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Axum, Ethiopia's most ancient city, and capital of one of the most glorious empires of the past, is one of the most illustrious links in the Historic Route.

The Axumite Empire flourished 3000 years ago. Its riches can still be pictured on the magnificent stelae or obelisks, the graves of Kings Kaleb and Gebre Meskel, and the Legendary Bath of the Queen of Sheba.

The 16th century Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion was built in the compound of an earlier 4th century church, and is the holiest church in Ethiopia. In its sanctuary is said to rest the original Ark of the Covenant.

The churches and monasteries of Axum are richly endowed with icons, and some of the historical crowns of ancient Emperors.

Ethiopia's earliest known capital, Yeha, is less than two hours' drive fro m Axum through some dramatic highland scenery. As the birthplace of the country's earliest high civilization, it is well worth visiting. To get there, head east for twenty kilometers (Bahar Dar is a town 12 miles ) to Adwa.

Continue along the main road towards Adigrat for another twenty-four kilometers (15 miles) and then turn north on to a short dirt track, where you will see the imposing ruins of Yeha's Temple of the moon about four kilometers (2.5 miles) to the right of the track.

The ruins of this large, pre-Christian temple, erected around the fifth century BC, consist of a single roofless oblong chamber 20 meters (66 feet) along by 15 meters (50 feet) wide. The windowless 10 meters high walls are built of smoothly polished stones, some of them more than 3 meters long, carefully placed one atop the other without the use of mortar.

Some 76 kilometers from Axum is the monastery of Debre Damo (closed to women), which is said to have the oldest existing intact church in Ethiopia. Local tradition says that Abune Aregawi, one of the nine Saints, built the church in the sixth century. The monastery of Debre Damo can only be reached by rope pulley.

The treasures secreted within, kept intact through the country's 1,400 tumultuous years of history because of that arduous, dangerous ascent, include an extensive collection of illuminated manuscripts, among them the oldest surviving fragments of texts anywhere in Ethiopia. The church now houses about fifty manuscripts, although the monks claim that they formerly possessed no less than a thousand.

King Lalibela is credited with the foundation of the 11 rock-hewn churches in the 12th century. One of the world's most incredible man-made creations, they are a lasting monument to man's faith in God. Most travel writers describe these churches as the "eighth wonder of the world". These remarkable edifices were carved out of a solid rock, in a region where the ragged landscape still protects the churches from mass tourism. The 11 man-made churches are found in and around the town of Lalibela. Other churches are reached by a 45-minutes drive by 4x4 vehicle, or a three hour ride on mule-back.

The venue for some of the most famous church festivals in Ethiopia, a visit during the great celebrations of Genna (X-mas) and Timket (Epiphany) is particularly rewarding.

Gondar was the 17th century capital of Ethiopia, and is notable for its Medieval Castles and churches. The city's unique Imperial compound contains a number of Castles built between 1632 and 1855 by various Emperors who reigned during this period. These dramatic Castles, unlike any other in Africa, display richness in architecture that reveals the Axumite traditions as well as the influence of Arabia.

Other treasures of Gondar include the 18th century palace of Ras Bet, the bath of Fasiledes, the ruined palace of Kusquam, and the church of Debre Berhan Selassie with its unique murals.

Window on the past

The city of Harar is an ancient (1520) and holy city. Harar was an important trading center. The city is famous for its ancient buildings, its great city walls and as a center of Islamic learning (the city has 99 mosques). It is believed to be the fourth holiest city for Islam after Mecca, Medina & Jerusalem. The city is well known for its superb handicrafts that include woven textiles, basket ware, silverware and handsomely bound books. Harar has been a place of pilgrimage from all over the world for many years. Harar's attractions are:


Harari Home

Harari homes are unique and reminiscent of coastal Arab architecture. Bowls, dishes, and basketry are hung in stylized fashion on the wall, but all are functional.


The Hyena man

As evening falls, local men attract wild hyenas to the city in a bizarre spectacle as they bravely feed these dangerous scavengers.

The capital of Emperor Yohanes IV (1871-1889), Makale is now the main city of Tigray, themost northern Ethiopian region. The Emperor's palace has been turned into a particular interesting museum, with many exhibits of his time and subsequent history. The town is also well known as a transit point for the Camel Caravans bringing salt up from the arid lands of the Danakil Depression. This makes the market place an interesting sight to visit. Intrepid visitors can also make excursions into the Danakil to visit some of the Afar nomads that trek across the region.

The 1868 English expedition against Emperor Tewodros and to take Meqdels, the biggest such campaign of the British Empire, was shown as “astonishing church carved in to a rocky out crop”. For a while this was assumed by the outside world to be the only one of its kind in Tigray.

As recently as 1963, when supposedly a full list of Ethiopias rock-hewn churches was published ,only nine churches were recorded for Tigray.since then, no less than 123 have been discovered , three-quarters of which are apparently still in use as normal parish churches of monastic communities. Most of these are found a long the Adigrat Mekele road or else they can be reached from it. At least a week is required to visit the most interesting of them.

Negash is a small village located 60 Kms East of Mekele, the Capital of Tigray region. It is Anonymous with Islam as it is the place were the first mosque was constructed in Ethiopia.

It also serves as enduring reminder of the warm welcome extended by the Ethiopian king of the time when those Muslims including the family of the prophet Mohammed fled from persecution in their own land found refuge in Ethiopia during the early years of the Seventh century.

Since then, Negash has been a place of great historical and religious significance in a sense that it is a symbol of peaceful coexistence between Muslim and Christian religions.

Geogrhy

Ethiopia is located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Eritrea to the north, Djibouti and Somalia to the east, Sudan and South Sudan to the west, and Kenya to the south. Ethiopia has a high central plateau that varies from 1,290 to 3,000 m (4,232 to 9,843 ft) above sea level, with the highest mountain reaching 4,533 m (14,872 ft).


Elevation is generally highest just before the point of descent to the Great Rift Valley, which splits the plateau diagonally. A number of rivers cross the plateau; notably the Blue Nile rising from Lake Tana. The plateau gradually slopes to the lowlands of the Sudan on the west and the Somali-inhabited plains to the east.

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Most of the Ethiopian uplands have a decided slope to the north-west, so that nearly all the large rivers flow in that direction to the Nile, comprising some 85% of its water. Such are the Tekez River in the north, the Abay in the center, and the Sobat in the south, and about four-fifths of the entire drainage is discharged through these three arteries. The rest is carried off by the Awash, which runs out in the saline lacustrine district along the border withDjibouti; by the Shebelle River and the Jubba, which flow southeast through Somalia, though the Shebelle fails to reach the Indian Ocean; and by the Omo, the main feeder of the closed basin of Lake Turkana.


The Tekez River, which is the true upper course of the Atbarah River, has its headwaters in the central tableland; and falls from about 2,100 to 750 m (6,890 to 2,461 ft). in the tremendous crevasse through which it sweeps west, north, forming part of the border with Eritrea, and west again down to the western terraces, where it passes from Ethiopia to Sudan. During the rains the Tekez (i.e. the "Terrible") rises some 5 m (16.4 ft) above its normal level, and at this time forms an impassable barrier between the northern and central regions. In its lower course, the river is known by the Arabic name Setit.

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Cultural

The Mursi (or Mun as they refer to themselves) are a Nilotic pastoralist ethnic group in the Ethiopian Empire. They principally reside in the Debub Omo Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region, close to the border with South Sudan. According to the 2007 national census, there are 7,500 Mursi, 448 of whom live in urban areas; of the total number, 92.25% live in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region (SNNPR).

Surrounded by mountains between the Omo River and its tributary the Mago, the home of the Mursi is one of the most isolated regions of the country. Their neighbors include the Ari, the Benna, the Bodi, the Karo, the Kwegu, the Nyangatom and the Suri. They are grouped together with the Me'en and Suri by the Ethiopian government under the The Mursi speak the Mursi language as a mother tongue. It is classified as Surmic, which is a branch of the Nilo-Saharan language family. Mursi is closely related (over 80% cognate) to Me'en and Suri, as well as Kwegu. According to the 1994 national census, there were 3,163 people who were identified as Mursi in the SNNPR; 3,158 spoke Mursi as their first language, while 31 spoke it as their second language. According to the analytical volume of the 1994 national census, where Mursi was grouped under Me'en, 89.7% were monolingual, and the second languages spoken were Bench (4.2%), Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia (3.5%), and Kafa (1.1%).

Two orthographies for the Mursi language exist. One is the Amharic-based, although the Mursi language is one the Surmic languages with incompatible vowel structures and stressed and unstressed consonants compared to Amharic.

The term Surma is the Ethiopian government's collective name for the Suri, Mursi and Me'en groups that inhabit the southwestern part of the country, with a total population of 186,875. All three groups speak languages belonging to the Surmic branch of the Nilo-Saharan language family. Some authors have used the terms "Suri" and "Surma" interchangeably, or for contradictory purposes.

Suri or Shuri is the name of a sedentary pastoral people and its Nilo-Saharan language. They inhabit the Bench Maji Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region (SNNPR) in Ethiopia as well as parts of neighboring South Sudan. Some are also found west of Mizan Teferi. Population: 20,622 (1998 est.)

Mursi or Murzu is the name of a closely related sedentary pastoral people whose language (Mursi) is over 80% cognate with Suri. They are located next to the Suri, in the center of the SNNPR and the lowlands southwest of Jinka in the south Omo Zone. The Mursi do not regard themselves as Surma, despite the cultural and linguistic similarities. Population: 7,500 of whom 92.25% live in the SNNPR (2007 census).

Me'en is the name of a closely related sedentary pastoral people whose language, Me'en, is over 80% cognate with Mursi. They are located in and around Bachuma, and in lowlands to the south, near the Omo River. Population: 151,489 of whom 98.9% live in the SNNPR (2007 census).

The Harari people , also called Geyusu ("People of the City"), are an ethnic group in the Horn of Africa. Members traditionally inhabit the city of Harar, situated in the Harari Region of eastern Ethiopia. They speak Harari, According to Ulrich Braukmper, comprehensive analysis of the available data on the Harari suggests that they are a composite population, formed by a fusion ofCushitic speakers that likely already inhabited the Harar region with variousSemitic-speaking groups that later entered the area from a northern direction. Among the assimilated peoples were Arab Muslims that arrived during the start of the Islamic period, as well as Argobba and other migrants that were drawn to Harar's well-developed culture. Braukmper also posits that a Semitic-speaking people akin to the Harari may have inhabited a stretch of land between the Karkaar Mountains, the middle Awash and the Jijiga region, although he concedes that there is no linguistic proof to confirm this. He further suggests that the Great Oromo Migration may have effectively split this putative ethnolinguistic block to the Lake Zway islands, Gurage territory, and Harar. Following the decline of the Adal Sultanate's ascendancy in the area, a large number of the Harari were in turn reportedly absorbed into the Oromo community.

The Harari people themselves assert descent from Sheikh Abadir Umar Ar-Rida, also known as Fiqi Umar, who traced his lineage to the first caliph, Abu Bakr (Sayid Abubakar Al-Sadiq). According to the explorer Richard F. Burton, Fiqi Umar crossed over from the Arabian Peninsula to theHorn of Africa ten generations prior to 1854, with his six sons: Umar the Greater, Umar the Lesser, the two Abdillahs, Ahmad and Siddik.

The modern "Harari" ethnic identity is believed to have been created in the 16th century by Harar's then Emir, Nur ibn Mujahid. So as to protect the various Muslim peoples that inhabited the Ethiopian interior from raids by the Oromo, Emir Nur resettled many of them in the historic city. Friction between these newcomers and the earlier settlers of Harar then developed. In order to resolve the conflict, Emir Nur had his charges destroy the genealogies of the two groups of settlers, by default replacing these traditions with a new, singular "Harari" identity. anAfro-Asiatic language of the Semitic branch.

The Tsamai people (also spelled Tsemay, Tsamay, Tsemai, Tsamako, or Tsamakko) are an ethnic group of southwestern Ethiopia. They speak a Cushitic language called Tsamai, which is one of the Dullay languages, and thus related to the Bussa and Gawwada languages. According to the 1998 Ethiopian census, the Tsamai number 9,702. The number of speakers of the Tsamai language is 8,621, with 5,298 monolinguals. Many Tsamai use the Konso language for trade purposes.

Most Tsamai live in the Bena Tsemay woreda of the southern Omo Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region, in the Lower Omo River Valley and just to the west of the Konso special woreda. Many Tsamai live in the town of Weyto, which is approximately 50 km from the town of Jinka, on the Konso-Jinka road.

Most Tsamai are agro-pastoralists, herding cattle as well as growing crops. Many Tsamai women wear clothing made from leather. Many Tsamai men carry small stools around with them, which they use in case they need to sit down. They have a very low level of literacy: below 1% in their first language and 2.8% in their second language. The Tsamai live in an area that is frequented by adventure tours, and thus are a frequently photographed people.

The Gurage people are an ethnic group in Ethiopia of the "Hamitic stock speaking Semitic language". According to the 2007 national census, its population is 1,867,377 people, of whom 792,659 are urban dwellers. This is 2.53% of the total population of Ethiopia, or 7.52% of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region(SNNPR). The Gurage people traditionally inhabit a fertile, semi-mountainous region in southwest Ethiopia, about 125 kilometers southwest of Addis Ababa, bordering the Awash River in the north, the Gibe River (a tributary of the Omo) to the southwest, and Lake Zway in the east. In addition, according to the 2007 Ethiopian national census the Gurage can also be found in large numbers in Addis Ababa, Oromia Region, Dire Dawa , Harari Region, Somali Region, Amhara Region, Gambella Region, Benishangul-Gumuz Region, and Tigray Region.

The languages spoken by the Gurage are known as the Gurage languages. The variations among these languages are used to group the Gurage people into three dialectically varied subgroups, Northern, Eastern and Western .In 2000, the Silt'e, refusing to identify as Gurage, voted overwhelmingly for the establishment of a separate special administrative unit within SNNPR by the EPRDF government.

The Amhara people are an ethnic group inhabiting the northern and central highlands of Ethiopia, particularly the Amhara Region. According to the 2007 national census, they numbered 19,867,817 individuals, comprising 26.9% of the country's population. They speak Amharic, an Afro-Asiatic language of the Semitic branch, and are one of the Habesha peoples.

The Tigray-Tigrinya are an ethnic group inhabiting the southern and central parts of Eritrea and the northern highlands of Ethiopia's Tigray Region. Prior to 1995, they lived in Ethiopia's former provinces of Tigray,Begemder (Gonder), and Wollo, with the regions within these provinces that they inhabited (e.g. Wolqayt, Tsegede,Tselemti, Raya, Humera) later incorporated into the modern Tigray Region. The Tigray people, eponymous with the name of their territory, make up approximately 96.6% of the inhabitants of the Tigray Region,[5] and comprise 6.1% of Ethiopia's total population, numbering a little over 5.7 million.[6] Group members in Eritrea are known by the name of their language,Tigrinya, and they constitute around 50% of the population,[7] at about 3.4 million people. They primarily live in a region of Eritrea known as the Kebessa, contained within the former awrajas of Hamasien, Seraye, and Akele Guzay, these later incorporated into Eritrea's present-day regions. The Tigray-Tigrinya speak Tigrinya, an Afro-Asiatic language belonging to the family's Semitic branch. Members from this ethnic group today form the dominant political force in both Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Tigray-Tigrinya are not to be confused with the Tigre people who speak Tigre, a closely related Afro-Asiatic language. All mother tongue speakers of Tigrinya in Eritrea are officially referred to as Bihr-Tigrinya (or simply, Tigrinya). However, a significant number of Muslim Tigrinya speakers refuse to identify as such and consequently constitute a separate ethnic group known as the Jeberti. The Jeberti people make up about 5% of the Eritrean population.

Oromos are the largest Cushitic-speaking group of people living in Northeast Africa. Available information suggests that they have existed as a community in the Horn of Africa for several millennia (Prouty et al., 1981). Bates (1979) contends that the Oromo "were a very ancient race, the indigenous stock, perhaps, on which most other peoples in this part of eastern Africa have been grafted".

While further research is needed to precisely comprehend their origins, the Oromo are believed to have originally adhered to a pastoralist/nomadic and/or semi-agriculturalist lifestyle. Many historians agree that some Oromo clans have lived in the southern tip of present-day Ethiopia for over a millennium. They suggest that a Great trade-influenced Oromo migration brought most Oromos to present-day central and western Ethiopia in the 16th and 17th centuries.

national parks

Abiyatta Shalla Lakes National Parks situated in the Great Rift Valley, only 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of Addis Ababa, and in the Lake Langano recreational areas, the Abiyatta Shalla lakes national Park attracts numerous visitors. It was created primarily for its aquatic bird life, particularly those that feed and breed on lakes Abiyatta and Shalla in Large numbers. The park compresses the two lakes, the isthmus between them and a thin strip of land along the shorelines of each. Developments have been limited to a number of tracks on land, and the construction of seven outposts. While attention is focused on the water birds, the land area does contain a reasonable amount of other wildlife.

Two different lakes:

Two different lakes: The two lakes are very different in character. Abiyatta is shallow at about 14 metres (260 metres (853 feet) and is calculated to hold a grater volume of water than all of the Ethiopian Rift valley lakes put together. Abiyatta is surrounded by gentle, grasscovered slopes and swathed in acacia woodlands. Shalla exudes a sense of mystery and foreboding, surrounded as it is by steep, black cliffs and peaks that reflect in its deep waters, which are liable to be whipped up by sudden storms and flurries of wind. It contains nine small, is located islands, rarely visited since there are no boats on the lake. These islands provide an excellent breeding ground for many bird species.

Awash National Park is located 225 km east of Addis Ababa, the Park stretches 30km east to west and a little less from north to south. The terrain is mainly acacia woodland and grassland.

Wildlife

At all places and all times it is possible to see game: Oryx, Soemmerring's gazelle and wild pig are common. Slightly less frequent are the furry waterbuck which tend to appear near the river in the late afternoon. The tiny dik-dik, not easy to spot in the speckled shade of the acacia thorn, zebra grazing the plains to the west of Fantale, cheetah, serval and leopard are also there but it is not easy to spot them; baboons, both anubis and hamadryas, kudus, lesser and greater, the giant tortoise, hippo, reedbuck, aardvark and caracal are also represented. Klipspringer inhabit the higher slopes of the mountain and curious hyrax peer at you curiously from behind their rocks. In the bottom of the gorge you can spot the black and white colobus monkey.

Birdlife

Over four hundred species are recorded for the park: (The check list is available at the museum at park Head quarters). They range from the great ostrich, frequently and easily observed, and the less common Secretary Bird and Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, to the flashes of brilliant pink which are the Carmine Bee-eaters, and the Abyssinian Roller with turquoise and purple, wings. And between these two extremes, birds of the riverine forest, Coucal, Turaco, Go-away Birds; birds of prey; and birds of the savannah.

Attraction

The park itself is traversed by a series of well-maintained tracks, which take in the most spectacular of the many scenic attractions. It is possible, and perhaps advisable, to hire a park guide.

To the north at Filwoha lies the hot springs oasis in its groves of palm trees. It is reached by either one of two scenic tracks which start opposite the main gate on the far side of the road and bearing right, progress either along the floor of the Awash Falls lower Valley or along the top of the ridge.

The Awash river gorge in the south of the park has some spectacular waterfalls near the park headquarters.

Access

Less than three hours' drive from Addis Ababa, or one and a half from Nazaret is the AwashNational park and Game Reserve. The main entrance is at the 190 km. mark and you have already passed the park boundary as you crossed the railway track just before Fantalle Crater, which rises 600 m. from the valley floor on the left. At this point there is a track to the left and it is possible to drive either up to the crater rim or right round the park to the hot springs although the road is such that the prospect will not tempt everyone. It is probably wiser to enter the main gate first and travel comfortably down towards the Awash River which constitutes the southern boundary of the park. Here is park Headquarters, sited near the dramatic Awash falls where the river enters its gigantic gorge.

Gambela National Park

Located about 600 kilometres from Addis Ababa on the river Baro, Gambela has a strange history. From 1902 until it was captured by the Italians in the Second World War, it was administered by the British, the only part of Ethiopia to be so governed, The reason for this is that the British opened a port there on the wide and navigable Baro River, which during four months of the rainy season is navigable and provides direct access to the sea via the Nile through Khartoum. Ethiopian coffee was exported via this route, up to 1940. Now the port has fallen into disrepair, though remains of the warehouses and jetty can be seen. At its peak, up to 40 ships would be in dock at any one time. Gambela (sometimes spelt Gambella} gives access to the GambeIa National Park. The undulating plains of high Sudanese grass offer excellent opportunities for wilderness exploration. It is not particularly easy to access however.

Beyond Gambela towards the Sudanese border, the Anuak cultivators give way to the nomadic Nuer. These pastoralists herd their long-horned cattle into huge camps when they stop for the night.

Wildlife

In the river are to be found huge Nile perch, up to 100 kilograms, crocodiles and hippos. Other wildlife includes buffalo, giraffe, waterbuck, Roan antelope, zebra, bushbuck, Abyssinian reedbuck, warthog, hartebeest, hyena, lion and elephant. Unfortunately, there are very few animals to be seen in the park, but the birds are many and varied, the olive baboon and the local race of the vervet, with its white whiskers, are the very common, as is the black and white colobus monkey.

Access

Bus links to Addis Ababa via Bako. (Min 2 day journey) 4 weekly flights from Addis Ababa by Ethiopian Airlines (Mon, Thurs, Fri, Sat).

Accommodation

All accommodation is to be found in nearby Gambela town.

Covering an area of 2,162 square kilometers on the banks of Omo River, the Mago National Park is relatively undeveloped for tourists. The broad grasslands teem with herds of Buffalo, Giraffe, Elephant and Kudu, while sometimes it is possible to find Lion, Leopard and Burchell's Zebra.

The park rises in the north to mount Mago (2,528 meters) and is home to 56 species of mammals. Mago National Park mainly grass savannah, with some forested areas around the rivers. Very dense bush makes for difficult game viewing. The Birds are typical of the dry grassland habitat, featuring bustards, hornbills, weavers, and starlings. Kingfishers and herons can be seen around the Neri River, which provides an alternative habitat.

The park is in the chain of seven lakes which run from Debre Zeit south toward Lake Turkana in Kenya. The park is about 200 kilometres south of Addis Ababa, and consists of two lakes, just to the west of Lake Langano. They are particularly attractive stretches of water, and they are very different in character to each other. The main interest is the extensive bird life that the lakes attract, with over 400 species recorded.

Wildlife

There are a few mammals on the shores of lake Abiyatta, including Grant's gazelle, warthog and oribi.

Birdlife

The water of Lake Abiyatta is alkaline and among the birds attracted to feed on the algae are greater and lesser flamingoes and white pelicans, white-necked cormorants, herons, storks, fish eagles, spoonbills, ibises, ducks, gulls and terns. Surrounding woodland contains trogons, turacos and weaver birds. In the northern hemisphere winter the lake is host to migratory ducks and waders from Europe and Asia. Lake Shala is particularly famous for its colony of great white pelicans, (about 15,000 pairs), ibises, Abdimi's storks, and the white-necked cormorant. The lakes are important breeding grounds for several species of birds, especially the pelicans.

Attraction

Senkello Swayne's Hartebeest Sanctuary is close to the park, and is administered by the staff. It contains about 2,000 of these hartebeest, which are endemic to Ethiopia.

Covering 514 square kilometers (319 square miles), Nechisar National Park is situated near the town of Arba Minch, 510 kilometres from Addis Ababa. Lakes Abaya and Chamo are the twin rift valley lakes separated by a neck of land better known as a "Bridge of Heaven". They are the integral part of the park. The park is home to Burchell's Zebra, Grant's Gazelle, greater Kudu and others. Various species of birds and crocodiles reflect the park's different habitat.

The 188 bird species - including two endemic of the area are quite varied, reflecting the different habitats within the park. Both the red-billed and the gray hornbill are common here, and the Abyssinian ground hornbill is also seen. Also common are fish eagle, kingfishers, and rollers

One of the most beautiful national parks in Ethiopia, its 4068 km2 of wilderness bordered by the Omo river, is home to an amazing range of wildlife. 306 species of birds have been identified here, while large herds of Eland, some Buffalo, Elephants, Giraffe, Cheetah, Lion, Leopard, Burchell's Zebra are not uncommon.

The park is not easily accessible, as the current means of access is via Omorate and the ferry to the north bank of the river. The park HQ is 75 km from Kibish settlement. However, a new airstrip is available close to the HQ and to a pleasant campsite on the Mui River - plans are in hand for further major improvements.

Omo National Park, the largest in the country, with an area of 4,068 square kilometres. It is a vast expanse of true wilderness, adjacent to the Omo River, which flows southwards into Lake Turkana and is one of the richest and least-visited wildlife sanctuaries in eastern Africa. Eland, oryx, Burchell's zebra, Lelwel hartebeest, buffalo, giraffe, elephant, waterbuck, kudu, lion, leopard and cheetah roam within the park's boundaries.

The Omo Valley is virtually free of human habitation but is rich in palaeo-anthro-pological remains. According to scientific research done in 1982 by the University of California at Berkeley, hominid remains from the Omo Valley probably date back more than four million years.

Festival

Enkutatash -New Year, 11 September

This festival celebrates both the New Year and the Feast of John the Baptist at the end of the long rains in Spring, when the Highlands become covered in wild flowers. Children dressed in new clothes dance through the villages, distributing garlands and tiny paintings. In the evening every house lights a bonfire and there is singing and dancing.

Maskal- Finding of the True Cross, 27 September

Legend has it that the cross upon which Christ was crucified was discovered in the year 326 by Empress Helen, Mother of Constantine the Great. Unable to find the Holy Sepulchre, she prayed for help and was directed by the smoke of an incense burner to where the cross was buried.

In the Middle Ages, the Patriarch of Alexandria gave the Ethiopian Emperor Dawit half of the True Cross in retum for the protection afforded to the Coptic Christians A fragment of the T rue Cross is reputed to be held at the Gishen Marien monastery which is about 70 kilometres to the northwest of Dessie.

On the day of the festival, bright yellow Maskal daisies are tied to fronds, and piled high in town squares. Colourful processions carrying buming torches converge on to the square, where a pyre is lit and the celebrations continue until dawn. In Addis Ababa, the celebrations take place in Maskal Square, to the southeast of the City centre.

Timkat-Feast of the Epiphany, 19 January

During the first millennium B.C. and possibly even earlier, various Semitic-speaking groups from Southwest Arabia began to cross the Red Sea and settle along the coast and in the nearby highlands. These migrants brought with them their Semitic speech (Sabaean and perhaps others) and script (Old Epigraphic South Arabic) and monumental stone architecture. A fusion of the newcomers with the indigenous inhabitants produced a culture known as pre-Aksumite. The factors that motivated this settlement in the area are not known, but to judge from subsequent history, commercial activity must have figured strongly. The port city of Adulis, near modern-day Mitsiwa, was a major regional entrepôt and probably the main gateway to the interior for new arrivals from Southwest Arabia. Archaeological evidence indicates that by the beginning of the Christian era this pre-Aksumite culture had developed western and eastern regional variants. The former, which included the region of Aksum, was probably the polity or series of polities that became the Aksumite state.

This is an extremely colourful three-day festival commemorating the baptism of Christ.The night before, priests take the Tabot (which symbolizes the Ark of the Covenant) containing the Ten Commandments from each Church. Concealed by an ornamental cloth, it is taken to a tent, close to a consecrated pool or stream, accompanied by much ringing of bells, blowing of trumpets and the burning of incense. In Addis Ababa many tents are pitched at Jan Meda, to the northeast of the city centre. At 0200 there is a Mass, and crowds attend, with picnics lit by oil lamps. At dawn the priest extinguishes a candle burning on a pole set in a nearby river using a ceremonial cross. Some of the congregation leap into the river. The Tabots are then taken back to the Churches in procession, accompanied by horsemen, while the festivities continue.

New Years Day
(Julian Calendar) 1January

Genna
Ethiopian Christmas: birth of Christ) 7 January

Timkat
Ethiopian Epiphany: baptism of Christ) 19 January

Adwa Day
(commemorates the victory by Menelik II over Italy in 1896) 2 March

Patriots' Day
(celebrates end of Italian occupation in 1941) 6 April

International Labour Day
1 May

Ethiopian Good Friday
May (variable)

Fasika
(Ethiopian Easter Sunday) May (variable)

Idd al Fitr
(end of month of fasting for Ramadan) May (variable)

Idd al Adha
August (variable)

Buhe
21 August

Enkutatash
(Ethiopian New Year) 11 September

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