Archive for the ‘books’ Category

Jan Tromp has just sent me a copy of his new ebook entitled “Ethiopia, The Northern Circuit: Architecture and Iconography of Churches”

It looks like a very useful resource, complimentary to the Bradt Guide, for those with a deeper interest in the history of the region. It is 536 pages in length, with 72,500 words and 420 coloured photographs on a black background to make them stand out on tablet readers.

The profits will go to Yenege Tesfa, an NGO in Gonder for aids-orphans.

It can be bought online at

Bradt Guide to Somaliland

Posted: September 26, 2012 in books, Somaliland

This is to alert readers of the Bradt Guide to Ethiopia that there is also now a Bradt Guide to Somaliland – click on the cover below for full details!

The recent flurry of new birding books to Ethiopia continues with the publication by Christopher Helm Publishers of Where to Watch Birds in Ethiopia by Claire Spottiswoode, Merid Gabremichael and Julian Francis. This book is intended as a complement to the same publisher’s dedicated Field Guide to the Horn of Africa and Bird Atlas for Ethiopia and Eritrea and it provides detailed coverage and GPS readings for 50 key birding sites, mostly in southern Ethiopia, along with photos and descriptions of the country’s ‘top 50 species’. At 180-odd pages, it is very portable and would make an excellent near-essential companion to the Field Guide to the Horn of Africa for dedicated birders, especially those travelling without a local guide specialised in ornithology. It can be ordered directly through the publisher’s website by clicking this link or the cover below:

Another bird book for Ethiopia

Posted: August 31, 2010 in Birdwatching, books

Following on from last year’s publication of a dedicated Field Guide to the Horn of Africa and Bird Atlas for Ethiopia and Eritrea, we have another great addition to Ethiopian birding literature in the form of Birding Ethiopia by Ken Behrens, Keith Barnes and Christian Boix. A perfect complement to the field guide or atlas, this book feels a bit like a vastly extended and illustrated trip report, and is the perfect hands-on starting point for anybody planning a birding trip to Ethiopia. Highly recommended!

Anybody interested in the Ethiopian traditions relating to the Ark of the Covenant & Queen of Sheba should find this downloadable booklet by Bernard Leeman a fascinating read…

Books about South Omo

Posted: August 17, 2010 in books, South Omo

In reading up on the Bumi and the Surma, I have come across two
brilliantly photographed books which are not (yet) in your reading list but
deserve to be. They are almost as good as African Ark, which is still the
number one for me. Incidentally Angela Fisher’s other book is also good if a
bit thinner on Ethiopia: Africa Adorned.

The two new ones are:

Hans Silvester: “Natural Fashion: Tribal decoration from Africa”, also in
German and French(Surma and Mursi only). Sensible but short text. Stunning
and often very amusing photos.

Gianni Giansanti: “Vanishing Africa” (translated from ” Africa Ultima” and
also in German)(all the major Omo valley tribes). Text a bit idiosyncratic,
but photos stunning.

Adrian Greenwood

The BookWorld chain now has 11  branches around Addis Ababa, including those in the city’s two biggest hotel, the Sheraton & Hilton.

Other major branches are as follows:

BookWorld Olympia – Bole Road, In front of Dembel City center, 011 5 54 42 95

BookWorld Piazza – (listed in 2009 Bradt)

BookWorld Zerihun – around 22 Mazoria, Zerihun Bldg, 011 6 63 63 94/95

BookWorld Friendship – (also listed in 2009 Bradt) 011 6 63 99 13

Hi Philip

Returned yesterday from Ethiopia, with lots of comments on individual parts of your 5th edition. I am something of an Ethiopian aficionado, having done 2 years there as a UNA volunteer 40 years ago, and following it up with two “reminiscence “fortnights in 2009 and 2010. I bought your first edition some 15 years ago, and was delighted by the improvements of the 5th edition. Both recent fortnights were done through different mid-range German tour companies. Here goes with my comments:

1) Our tour group had 20 people from 5 countries. Only 2 of us had the Bradt Guide, yet all 20 plus the guide reckoned it to be far and away the best on the market, well ahead of the German “Reise KnowHow” and the Lonely Planet alternatives. Congratulations and thanks!

2) I have only one significant criticism. I don’t think you like shopping!!! I am an inveterate collector of Ethiopiana. Your books and records sections are good, but you are relatively weak on curios, pottery, basketry,silver etc. Sections on (for example) genuine handicrafts versus airport art would be a welcome addition, as would a detailed map of the confusion of the Mercato? That’ s what I really needed from your guide book two days ago when looking for berbere , and not finding the spice market at all! (I know where the old tyres are, and the Chinese plastic though!). Also the overall feel of your section on the Mercato rings too negative for me (“human excreta” and “pickpocketing”). I think you should re-edit this.

3)Addis The secondhand bookstores marked on the map on page 144 (C3) are nowhere to be found. I tramped up and down all the roads thereabouts, so either the dot is wrong or they are gone. Pity!

4) Addis I tried unsuccessfully to get Phillipson’s book on Axum and the Ethiopiques CDs, and finally went to the Hilton shopping area as recommended. They all looked at me blankly -never heard of either. The place was full of “airport art” rubbish and fancy jewelry, had nothing of any interest at all. A big disappointment.

5) Addis One really good cafe to recommend is Cafe Choche, an oasis of green and quiet in a hectic part of town, on one side of the old railway station, with old photos of the locomotives, and a delightful proprietor called Ato Talegete, whose latte macchiato and pancakes with fruit were not only excellent, but very good value. Unfortunately the station staff next door are hopeless at letting anyone in to look at the station.

6) Debre Libanos You are a bit hard on the Ethio-German Park Hotel. I found it delightful, and had a long chat with the elderly proprietor who turned out to be a grandson of the old Ras of Dessie, and so a scion of the old imperial family. When his father had all his land taken by the Dergue, he left to go to Germany, married there and has now returned with her to his home country.

7) Blue Nile Gorge The 30km dirt stretch is now asphalted as part of the Ethiopian Millenium project, and there is a second Ethiopian-Japanese bridge taking the traffic, so it is now possible to park and walk over the old Italian bridge and take as many photos as you like!

8) Bahir Dar The Tissisat Falls are indeed a real shock to anyone that remembers them from before. I saw them 40 years ago in the dry season. They are now less than a tenth of what they were even then.

9) Gondar Quara Hotel was better than you made it sound.

10) Gondar Habesho Kitfo was a very good restaurant, but you do need to make it clear that if you are in the North before Easter and at other times of fasting that entire menus might not be available. Despite its name Habesha Kitfo only did varieties of fasting food. Their “Social (Variety)” turned out to be a well presented mixture of various fasting foods (a sort of meze) and rather good. Their curio shop was overpriced though, despite their falasha mementoes being of poorer quality than in Wolleko.

11) Wolleko I have a very good collection of falasha figurines pre-airlift and with pre- and post Peace Corps designs, so was very keen to buy and compare. Here is my take on it: there is now only one place where tourists can buy Falasha goods. About 5 kilometers north of Gondar on the Axum road there is a straight stretch of road lined with about 10 curio stands, a signpost on the right refers the Ploughshare Womens Training Centre, and a sign on the left refers to Wolleko. Your report suggests two places at 3 and 5 kilometers, and I remembered a village on a corner from 40 years ago. I only saw this long straight one, and it was better and bigger than I expected. Best of all it was already open at 7.15am when our bus was on its way through, so we could stop and buy. Prices were very low, no bargaining though, and although the quality has of course suffered since the airlift I found the items still wo rth buying. A pleasant surprise considering the doom laden guides. I bought from a pleasant girl who said she was half Falasha and half Christian.

12) Gondar to Enda Selassie This just has to be the most beautiful road in Ethiopia, but it is still not asphalted, almost the only bit on the main ring not metalled (Enda Selassie to Axum was being done last week).

13)Axum We liked the Abunet Hotel’s food. A very good Doro wat for an astonishingly low 25 birr, and that during fastng time! A good but very spicy spaghetti bolognese too.

14) Axum Fasting time seems to also mean that there is no milk (I don’t know why – does it run out?). We learnt however to insist on them using powdered milk, which actually improved their latte macchiato!

15) Axum The second highest stele (returned from Rome) is now erected and resplendent, but the sling is still on the neigbouring slightly sloping stele.

16) Lalibela Now 300 Birr not 200 Birr, but still well worth it of course. The road in from Koren via Sekota is quite beautiful. Only gravel of course, but like Thomas Pakenham, my last visit 40 years ago meant hiring mules for three and a half days!

16) Lalibela Airport The only time I really felt cheated was in some of the prices at this airport, clearly catering more to the fly-in fly-out jet set.

17) Overall -hassle factor 40 years ago I was called “ferenji” and had stones thrown at me by little children every morning on my way to work. That has gone now. There was significantly less hassle in Addis,Bahir Dar, Gondar and Lalibela than before, and also much less than in Debarek, Axum, Yeha and Debre Damo, where being harassed is still sadly a fact of life.

So Philip that concludes my list of feedback. Hope it was helpful!

Adrian Greenwood

Official guides – reasonably knowledgeable, but rarely needed
Unofficial guides – relatively ignorant, but sometimes needed to get rid of other “guides”, kids etc
Tour operators – they do a good job with providing transportation, food and accommodation, but don’t expect them to know everything about the places they’re taking you to – Bradt guide is your best friend!

Go for Bradt’s Budget options if you can afford those rather than the Shoestring ones. A good insecticide is recommended for all accommodations before settling in for the night. Insecticide will get rid of mossies and roaches, but offers limited protection against fleas and bed bugs.

SIM card
Available at post offices, just have a copy of your passport ready to hand over and say (if asked) that you have the residency visa (not the tourist one). Try another post office if the initial one won’t sell the SIM card if they find out you’re only a tourist, or try Western Union office inside the same post office – worked for me, third time lucky.

Using the dial up internet in Ethiopia can be a very frustrating experience. It could take up to 10 mins for the page to download and you can easily spend one hour in order to send one e-mail only. Do not rely on internet if you have to do any research eg shopping for plane tickets as their internet cannot cope with the Opodo and Expedia ads etc. The easiest way to communicate with your nearest and dearest outside of Ethiopia is by SMS. See above on how to get SIM card. Internet is surprisingly OK at some locations eg. Bahir Dar, Axum, Harar and Addis Ababa Sheraton.

Domestic flights on Ethiopian are very cheap, don’t forget to mention if you flew with Ethiopian internationally so you qualify for 20% discount (I think). You will have to re-confirm your flight!

Flying on Ethiopian internationally is a different matter. One way flights are only EUR1 cheaper than the return ones. 1 hour flight (and back) to Djibuti costs around EUR 200 – it could be cheaper to fly to London and back than from Addis to Entebe or Nairobi! I guess there are not many business class pax to African destinations so everyone pays the fixed, full price economy fare? 

VOA for certain countries available at Bole Airport: 1 month single entry visa. Extensions available at the Immigration Office in Addis, but be prepared to wait or to come back tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow or 2 days before the original visa expires etc – it all depends of the officer on duty.

Bradt Guide will keep you amused, informed and entertained as it is amazingly well written – you’ll learn much more than where to find a clean, cheap hotel or where to have a tasty injera. It’s one of the best travel guides I’ve had on my travels. Also, “The Barefoot Emperor: An Ethiopian Tragedy” by Philip Marsden will give you some insights about the unique history and culture of Ethiopia. You can see the replica of Sevastopol, Tewodoros II gun, in Tewodoros Sq in Addis.

Taxis – roughly Birr 10 per 1km, add Birr 10 to and from the Bole International

Bajaj (tuk tuk) – roughly Birr 1 per person per 1 km

Goran Jovetic, London, UK

The lack of a dedicated bird field guide has long been a frustrating limitation for birdwatchers visiting Ethiopia, which is otherwise one of Africa’s most alluring ornithological destinations, with around 840 species recorded, including at least 15 national endemics. In addition, Ethiopia is the easiest place to seek out another 40-0dd species that are either shared with Eritrea only, or whose range is otherwise limited to less accessible neighbouring countries sich as Sudan or Somalia. 

All that has changed with the recent publication of Nigel Redman, Terry Stevenson & John Fanshawe’s Birds of The Horn Of Africa (Helm Field Guides), the first dedicated field guide to this vast region, which is dominated by Ethiopia but also includes Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia and Socotra. After weeks of waiting, I finally got my hands on a copy today, and I’m please to report that it is fantastic – every species present in the region is illustrated across 213 colour plates that do a great job of capturing the colours and jizz of most distinct plumage variations, and these are accompanied by detailed descriptions and distribution maps. The overall standard and look is very much in line with the same publisher’s superb (and, in my case, very well thumbed) Birds of East Africa, which isn’t too surprising as the titles share two co-authors and are both illustrated by John Gale and Brian Small. I can’t wait for an opportunity to take this portable paperback out into the field, and can recommend it without reservation as the best option for birders visiting Ethiopia. 

Published simultaneously by Helm, John Ash & John Atkins’s Birds of Ethiopia & Eritrea is a more specialised hardcover work, a bird atlas that maps the known distribution of a full 872 species across 132 grids, and provides more detailed background information than the field guide when it comes to individual species and to Ethiopian ornithology . It makes no pretence to be a field guide (there are photographs of several endemics but no other illustrations) and is not aimed at casual birders, but it will be an invaluable tool and source of data for regular visitors and residents. In addition, the highly detailed maps and text will be invaluable to anybody trying to maximise a birding itinerary in terms of ticking endemics and other localised species, as well as in assisting with the identification of tricky species. 

Read more about the books or order them online