Ethiopia: journey to the cradle of humanity

There she lies, the wonderful Lucy. Every bone exactly in its place, protected by a glass cabinet. We are located in the National Museum of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. In the country in the Horn of Africa, researchers around Donald Johanson discovered in 1974 the partial skeleton of a woman of the species Australopithecus afarensis.

Because the scientists at the camp at that time constantly played a Beatles cassette, which included, inter alia, the song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, the Fund Lucy was called. In the national language Amharic is called the dated to an age of 3.2 million years fossil Dinknesh, translated: You Wonderful. Even if later older finds were made: If you stand next to Lucy, you think you are at the cradle of humanity.

Ethiopia: The oldest independent state in Africa
After all, Ethiopia is the oldest continuously independent and still existing state in Africa and one of the oldest in the world. His story is based on a legend about the Queen of Sheba, a biblical figure who in the 10th century BC made a journey to the court of King Solomon in Jerusalem and was said to have fathered Menelik, the progenitor of the Ethiopian kings. Menelik allegedly kidnapped the Ark of the Covenant with the two tablets of the Ten Commandments to Ethiopia.

The dynasty of the Salomonids, which ruled from 1270 to 1975 over Ethiopia, leads back to this connection. The last ruler of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie (1892-1975), described himself as the 225th successor to the son of the Queen of Sheba. Therefore, he is considered by the mainly represented in the Caribbean Rastafari movement (whose name derives from its original name Ras Tafari Makonnen) as Messiah.

Ancient churches carved into the rock
The Ethiopians themselves are mostly Orthodox Christians. The huge number of churches in the country underlines this. The highlight of every trip to Ethiopia also leads to churches – the eleven rock churches of Lalibela. They were created around 1250 under the Zagwe King Lalibela as monoliths from the surrounding red volcanic rock and are among the largest stone-carved structures in the world.

The most famous is Bet Giyorgis, the Georgskirche, with its cross-shaped floor plan. King Lalibela is said to have built it last, after St. George appeared to him and complained that he had not yet received a church.

All eleven churches are connected by a network of tunnels and narrow corridors. For this purpose, more than 100,000 cubic meters of rock have been excavated and processed in Lalibela in more than 24 years with the simplest means. Legend has it that angels helped with the work.

“Africa’s Camelot”: The Capital Gondar
Also in the old capital Gondar impresses a church: Debre Berhan Selassie was built during the reign of Emperor Iyasu (1682-1706) and never destroyed. It is said that when the Dervishes attempted to set fire there in 1881, they were attacked and expelled by bees.
The interior walls of the church are covered with paintings on cloth, on the beams of the ceiling, the winged heads of angels are painted. They are reminiscent of naive painting and have nothing to do with the church paintings here.

Because of its many medieval castles Gondar is called the Camelot of Africa. Gemp is the name of the palace district whose construction began under Emperor Fasilidas (1632-1667). Until 1755, each ruler erected a new palace here.

Decelerated life without hurry
Americans travel by car, the Chinese by mountain bike, the Africans go. The Ethiopians are mainly pedestrians. And that determines the pace of life in the country. If you meet at six, it can also be half-past six. Nobody is in a hurry. Not everything works immediately and perfectly, but you soon realize that this is not necessary.

Here the Europeans, stressed out by the fast-paced everyday life, learn to enjoy and slow down. How nice it is to sit in a restaurant on the side of the road and let the world go by – and countless great photo opportunities – while sipping delicious Ethiopian coffee.

Rich coffee tradition, poor population
Ethiopia is the country of origin of coffee and also the country in which the preparation of the coffee was developed. The Ethiopians are proud of that. Cooking and drinking coffee is a ceremony here. You do not buy roasted coffee, you still buy green raw coffee beans.

The are roasted on a hot sheet metal base and ground in a mortar to coffee powder. Water is heated in the charcoal oven in the Jebanna (coffee pot), the coffee powder added and brought to a boil. The finished coffee is strong but not bitter.

Ethiopia has many problems: around 49 percent of the population is malnourished, and not even every second citizen has access to clean drinking water. But getting in on the country will reward you with spectacular sights, breathtaking scenery, great hospitality – and a glimpse into the cradle of humanity.

Source: Kronen Zeitung