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One of our readers,  Dmitri, has shared his Bank Verification  letter from US Bank that he sent to his parents for Visitor visa stamping for reference. I was searching online everywhere to find a sample of the Bank Verification Letter(Reference) Letter issued by Bank of America(BOA) for the Parents Visa Sponsorship and was not able to get one.
The letter can be collected the next business day from the bank associate if you order the letter at the bank.
I want to bring my parents(2) for visit to US from Africa, how much money I have to show and what would happen if I put my cousins money to show? Do i need to send original bank statements to india or can i just send the scanned copy to my parents.
This is really very helpful blog especially to them who really want a visa and are unable to find a proper manner to get it. My parents are visitng us this month, and this blog post has helped them in the visa process. We have recently shifted our residence and I would like you to kindly make note of the change of address in your records. But there is much to experience in Addis, as everyone calls this sprawling city, if not all that much to see. After lunch, we head to Mercato, reputedly the largest market in Africa, but in reality a slum with things to sell. In the midst of the endless stalls, I find a beautiful stone statue of the Queen of Sheba, the semi-mythical ruler of an ancient city state in what would be modern-day Yemen. For the Ethiopians, the Queen of Sheba (whom they call Makeda) is part of their royal line and they tell a different story to the one known from biblical and Qurannic texts, a story that shows the country’s intimate connection with both Christian and Islamic histories.
Such legends are what histories are made of, and there is no doubting the extensive links between Ethiopia and the Arabian Peninsula. Down in the city, I noticed very few tourists: occasionally I would catch a glimpse of a couple of bright backpacks on packed buses, or see a middle-aged couple quizzically pondering a map.
It’s past nightfall when we return to Addis and I am in need of a shower and a good meal.
The food is excellent, a mix of spicy wat stew and vegetarian dishes, all placed on the doughy bread injera, a staple of Ethiopian cuisine with a slightly spongy texture that - you find after a few days - is astonishingly versatile, adapting its taste to bland eggs or searing hot meat. It is lunchtime the next day when Teddy and I drive up to the National Museum on the main King George VI St. The museum itself is small, spread over four floors, and houses some nice artefacts from the period of the last emperor. The finding of the tiny Lucy in 1974 in the burnt valleys of Hadar marked a new chapter in the understanding of human evolution - she walked upright but had a small brain, overturning the old theory that humans developed large brains first. Alone in the dimly lit rooms below the museum, facing the dark eyes of the reconstructed Lucy, I think of her and her families, walking out across the fields and mountains of Ethiopia and on to the wider world.
Lets start with the simple tangible things, easy to see and contrasting greatly to what we see in our lives. Most amenities and facilities do exist in some form or other, though many may be out of the reach of most Ethiopians. I also found Ethiopia dirty and not such that it could be explained by poverty, this was more a cultural issue. I have no room to tell you about the history, the fascinating solid coffin, the fallen stellae, the Aksumite empire, the awful food, the arc of the covenant, the singing fountain, the castles of Gonder, the brothel hotels, the beer commercialism, the scams, the children on the street, the mission hospital, dancing the iskista, the volcanic view in the mountains, the 700ft waterfall, the Blue Nile falls, the monasteries of Lake Tana, the horse we killed. Gondar is a city with population of about 120,000; the surrounding areas are concerned with agriculture.
I was attached to Gondar College of Medical Science (GCMS) for my elective, this is one of Ethiopia’s three medical schools and its associated hospital, known locally as kolej. The hospital facilities are, as you would expect, radically different from those found in the UK. There are no intensive care facilities, so sophisticated operations cannot be performed and trauma patients have a much higher mortality. One thing that I disliked greatly about the hospital was the fact that there seemed to be little pride taken in it.
The first project was suggested by one of the doctors visiting Leicester from Gondar, a year prior to my visit. The second project was to find out a small amount of information about diabetes care, and the supply of insulin to patients. My part in this was to assess all issues I could surrounding Insulin Availability in Ethiopia, to provide information to support the foundations creation and to help choose the pilot site for the scheme. I wanted to assess the availability, cost and consistency of the supply chain for insulin in Gondar, I was also interested in the provision of diabetes care. Gondar and the neighbouring areas are very lucky in that a Chronic Illness Project is being undertaken here under the umbrella of the Leicester-Gondar Link.
The average monthly income of a family living in a rural area is: 100Birr, which approximates to ?10.
Insulin is handed out at the rural clinics free of charge, inside the city; it is either given free when available or can be purchased from the pharmacy within the hospital or in the local chemists. Blood sugar tests are carried out by finger-prick if the patient attends the monthly clinic, these are not charged for.
The supply of insulin is quite variable, Dr Shitaye relying on insulin from various sources. Once the patients receive the insulin vials they will carry them to their home, a journey that may take a day or more.
If it were not for the Chronic Illness Project, the cost of providing insulin would be prohibitively expensive to make treatment of diabetics an economic impossibility.
I have so many things I want to say about Ethiopia, I feel they would fill a large book, but probably my most important one I will try to explain below. The saddest thing for me in Ethiopia was the lack of hope, the feeling of need and worthlessness and paucity of motivation.
Many people are aware that ploughing in indiscriminate aid to countries such as Ethiopia does little to improve the lot of the people there.
Ethiopia must get itself out of this mess, but we must help it a great deal, charity is not the right concept. One thing that frustrates people is that this will be a very slow process, you can’t just create a modern society overnight, it must evolve in stages to reach the levels of technology and standard of living that we enjoy in the UK.
However poor a country is, however ill its people are there is never any need to compromise human rights, to kill each other and discriminate. If we want Ethiopia to share in some of the delights of our world, where the degrees are different, it must come through knowledge.
By stability I am talking politics, years of war caused great problems for Ethiopia, and the relative tension that remains in that area to this day greatly discourages foreign investment into the country. Strange that for a medical student health isn’t in that list, but is it such a huge priority? There is a great deal of work going on in Africa, some may be misplaced and it is certainly a drop in the ocean.
Ancient religious festivals…spectacular exotic topography…layers of history …mysterious Christian traditions …the oldest evidence of human origins…an esoteric view of time…this ‘Down Ancient Paths’ venture to Ethiopia, the ‘Galapagos Islands’ of world Christianity, has it all. A journey to Ethiopia which occupies a substantial part of the Horn of Africa is literally a return to Christian antiquity on the ‘Roof of Africa’. Arrive in Addis Ababa in the early evening after which we are transferred to the Ghion Hotel for overnight. Today is a much needed entire day of rest and refreshment after flying half way around the world! Today we explore Addis Abba (‘New Flower’ in Amharic) the third highest capital in the world at an altitude of between 2300-2500 meters and founded in 1887. After breakfast we drive northward from Addis Ababa to Debre Markos to commence our exploration of Ethiopia’s ancient Christian heritage. Our destination today is lakeside Bahir Dar via the District of Awi, home of the Agaw people who reside in neatly fenced compounds and circular residences with tall thatched roofs bound tightly by entwined bamboo sticks. You can join an intriguing expedition (will take approximately 7-8 hrs.) on Lake Tana to the mysterious, rock walled ‘island’ (in fact attached to the mainland) of Tana Cherkos, the purported, secret resting place of the Ark of the Covenant for 800 years. After breakfast we undertake the exploration of Gondar, once the royal capital of Ethiopia. This morning we take to the Ethiopia skies and fly to isolated Lalibela, perched on the rugged Lasta Mountains, the Rocks of Ages, at an altitude of 2630 meters…an unquestionable highlight of our itinerary. A real Ethiopian adventure is on the agenda for this morning…a hike or mule ride to the Church of Ashetun Mariam (about a 4 hr. Christmas Today is the Ethiopian Christmas, a day of jubilant festivity wrapped in enthusiastic, colourful celebrations, the third most important festival (after Timkat and Meskel) in the Ethiopian ecclesiastical year.
Today’s flight to Axum, the sacred city of the Ethiopians, transports us into the fabled world of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba and the mythological traditions related to the Ark of the Covenant.
Today our excursion in this rock dominated, expansive wilderness proceeds to the Church of Abuna Yemata, 4 km. This morning we leave the remote region of Tigray and fly back to Addis Ababa for a leisurely day which includes savouring the ever-changing array of contemporary and traditional paintings from all over Ethiopia which are on display at the Makush Art Gallery and an evening of enjoying local cuisine, dress and dances at an Addis restaurant.
Today we transition from Addis to Dubai for some rest and relaxation before returning home. These final days of our journey in one of the richest and most powerful of the 7 city-states which constitute the United Arab Emirates are in juxtaposition to our travels in Ethiopia, one of the 10 poorest countries in the world. If you want to get on the seriously interested, right of first refusal list and receive a complete info package when it is ready, please contact Dr. He taught me my first Amharic words—tadias (hello) and ameseganalehu (thanks)—then teased me when I tested out my new vocab at the airport bank counter at 4AM. Despite the second bag check at the gate, no one bothered to tell me my backpack was too large for the small plane’s overhead compartments. Outside Dire Dawa’s small airport, the taxi drivers fighting over me offered the option of taking a private car all the way to Harar rather than a minibus. The sweet young woman wedged in between me and driver smiled constantly but spoke no English. The road between Dire Dawa and Harar is on good asphalt, but parts are still under construction.
Upon retrieving my backpack off the bus’ roof, I gaped at the seething crowd until my kind seatmate grabbed my arm. The Harar Gate, the Haile Selassie-era addition to the five traditional gates into the old city, was close to the hotel.
The boys led me to a traditional Harari home, now a guesthouse requiring a few birr to visit. While I hadn’t expressed interest in shopping, the boys took me to a small store with beautiful baskets on display.
We strolled past the street tailors of Mekena Girgir into the odoriferous meat market, surrounded by optimistic birds of prey. The hotel guide Guma approached immediately and informed me that it was illegal to see the hyenas with my unofficial child guides; whether or not that was true, I decided it was easier to go with him instead of some random kids. We strolled across the football field behind Tewodros Hotel, taking in the pleasant Harar evening.
As relieved as I was to find an English-speaker, I wasn’t comfortable with the way he looked at me, or his insistence that we should have spent the day together to avoid some vague peril. The site was at Fallana Gate, with a younger hyena man rather than long-established Yusef Pepe. The feeding lasted perhaps no more than 20 minutes, during which the flashes from various cameras never ceased. The staff set up our lovely breakfast table outside on the sunny cliff edge, serving tasty scrambled eggs and rather dense pancakes with a locally-produced crystallized honey.
While I trusted the praise I’d heard for TESFA, a small part of me had worried of finding locals gussied-up in pseudo bush gear obsequiously bringing us cocktails on a platter. Due to the crowd growing every time Jodie raised her camera, she eventually began arranging a posed group photo, creating a roar of children running from all corners to be included. I’d misunderstood what supplies would be available where, and had been under the impression that we would be wandering in and out of villages prepped for trekking groups throughout this hike.
Wajela was colder than Mequat Mariam so we opted out of showering, although the fenced-in shower itself was picturesque against the moonrise. The surprisingly delicious dinner was perfectly al dente spaghetti, which turned out to be the best rendition I had in the country. As much as I love natural beauty or historical sights, my main focus while traveling is always the chance to interact with local people. Tourism in Ethiopia for Sustained Future Alternatives is a program run almost entirely between the office in Lalibela and the community of Meket Woreda, a district in the highlands.
Through numerous questions to Hanna and her patient replies, I’d arranged to join a solo trekker named Jodie to save us both money, but needed help meeting this schedule with my limited time. We expected our trekking partners to show at 10AM, and had little to do other than watch the blanket-wrapped drivers negotiate the gas pump in front of the hotel. Our initial request for 2 cups of coffee (hulet buna, my mangled attempt at Amharic) was met with gales of laughter.
We watched Amarigna-speaking families enter, eat, and leave while we continued wondering about coffee. We piled into the car that brought Jodie and Nina from Lalibela and drove to the meeting point, where grinning teenaged boys gathered shyly. The bank employees were also not able to help me with the information that is going be to be in the letter as it was dispatched from their Registered Office. I thought I will share with you guys so that you can post it on your website so as to help others who are looking for a sample. Outside, the last wisps of white cloud vanish as we break cloud cover descending into Addis Ababa and, in slow motion, a carpet of green unravels below. The area, which features Italian-style architecture from the (brief) Italian colonial days, is one of the best places to come to find great coffee, good pastries and relaxed conversation.
The main sights - the enormous Holy Trinity Cathedral, the Derg and Yekatit 12 monuments, respectively remembering the lives lost under communist and Italian rules, even the new urban parks that are filled with residents picnicking - all can be seen in two days, leaving plenty of time to take life slowly, like the Ethiopians. But at her feet sits a lion, the symbol of Ethiopia’s emperors, and beside her is an obelisk, a symbol of Axum, the city in the north of Ethiopia that was the centre of a 10th-century BC city.
It isn’t just the language, with fragments of Arabic bursting through Amharic, nor the familial lines (I meet Yemenis and Saudis who are married to Ethiopians), nor even how Ethiopians share the slim noses and wide eyes of the Peninsula Arabs, more than their African cousins to the west. A couple of small churches dot the hills and walking between them is an easy and pleasant way to spend the afternoon. But up here, the walkers are mainly foreigners, part of the enormous NGO contingent that works in the city, taking a respite from the noise of Addis.
For the latter, a friend takes me out along the Bole Road, a crowded strip of restaurants, coffee shops and nightclubs that stretches south-east from the city, almost as far as the airport.
On the way in, a group of teenagers on their lunch-time break from school call to me and I spend half an hour talking to them.
And I think of the teenagers I’ve just met, eager to be part of the modern world and held back by disease and war.
That was the picture I too had of Ethiopia before my visit, but the reality is quite different. During the two months I spent in different parts of Ethiopia I would like to think I learnt a lot about the place, though obviously this is still a subjective outsiders opinion. The country is poor, one of the worlds two poorest countries in fact and this is readily displayed. There are places you can get (slow) internet access, there are banks, airlines, tour agents, electronics shops, music shops, post-offices, chemists, sweet shops, clothes shops etc. Unwanted things such as bottle tops and used batteries are just thrown into the nearest gutter or just outside the front door. In the area around where I was staying most people where from the Amhara tribe, the largest in Ethiopia. The hospital has approximately 350 beds and provides both medical care for the population of Gondar and surrounding rural areas and training for doctors, nurses, midwives and other medical staff. There is a shortage of EVERY routinely required object; needles, gloves, fluids, all medications, bandages, dressings etc. There is no functional ambulance service, trauma victims and acutely ill patients are brought to the hospital in taxis or minibuses. Basic maintenance was not carried out and it was quite filthy and I just assumed that the operating theatre had to be sterile.
A site in surgery that always amazed me was the patients walking in with a plastic bag containing sterile gloves, cannulae, bags of fluid, sutures etc, plonking them down at the anaesthetists feet and lying down on the operating table. The first was to help the medical students in Gondar write patient information leaflets for some of the commoner chronic illnesses and the second to gather a small amount of information about diabetes as part of an international project. With this in mind I had accumulated a small library of English language leaflets and CD ROMS packed with diagrams to aid in my quest. Around the world there are many other medical students gathering similar information from as many of the worlds HIPCs (Highly Indebted Poor Countries) as possible. To collect accurate information on diabetes prevalence, incidence and morbidity in these countries. This has provided funding for a team of doctors to travel to the rural health centres once a month to run outpatient clinics for epilepsy, diabetes and hypertension. There are problems in implementing any other regimes because of the lack of other types of insulin and mixes and because of the difficulties in training and educating patients both in terms of poor education and resources. The cold chain does appear to be reasonably intact, though I think it is quite a fragile system. Some of the insulin is donated from abroad, via charities or individuals, some is purchased by the hospital with government funding and some is purchased with money from the chronic illness project, supported by THET (Tropical Health and Education Trust) and the Children’s Research Fund in Liverpool. If we consider that basic sanitation and nutrition needs have still to be met, it would seem an inappropriate priority for the hospital to purchase insulin, which is essentially a high annual cost project. There is an ill-defined concept called aid-fatigue, when countries are so used to foreign aid that they become dependant on it.
I agree entirely but I also think that some attempts at sustainable development are still aiming a level too high, they must go deeper.
The people of Ethiopia must feel proud of any improvements it makes, rather than feeling grateful to the rich countries of the world. Maybe it can be sped up slightly by borrowing knowledge that we have already learned, but it will be hundreds of years before the catch up game is finished. We must support Ethiopia in its provision of education at all levels from schools to Universities, to education in terms of improving skills and training in the workforce.

According to early legendary accounts of human beginnings, Cush, one of the sons of Ham and grandson of Noah, migrated to Ethiopia (known as the land of Cush in the Jewish scriptures) from Mesopotamia. In her recent book, Vertical Ethiopia (2007), Majka Burhardt describes Ethiopia as having ‘extraordinary terrain’ AND… you wouldn’t want to miss a Jan. This attractive hotel with its rambling lush gardens and central location near Meskel Square takes its name from one of the rivers which had its ultimate source in the biblical Garden of Eden (Gen 2:13). Driving through beautiful open plains with lightly treed hills, after approximately 100 km. Scenically nestled on the southern shore of Lake Tana with a population of almost 97,000, Bahir Dar is an important regional commercial centre beautified with wide streets, palms and flamboyant trees. One of your options is to participate in a day long excursion to the weaving cooperative of Awramba founded in 1985 by a group of 20 persons to demonstrate to its members and the rest of Ethiopians that the best escape from poverty and hunger is not by religion or prayer but rather through education and hard work. This journey will also provide the opportunity to visit two additional Tana monasteries- Rema Medhane Alem and Mitsle Fasiladas. After an early breakfast we leave by chartered boat to traverse the ‘watery wilderness’ of Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest crater lake, covering 3500 sq. The charming atmosphere of the town, established in 1636 by the great Emperor Fasiladas, is enhanced by a landscape of incomparable beauty. The air is filled with the vibrant chants of a multitude of Lalibela priests engaged in centuries old ritual dance which flows into a ceremonial procession commencing around dawn.
According to the Kebra Nagast (Book of Kings), the city was the 10th century capital of the Queen of Sheba…probably more fantasy than fact. The town of Adwa enroute is of momentous historic significance to Ethiopians as it was here that Emperor Menelik II inflicted the most crushing defeat ever on a European army in Africa thereby saving Ethiopia from colonization.
Many people bear the mark of the cross on their foreheads as an expression of their devotion. Enroute we visit Abreha Atsbeha one of the most revered churches in the region with deep spiritual roots.
We drive southwest on the Jimma Road and then due south to the Butajira Road arriving at Melka Kunture near the Awash River Gorge. But thanks to Virgin Atlantic’s impressive entertainment system and my inability to both cradle my backpack and sleep soundly through my interminable Heathrow layover, I was still exhausted. With a hug and a kind offer to lodge me when I returned to Addis, my new friend bade me farewell while I headed off to Dire Dawa.
While many locals prefer face-to-face confirmation in the airline offices, I breezed through check-in at the domestic terminal thanks to the quick email I’d sent to the airline before leaving home. The airline seemed pretty casual about the whole thing, flight attendants gently admonishing me with beautiful smiles and then simply tucking my pack into a corner. Not ready to splurge so early in my trip, I insisted on getting to the minibus station, where I basically met a new man every few feet saying “Harar? Behind me, a man nonchalantly asked his plump seatmate if he’d purchased two seats because he was so fat. She’d caved and purchased gum from the hopeful children, immediately offering me a piece. Slowed more by frequent stops to pick up new passengers along the way, a distance that could be covered in an hour took almost two.
Outside its graceful white walls and atmospheric alleyways, the hectic, densely-inhabited modern city feels like a giant open-air market. As we walked through the station, the baggage handler yelled in Amharic until she pushed a tip into his waiting hand.
Immediately after showing me my room, he gently recommended the resident guide’s services.
Within minutes of entering the wall, Efraim drove up on the wide main road with a big smile. Ambling vaguely along the cobbled dusty alleys, the kids served as nothing more than company; yet I depended on them to get me out. A woman showed me around while a young man—perhaps her son—impassively watched TV in the main room, its high walls covered in the famous Harari pottery and baskets.
American!” Cackling, she called herself a Jamaican, revealing her mass of dreadlocks as proof.
The boys had repeatedly asked me to see the hyena man with them, but still exhausted from the journey, I repeatedly deflected. I’d been too exhausted from the long travel day to go then, but tonight when he showed up 30 minutes early I was ready. The tradition of feeding raw meat daily to hyenas, which by most sources dates back only to the 1950s, may have transformed into its present version from a yearly ceremony begun centuries ago during a famine. Guma was the first person I’d met in Ethiopia who spoke English fluently, although there were still misunderstandings. This hyena man almost seemed bored, and did not attempt to create any mysterious atmosphere in his relationship with the hyenas. The furry hyenas were surprisingly cute as they nosed curiously at the man’s basket of food. At night, Harar was full of activity, with stores still open and street stands selling food. Every night they asked our breakfast preference but with a large group, we always opted to share both dishes. Instead, the well-trained Mequat Mariam community treated us as family, happy to teach us Amharic and share the differences in our lives.
Unprepared, I ran out of water early in the day and relied on sweet Jodie to share a bit of her extra.
Even less appealing, the injera had been folded up into itself to fit into the container and looked like a big brain.
I envied people who never worried about tripping but as someone who’d twisted her ankles numerous times, I walked unsteadily while staring at the ground. A tiny tukul at the cliff’s edge featured a seat placed over a drop toilet and a window facing the valley on the inaccessible side where no one could peek in.
At other camps, the staff patiently held a bowl of water and soap and rinsed our hands with a pitcher, but it was nice being able to handle that ourselves.
She filled a bucket with water, indiscriminately sloshed it into the tiny room, and with a proud smile deemed it ready for use.
Additional support comes from the TESFA office in Addis, where British founder Mark and his Ethiopian co-worker Hanna work on the website, answer requests for information and schedule bookings. A couple weeks before I left, Hanna informed me their contracted driver Habtamu would already be in Gondar, so I’d get the ride for half-price.
We moved down the road a bit to watch students heading off to school, a sea of forest-green uniforms whispering ferengi, ferengi. We lingered over the strong brew but when conversation began to fail us, we tried to flag down the happy waitress again. With a warm smile, our trekking guide Mulugeta asked us to call him Mulay and insisted we eat lunch before starting off. I request you to kindly address all your further communication to me at this above mentioned address only. As far as I can see, dark, lush fields stretch away, the sunlight through the clouds creating patchworks of lighter shades here and there.
We walk for two hours through this alternately pungent and aromatic market, where everything on Earth is for sale. It’s something else, to do with the warmth and welcome of the city, with the way people are always quick to smile. Lush green hills and barely used trails greet us and the sky is so close and so blue above us, it feels as if someone has turned down the oxygen and turned up the contrast. This is where Addis residents with money come to spend it and it is where we find a restaurant called Habesha, which features traditional dancers.
They know their history, pointing out statues in the museum grounds and telling me the tales behind them.
It is here that two casts of hundreds of bones belonging to a hominid that walked the Earth 3.2 million years ago have been reconstructed. In this report I hope to paint a picture of a different Ethiopia, the Ethiopia I found, the Ethiopia I both love and hate. The buildings are badly maintained, the main roads are single dirt tracks, only major roads in some cities are tarmaced, there are beggars everywhere, there are disfigured and sick people wandering the streets. But these were not shops as we know them, you buy bread or a live chicken from a guy who jumps on your bus, fruit from the man on the corner, bread from a window in someone’s house. For days I walked past a dead dog in the road on my way to the hospital, gradually decaying and being eaten by flies, I even drove over it once in the bus. There is an ambulance, which patrols around the city some evenings picking up the losers of fights and victims of attacks, but it is not a reliable service.
This cannot be excused through poverty or lack of resources, screwing a nail into a wall, changing a bulb, mopping the floor do not require as much money as a vial of insulin. You must also pay for your bed and you are likely to be looked after by a member of your family who does all your cooking and nursing and washing etc. The aim is to provide data to support the work of Professor Yudkin of the International Health and Medical Education Centre at The University College London.
Otherwise the patients would have to travel to Gondar, usually by foot, a journey that would take several days.
When you consider that these syringes are usually kept in the bags that the patients carry everything, you might expect them to get damaged or dirty to the point where it would cause frequent infections of the injection sites.
18% do not make any attempt to refrigerate their insulin and the remaining 2% have access to a fridge. The lack of motivation from within Ethiopia that I perceived must be stalling the change that could help the country out of this mire.
The difference between people living in mud huts, ploughing the land manually and the high technology world we live in is hundreds if not thousands of years. Once we have ensured that, what remains is degrees of life; more people unemployed, more people ill, less people reading, people living shorter lives.
Ethiopia will be dependant on foreign aid until it is able to compete globally with other countries and to do this it must have people who are educated and well resourced. The Ethiopian government is still finding its capitalist feet and is very controlling of any commercial development.
In a country where one of the biggest problems is the overpopulation, is making people healthier really useful? I hope that through all this development some of the cultural individuality of Ethiopia remains and Ethiopians regain some pride in themselves and their country.
A later legend claims that Menelik I, a son born to the Jewish King Solomon by the Queen of Sheba, settled in Axum, bringing the storied Ark of the Covenant with him from Jerusalem. It is the only overtly atheistic community to be found anywhere in Africa and takes pride in its egalitarian, non-sexist and nonracist ideology. The town, capital of the Zagwe dynasty, was posthumously named after the legendary King Lalibela who in the 12th or 13th century aspired to build his own ‘holy city’ of Jerusalem’ away from interfering Muslim presence.
Much needed rest time will come in the afternoon after the release of so much energy in a marathon of celebration. However, a large proportion of the rock-hewn churches of the Tigray region are inaccessible due to their daunting locations in the faces of cliffs to be scaled only by the skilled.
Though hardly spectacular in an architectural sense, the church is carved out of the face of one of mountains of Guh. It was supposedly built by the two royal brothers, Abreha and Atsbeha, known in the West as the kings Ezana and Saizana. It is one of the country’s most famous Neolithic archaeological sites where prehistoric, human made tools have been found.
I’d dozed a bit on the second leg, but upon waking for dinner, I chatted with Swedish-born Ethiopian and London university student Sem happily the rest of the BMI flight. I noticed another passenger actually stood the entire flight so yeah…they weren’t fussy.
Unable to make conversation, I found myself staring in awe at the rolling mountain scenery. Shenanigans ensued when the driver informed us we had too many passengers to get through the customs check. One tried to convince me the hyena man was his father, and their persistence won me over in the end. Hararis fed the starving hyenas porridge to prevent them from attacking humans, and continued to set out a bowl of porridge yearly to symbolize this pact. He said I should never have planned to hike in the Valley of Marvels alone because it was dangerous.
But when a car pulled up with a tour group, their fangs glinted in the headlights, snapping at strips of raw meat.
Until seeing the small crowd at the feeding, I would have sworn I was the only tourist in Harar. We were invited to sign a guest book at each camp, and were thrilled to see Brad Pitt had visited in 2004 when Mequat Mariam was the sole location—pre-Angelina and baby Zahara.
But the more kids that approached with warm smiles, hands outstretched only to touch and not to beg, imploring to be photographed, just to see a shot of themselves, the more enraptured I was of the experience.
With mild distaste, I watched Mulay’s hand thrust into the thick center and retreat coated with shiro.
After a pleasant rest in the shade, while no one but Mulay touched the injera, we pressed on. Unclear on the difference but hoping this meant more interaction with people, perhaps visiting a home (not realizing that a home visit was a separately scheduled event), we voted for cutting across. As we watched the sun go down, the camp manager noticed Jodie’s binoculars and asked to take a look. Combined with last night’s disbursement of plastic chamberpots, Filakit was getting surreal.
Once Jochen joined up, the private ride—merciless as it was—cost less than flying to the usual starting point of Lalibela. My guidebook was sparse on Amharic restaurant directives, and Jochen’s phrasebook of course only translated from German, but I figured if I stared at it long enough it would all make sense. The five of us easily shared a big vegetarian plate similar to the one Jochen had ordered for himself the previous day. But everywhere to the horizon, where the grey mountains rise, is covered in a canopy of green.
Aster Aweke, an Ethiopian-American singer, oozes out of the music store opposite, a beautiful voice rising and falling with words I can’t understand. Even in Ethiopia, Addis is often just a stop on the way to the astonishing carved churches in Lalibela or the hiking of the Semien mountains. The performers are prodigious, popping their bodies and rhythmically snapping their arms, chest and legs in time to a fast beat, more like gymnasts than dancers. They are happy, smiling teenagers but, between the lines, you can read the scars of Ethiopia - at least one has family with Aids, while another tells me his father was killed in the war with neighbouring Eritrea a decade ago. That said, Ethiopia was not a closed off culture, the people I met were very willing to discuss their thoughts with me, correct my errors and show me around. Outside Addis, when I came across a shop I could actually go into, I found it strangely comforting with all the various household items piled to the ceiling and a man looking obliquely at me across the counter.
People say that the Ethiopian people are a friendly and happy people, but that is as much a naive stereotype as any that would offend in the UK. In terms of investigations, the doctors have little more than extremely good clinical skills and the ability to cut a patient open and have a look. Again I will mention that I did not feel that Ethiopia was an unsafe place, and if I had not been working in the hospital I would never have seen Ethiopia’s violent side. One day whilst waiting for a clinic to start I counted fifteen used needles, several syringes, a used bag of fluid and what I think was a catheter, all in a small patch of ground where patients sat waiting. At Leicester we have the social implications of medicine rammed down our throat at every opportunity.
Despite the efforts being made in urban schools, the literacy rate in Ethiopia is tiny, with less than 25% of the population literate. The work of Dr Shitaye Alemu, a highly motivated doctor, has also led to greatly improved diabetes care. This hole is surrounded by sand and during the summer months it is regularly watered to keep it cool. If insulin were freely available, work would need to be done to assess the effectiveness of the cold chain and the patient refrigeration to ensure that the insulin was still viable.
This only serves to make us feel better about ourselves and perhaps less guilty for our privileged position on this planet. Huge changes in social structure and economic arrangements would be necessary to bring these millions of people to a standard of living that would ease our minds. None of these is to me as awful as what humans continue to do to each other today in terms of killing, wars, torture, discrimination and persecution.
There has been progress here; Adult literacy has risen from 28 to 40% for men and from 11 to 26% for women since 1980. When companies feel safe venturing into Ethiopia, they will bring with them jobs and money for many. He established a dynasty which with only brief interruptions reigned until 1974 ending with the overthrow of the Christian Emperor, Haile Selassie.
The town is symbolized by the famous tankwa, the open-ended papyrus canoe that continues to be used on Lake Tana for trade. The fascinating Debre Birhan Selassie Church, its name meaning ‘Trinity at the Mount of Light’ (a UNESCO World Heritage site) has walls decorated with scenes of biblical lore and medieval history. It ranks among the most important religious sites in all of Africa and perhaps in the entire Christian world. The local priests quite justifiably claim they are ‘closer to God and to heaven.’ From this vantage point the views of the surrounding countryside are spectacular. Miriam of Zion Monastery church which allegedly houses and guards the Ark of the Covenant brought from the Temple in Jerusalem by Menelik I who according to tradition was the son of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.
Here one gains a commanding view of the Gheralta plains out of which the Gheralta mountains, a sandstone escarpment, rise abruptly. Ethiopia is beginning to appear on the global radar screen as an exotic travel destination.
I refused the plain injera she offered to share but took a few photos of her adorable child, after which she screamed out for money but didn’t chase me down.

They ran off before we reached the hotel, begging me to say nothing to the live-in guide at Tewodros. The amount of porridge left in the bowl later came to represent the success or failure of the year’s crops. He said the bus driver dropped me off in the construction camp instead of Dakata because Dakata was also dangerous. It turned out it was nothing more than flat grasslands, actually containing fewer people than before. Fascinated, he spent a good thirty minutes searching the valley, locating the nearest church, the schools, and various small mammals. The other 40% goes to the office support in Addis and Lalibela, and the Lalibela-based guides, who trek continuously with very little rest. With Habte already on the road back to Lalibela, we were stuck trying to communicate on our own in a town devoid of English speakers. We regaled our new companions with stories of the drive and of Filakit, most especially of the various toilet experiences. If this is what this cradle of civilisation looked like millions of years ago, it’s not clear why our ancestors ever left. Prices for a double room start from $410 (Dh1,506), including breakfast, free internet access and taxes. On several occasions I was invited to peoples’ houses to eat, and I doubt that has anything to me being a particularly worthy guest. There is massive unemployment; in Addis I was told that 50% of the people there were unemployed.
I think that must be due to the fact that in the rural areas, when people are farming or herding their animals, they just stop where they are when they need to and offload their waste, but in a city thousands of people doing the same thing is asking for trouble. X-rays are available, but they are of poor quality, ultrasound is sometimes available, but there is a problem with trained personnel.
In Gondar, social circumstances are rarely considered, is that because everyone is assumed to live in poverty? In the rural areas covered by some of the hospital’s clinics this was suspected to be optimistic. I did note that on several occasions the insulin appeared to be kept in a cupboard in the hospital and left in the vehicle overnight before heading to the health centres.
Hopefully some of this will come from enterprising Ethiopians, rather than being imposed externally. And how can I argue that my top priority is human rights and yet suggest not looking after people’s health. The summit, where Menelik was crowned, affords a panoramic view of the city and also features two churches built by the emperor, the one the Church of Miriam and the other dedicated to the Archangel Raguel. According to tradition the saint withdrew to a nearby cave and pursued a lifestyle of ceaseless prayer, standing upright for 22 years, as a result of his right leg withered and fell off.
Also, it was here that Jesuit missionaries attempted to impose Catholicism on the Ethiopian people, with disastrous consequences.
Monasteries dating to the 13th and 14th centuries exist on some 20 of the lake’s 37 islands and introduce us to Ethiopia’s version of ‘desert spirituality’. As Ethiopia’s most famous church, it is claimed to have been a onetime resting place of the Ark of the Covenant on its journey to Axum. Our afternoon destination is Yemrehana Christos (named after King Yemrehana Kristos who is buried there) which lies 20 km. The church dates to the 4th or 5th centuries when the emperor became Christian, making it one of the earliest Christian churches in Africa (cf. The solitudinous splendour of the region defies description…a rock climber’s paradise…Ethiopia’s vertical heritage. At least 80 of the churches are in the Wukro (means ‘rock hewn’) region in the centre of the rugged mountains of Tigray. Also, according to its clergy, the church was established by Frumentius (also known as Abba Salama, Father of Peace) who was the first abuna (archbishop) of Ethiopia and instrumental in the conversion of Ezana and Saizana. From the sands of a harsh desert environment which covers 1,588 square miles has emerged a cosmopolitan, commercial global crossroads which has architectural ambitions unrivalled in the world, all funded by petro-dollars. This is your chance to experience the country in a more pristine state on a customized Down Ancient Paths itinerary before hordes of tourists arrive to turn the path into a multi-lane highway. The tour guides, familiar with the procedure, also took a turn feeding the hyenas and invited their guests to join in; I was too chicken. He wasn’t even that helpful in his capacity as an officially-licensed guide because of a collision with another pedestrian. The accommodating camps provided toilet paper when available, although most trekkers probably came prepared. Mulay’s doctor even told him he was too thin to eat fasting food twice a week, with his trekking schedule. The waitress in my restaurant was the top student at her university, but could find no other job and coveted the one she had.
I think that being at ease with happiness and a more willingness to show emotion would be a better way to contrast with the masses in England.
A confounding problem being that the tribal nature of Ethiopian society there are several different languages and dialects even in the area around Gondar. Ordinarily a patient will receive one vial every month, but over the rainy season when rural clinics are not operating, they will receive 3 months supply. Greedy foreign companies may see dollar signs in the wealth of cheap labour available in Ethiopia, but we must not let these companies exploit the Ethiopians, they must pay them a fair and reasonable wage. Nearby and still intact is the emperor’s old palace and a museum featuring royal attire, war artifacts, period furniture and treasured books of historical interest. Situated at the bottom of an immense gorge through which one of the tributaries of the Blue Nile flows, this monastery is a modern centre of pilgrimage where many Ethiopian pilgrims still go seeking healing in its curative waters. On arrival we’ll check in at the traditionally decorated Tana Hotel located in an Edenic setting, have lunch, take a rest and then venture into the countryside to the majestic Blue Nile Falls or Tissisat Falls (‘Water of Smoke’) approximately 30 km. It was the only church saved from the Mahdist invasion in the 1880’s by a timely swarm of bees. Further on we come to Yeha, Ethiopia’s earliest capital with its dominating pre-Christian Temple of the Moon, the country’s oldest building dating to 500 BC.
It feels like uncharted land, relatively untraveled by outsiders, where heat and aridity reign. Our first objective today is the Church of Inde Mariem Wukro, 6.5km northeast of the village of Nabelet overshadowed by towers of rock. But the effort is worth it…inside are beautifully preserved frescoes adorning two cupolas including a rarely seen depiction of the Nine Syrian Saints…Aragawi (also known as Abba Za-Mikael), Pantaleon (also known as Za-Somaet), Garima, Aftse, Guba, Alef, Likanos or Libanos (also known as Mataa), Yemata and Sehma.
The church, which claims to possess a gold cross which belonged to Frumentius, is an important pilgrimage centre visited annually by thousands of pilgrims. The line of minibuses pulled over, re-shuffled passengers until every minibus held no more than 12 passengers, and eventually drove on.
Walking along the dark path outside the old city’s walls, I grew uncomfortable with his staring.
He was so distracted soliciting sympathy for the small cut on his forehead that he couldn’t help me negotiate for photos. Many people don’t wear shoes, but there is a peculiar obsession with keeping them shiny, despite the filthy, muddy streets. Perhaps what strikes most people is that fact that people can be happy in such conditions, can play games, laugh and be human. Sanitation is poor and waste is disposed of on land near the house or into open sewers in villages. Don’t even dream about CT, MRI, nuclear medicine, echocardiography and other fancy stuff.
During the ward rounds, all relatives and carers are rounded up and dismissed from the building and patients are generally treated in an off hand manner. I felt that there was very little point in spending time on this project as it was unlikely to be of any real use and decided to cancel it. I am aware that the official recommendation is that insulin that is not kept refrigerated will only last 24-48 hours. Another obstacle to peoples health both directly and by the effects on poverty is education, hence another of my priorities.
During the Italian occupation the monastery was the site of some of the worst excesses of Fascist brutality (267 monks executed in 1937) hence the memorial to the martyrs. Our excursion first takes us to the Zeghie Peninsula, made affluent through the cultivation of coffee, which is noted for its 14th century churches with round, grass roofs and magnificent wall murals.
The open plan of the church, combined with its completely painted interior, makes entering it a breathtaking experience, the spiritual intensity of which is heightened by standing underneath the ceiling decorated with the staring faces of 80 archangels who face both east and west symbolizing the omnipresence of God. Today we will be in the most holy precinct of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church almost within touching distance of the Holy Ark itself if one believes the tradition.
As the earliest symbol of civilization in Ethiopia, scholars are still uncertain as to who built Yeha.
Numerous churches have been hewn out of the sandstone but because they have not been cut free from the rock they are scarcely visible when looking up at them from the plain. The colours are striking…red, blue, green and black over white backgrounds, the saints’ faces gently radiating the spiritual vibrancy with which they lived and missionized Ethiopia. Nearer to Wukro and also on our itinerary is Wukro Cherkos, the most accessible of the rock hewn churches in Tigray. The state, a shopping paradise for western tourists, boasts the world’s largest airport, the world’s tallest tower, the world’s largest artificial harbour, the world’s largest manmade island…all of these astonishing civilizational accomplishments emerging in the last 20 years. Fifteen minutes later, we arrived at the feeding site and I gladly ended the conversation for a while. This obsession has spawned a horde of shoeshine boys who attack anyone they think should have their shoes polished. But Gondar is a Pepsi town, what wonderful contributions the developed world has given Ethiopia; Michael Bolton and Pepsi.
Stability in terms of population is also important, fortunately the growth of the population is not rising, but it would certainly be easier to feed all the mouths if there were fewer mouths to feed and the same can be said of jobs, healthcare etc. A great problem leading to illness is the shortage of food, or the inability to pay for food. Entoto we contemplate the origins of humanity in our visit to the National Museum which ranks among the most important museums in sub-Saharan Africa. The Abbot of Debre Libanos is the spiritual head of all the Ethiopian monasteries and thus is given the title ‘Itchige’.
Here the Blue Nile, which contributes 85% of the main Nile flow and the prized subject of adventurous explorer narratives, starts its long journey to the Mediterranean.
We visit the two 13th-14th century churches, Betra Miriam and Ura Kidane Mehret, renovated around 1900, which house both ancient crowns and illuminated manuscripts.
The exterior of this 11th or 12th century church is decorated with white marble panels and the entire church sits on a foundation of olive-wood panels which allows it to float perfectly above the marshy ground below.
Up to the mid 1960’s the Tigray churches, perhaps around 120 in number, were hardly known outside the region even to Ethiopians.
We continue on to the churches of Teklehaymanot in Hawzien and Gorgis Ma-kado both of which are architecturally interesting. On the southern edge of the village of Dugem is the Church of Dugem Selassie, a tiny, antique church contained within a newer one. Time permitting, after arriving in Mekele we’ll visit the Italian–designed Yohannes IV museum constructed for the emperor in 1873 as his castle home.
The Emirate Dubai International Financial Centre aspires to host 20% of the world’s investment funds.
Saying no, or even having your shoes shined by one doesn’t deter the other twenty who still shout ‘Mister? An infrastructure which allows the delivery of food to all parts of the country and distribution to the most needy is more important than sending the equivalent in medicines or medical equipment. Here the recently discovered skeleton of Selam, an Australopithecus aphaeresis, is on exhibit. The latter has an exquisitely painted ‘maqdas’ which is practically a compendium of Ethiopian religious iconography. The 11 monolithic churches of Lalibela date to the reign of King Lalibela in the period between 1180 -1220 AD. Mary of Zion is the repository of the crowns of the former emperors of Ethiopia and is considered to be the oldest church in all of Africa. Beside it stands a modern church dedicated to Abuna Aftse, another of the famous Nine Syrian Saints from the eastern Roman Empire who Christianized the country in the 6th century. Resident monks claim that the churches date to either the 4th or 6th centuries, both highpoints in Ethiopian Christian history, but the evidence points to a more likely origin for most of the churches in the 13th and 14th centuries. Continuing down the Butajira road we come to the Tiya monuments, one of Ethiopia’s UNESCO World Heritage sites restored by French archaeologists.
We’ll combine a guided tour of some of Dubai’s major attractions with lots of free time to relax and explore the many dimensions of this Arabian convergence of East and West according to your interests and energy levels. This is one of the most breathtaking stretches of road in Ethiopia plunging over 1000m with hairpin curves as it descends the escarpment to the bottom of the Gorge. On Dek Island, the largest island in Lake Tana, is the monastery of Narga Selassie built by Queen Mentewab in 1747 and dedicated to the Holy Trinity.
Our day concludes with the ruined palace of Queen Metowab and the Church of Qusquam Mariam on the outskirts of the town and a drive to the nearby village of Wolleka, a Falasha village which was once the thriving home of a community of Ethiopian Jews, most of whom were airlifted to Israel from 1985 to 1991. They can hardly be called ‘constructed’ as they were carved inside and outside from the solid rock…a technological wonder indeed said to have taken 24 years. To the rear of the church are the bones of innumerable pilgrims who chose to be buried at this holy site under an overhanging rock.
The seven mysterious obelisks of Axum in the town centre (one of which was recently returned from Italy and another is reputedly the world’s tallest monolith) invite us to contemplate their origins.
The roughness of their sculpted style, some like renovated caves, suggests that dedicated monks on a spiritual quest for remote silence and not professional craftsmen (as in the case of Lalibela) built them. Of significance here are examples of a peculiar style of engraved, upright stellae which stretch across parts of southern Ethiopia. Selam is 150,000 years older than his more famous counterpart, Lucy, who is currently touring the United States. The present road and bridge were built by the Italians who skilfully demonstrated their flair for civil engineering. The ‘Jewish’ character of early Ethiopian Christianity continues to intrigue western Christian scholars. One local tradition says that the churches were the handiwork of ‘angels’ but most likely ‘Ethiopian angels’. Tonight is one of the liturgical highlights of our journey…we attend the Ethiopian Christmas Eve celebration. Also of interest in King Ezana’s Park is a trilingual tablet inscribed in Ge’ez, Sabean, and Greek, Ethiopia’s version of the Rosetta Stone. The physical challenge of the day is ascending to the spectacularly located Monastery of Debre Damo which dates to Axumite times and is claimed to contain the oldest intact church in Ethiopia. The monoliths, which serve as grave markers, display carvings of four designs- the sword, a symbol like the number ‘3’ standing on its side, a sideways letter ‘M’ and a circle which appears only on a few graves (5) perhaps indicative of female gender. We continue our city tour to Holy Trinity Cathedral, the largest Orthodox Church in the country, built in 1941 with a somewhat chaotic mix of international styles to commemorate the patriots who defeated the Italian colonialist invaders in the 1930’s. At the end of the day we arrive at Debre Markos, capital of Gojam, formerly known as Mankorar (“coldplace’).
The colors of the interior canvas paintings (not frescoes) are intense in a variety of hues…red, orange, brown and a distinctive bluish shade of green. Three separate sections of standing monoliths give the site a certain ‘mini-Stonehenge’ character. Of special interest to us is the 19th century Church of Markos with its well executed paintings. We disembark at Gorgora on the north shore of Lake Tana where we see the monastery of Debre Sina Mariam which contains a 14th century church with a conical thatched roof and some of the most complex murals to be seen in the Tana region. Tonight we enjoy a traditional dinner and an entertaining experience of Azmari Beats, the Ethiopian equivalent of stand-up comedy done in Amharic. Genna (Christmas) is observed after 43 days of fasting known as Tsome Gahad (Advent) and marked by a spectacular procession which lasts from midnight to 3:00 am. Next to be visited is the tomb of Kaleb and the tomb of King Basen who ruled Axum at the time of Christ’s birth.
Also of significance within the Cathedral are the tombs of the late Emperor Haile Selassie and his wife, Empress Menem.
After the Mass people go home to break the fast with a meal of chicken, lamb or beef, injera bread and traditional drinks.
In the late afternoon as the sun begins to set we read accounts of the meeting of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba from various texts in the imaginative setting of the ruins of the queen’s own partially reconstructed palace on the edge of town. We continue to The Ethnographic Museum of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies on the campus of the University of Addis Ababa which includes among its many interesting displays and holdings, the actual bedroom of Emperor Haile Selassie and the first Christian coinage minted in the history of the world!
The first group of 7 north of the Jordan River include Bet Golgotha, Bet Mikael, Bet Miriam, Bet Meskel, Bet Danaghel, and Bet Medhane Alem (said to be the largest rock-hewn church in the world).
The sight of candle burning, white robed worshippers crowded inside churches will be unforgettable. Patronize the local market economy in this onetime center of a great African civilization on the fringe of the Graeco Roman world which blossomed before the time of Christ…the historical facts concerning which remain obscure.
Our day concludes at the Merkato, the largest open market in East Africa which is bursting with life. The second group, south of the Jordan River, is comprised of Bet Emanuel, Bet Merkorios, Bet Abba Libanos and Bet Gabriel-Rufa’el.
Our journey ends at Adigrat which lies on an important junction linking Ethiopia to Eritrea.
The climax of the tour of the churches is reached at the oft photographed, Bet Giyorgis, (made known to the world by an episode of the ‘Amazing Race’) only reached through a tunnel.
It is the most elegant of the churches lying towards the southwest of the town which achieves a visually perfect architectural design unsurpassed in Ethiopia.

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