Ruth Radetsky’s updates

Here is some feeback, based on two weeks in Addis, Bahir Dar, Axum,  Lalibela, Dire Dawa, and Harar, traveling mostly by plane, but also by car-and-driver (Addis-Bahir Dar) and mini-bus (Dire Dawa-Harar-Dire Dawa).

First, traveling was much, much easier than I thought.  We did fly,  but ET is an excellent airline.  They were easy to deal with, flights were mostly on time, transfers were always easy even if occasionally over priced.  Hotels on the northern circuit were much better than I expected, based on your stringent warnings and Liza Cody’s novel Rift.  There was running water, few or no bugs, electricity, and clean seets everywhere.  We tended to stay in the better (or best) hotel available, but not always.  True, beds were often too hard or too soft or pillows were lumpy — but compared to the lives of most Ethiopians, we were staying in unimaginable luxury.  The Tukul Village hotel in Lalibela, though extremely expensive at a non-negotiable 450 birr, was one of the half dozen best value-for-money hotels we’ve had in 9 months traveling on 4 continents.  The rooms are intelligently designed, the modern plumbing has everything I wanted (two towels each AND a bathmat, a closed stall that didn’t drip on the floor, clean) the beds are comfortable, the design is unobtrusively traditional. True, the landscaping is nothing, but with views forever from our private balcony, that was forgivable.

The philatelic museum in Addis is of interest to more than philatelists–I was dragged in by my traveling companion, and had a delightful hour.  The stamps commemorating Ethiopia’s union with Eritrea were particularly interesting at this tense time.

I’m not a birder, but I was blown away by the bird life, which became a focus of the trip.  I had no idea that could happen.  I wish you had line drawings of the birds like you did of the mammals. . .  I don’t know how hard up against your page limit you are.

Most important:  Ethiopian Christianity is such a theme of any trip to the north.  It would really have enriched my time understanding had you had a brief discussion of the differences between Ethiopian and Western (Roman Catholic?) belief and practice.  Again, I don’t know how hard up against your page count you are.

Michela Wrong’s 2005 book, _I Didn’t Do It For You:  How the _, a  history of the making of Eritrea, is an extremely readable, journalistic (she writes for the Financial Times) history.  Although her focus is Eritrea, you can’t write about Eritrea without writing about Ethiopia.  It really enriched my understanding of much that I saw here, especially that Ethiopia had never been colonized.  I don’t generally have much patience for non-fiction, but this was compelling
reading.

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