Ethiopia: A country of amazing transformation, festivals, tourism sites

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Kuriftu Resorts

Ethiopia, a country in the horn of Africa and close to the equator, is a country that transforms every visitor, seven years younger.

Addis Ababa, the capital city means New Flower.

The country is unique in many ways: it has 13 calendar months; has the best coffee in the world, colourful religious festivals and tourism sites, biggest airline in Africa. Besides, the first human fossils were discovered in that country.

Ethiopia may not boast of having natural resources like oil, gold or platinum, but the country has age-old tradition that binds its people together, manages what it has to develop its infrastructure and provide the basic needs of the citizens. The country has the biggest Airline in Africa, that is the Ethiopian Airlines.

I visited Ethiopia many years ago for a three-day conference. The event accorded me the opportunity to take a tour of the country to understand the environment, know the culture and the different cuisines.

But my recent visit facilitated by Ethiopian Airlines and Ethiopian Holidays, the tour operator arm of Ethiopian Airlines, revealed the commitment of the government and its people and the transformation of the infrastructure compared to what I saw during my last visits was amazing.

There are more bridges, more residential buildings (high rise), more hotels, new terminal building, transformation within the terminal, new roads among others. This is transformation in action!

Successive administrations have continued to build on what they inherited from their predecessors irrespective of ideologies; but the goal is to develop the country.

There are many things that make Ethiopia a unique country that attracts tourists and other people.

The Calendar

Ethiopian calendar is quite unique from the rest of the world. The country’s calendar is one of the oldest and the people have continued to use it till date.

Ethiopia is now in year 2014 whereas the rest of the world, according to the Gregorian calendar, is in year 2021, meaning the country is seven years behind.

Besides being seven years different, the calendar has 13 months. The months have their names beginning with Maskaram which falls in the month of September, thus September is the first month of the year.

There are other things that make Ethiopia unique because it is the cradle of humankind where the oldest man’s fossil, that is the famous fossil Lucy, was discovered.

The famous Lucy

It is also the birth place of coffee that the world enjoys every morning. Coffee originated in Ethiopia and was taken to Europe, Asia and America by traders.

Ethiopia is also one country in Africa that was never colonised by a European power, but was occupied by Italians in 1936. However, several colonial powers had interests and designs on Ethiopia in the context of the 19th-century ‘Scramble for Africa.’

Mesqel Festival (Finding the True Cross)

The Mesqel Festival is a Christian holiday celebrated in the month of September; the eve of the festival is September 26 while the feast holds on September 27.

On the 26th, the entire Christians gather at a convenient place, especially in Addis Ababa at a place called the Mesqel Square. Mesqel means ‘cross’ in Amharic. They gather there and lit a bonfire, marking the finding of the True Cross.  

The True Cross, according to their belief, was discovered by Empress Elena, mother of Emperor Constantine. Historians Gelasius of Caesarea (died 395) and Rufinus (344/45-411) claimed that she discovered the hiding place of three crosses that were believed to have been used at the crucifixion of Jesus and the two thieves.

Mesqel festival at the mesqel square

To one cross was affixed the titulus bearing Jesus’ name, but Elena was not sure until a miracle revealed that this was the True Cross.

Ethiopian orthodox churches have commemorated the finding of the True Cross for thousands of years and it is believed that Saint Elena finally divided the True Cross into five pieces and distributed to different Christian countries. One of it is said to have been brought to Ethiopia and it is there to date.

Bonfire at Mesqel festival

On the day of the festival, being an Orthodox Church nation, individuals in their households lit the bonfire in commemoration of what Saint Elena did.  

According to history, she lit the bonfire because she was advised by elders to do so and it is also in another book that she dreamt with the power of God that if she lit a bonfire with incense that would direct her to where the cross was buried, that was how she finally found it and dug it out.

bonfire at mesqel square

Thus Ethiopian orthodox churches have continued for thousands of years to commemorate what Saint Elena did.

The Trinity Cathedral

This is one of the most important cathedrals in Ethiopia built in 1941 following the liberation from the Italians. The Italians were said to have been in Ethiopia for about five years trying to colonise it but were defeated by Ethiopian patriots.

The building of the church started before the Italians came. When they came it was interrupted in 1941; Emperor Haile Selassie decided to continue with the construction until its completion in 1942.

It is a unique structure; three countries – Italy, India and Egypt – participated in the construction. The sculptures are beautiful with different 3D statues. It is believed to be the first structure with 3D statues unlike other churches in Ethiopia.

The tombs of emperor Haile selassie and wife at the Trinity Cathedral

The church is also the final resting place of Emperor Haile Selassie. There is a grave inside the church where his body and that of his wife are kept in a tomb and it continues to be the most important cathedral in Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

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