exercise. You might understand that we do not recommend anyone to do this hike.
The experience was very horrible and frightening, but nevertheless it opened the doors to seeing some of the most generous, welcoming and warm people in Ethiopia. The moment we came running of the mountain and stripped of nearly everything we had, we ran into a random property. The moment we entered, the women of the house came running towards us, screaming and crying. In less than a minute we were surrounded by thirty or more people who stood around us, shaking their heads saying: “sorry, sorry.” The people were genuinely angry about what happened and symphatized about what happened to us. Everybody who was around left their work or occupations for what it was and started comforting us. They were shouting for justice to be done and the robbers to be caught. It was for this reason that within five minutes the community arranged five strong men to go up to the mountain trying to find back the stolen bags. And it was because of this courageous effort that we got back one of the bags.
After the incident, one family took us into their house, made fresh coffee and bought lunch with the little money they had. They helped us to go to the police, stayed with us during the hourlong process of reporting. The same night we were invited by a local girl we had met on the buss from Addis to Awasa. Her family cooked enjira for us and preformed a traditional coffee ceremony with leaves, incense and fresh brewed coffee. They borrowed their only phone to us so we could call home and arranged the brothers of the family to bring us home to the door of our hotel, sound and safe.
Each reaction of the Ethiopians who came to know about what happened were they same: genuinely sad for us and angry for the injustice being done to us. One of these moments was in the bus back to Addis Ababa. A nun took us under her care during the lunch break and when she found out the news, the whole bus knew it instantly. All of a sudden all the eyes were on us and the heads shaking: “sorry, sorry.” One of the girls on the bus suggested the whole bus to collect money for us to support us financially. When declined she called a Dutch relative living in Ethiopia, so we could tell him the story in our own language and ask him for help.
Upon arrival in the capital we were offered a driver with a car who took us along all the steps of the procedure to obtain the emergency-passport and exit visa. Besides all his practical help, he even started praying when he saw me breaking down for a moment. Even up to the point of leaving the country on Bole airport, the desk attendant was offering her apologies when she saw the emergency passport.
This experience has had two sides: extreme hostility and extreme heartwarming people. In the plane I met an expat who had been living in Ethiopia for three years. He had been mingling with Ehtiopians in stead of staying in the expat bubble. But not once had he been invited to a diner in the house of an Ethiopian family. We had shared not only a meal, but also our sorrows with them many times in one weeks time.