Ethiopia has always held me in thrall. It is a cradle of prehistoric humankind. It embraced Christianity long before the missionaries arrived. Its people carved subterranean churches out of solid rock and built mysterious towers of stone.
The country’s mythology included serving as keepers of the Ark of the Covenant (the legendary chest containing the Ten Commandments) and the biblical story of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. And in the modern era it was the only African nation to repel a European colonial invasion (by Italy in 1896).
I was born and raised in Africa but had never visited Ethiopia. The chance came last fall when my wife Eva and I were in Israel, a mere 4 1/2 hours by air from Addis Ababa. Ethiopian Airlines flew us, arranged all-inclusive tours, and for six days, by plane or car, we toured the north of the country from the source of the Blue Nile to the stone obelisks of the vanished empire of Axum.
After our first night in Addis Ababa, the huge and crowded capital, we flew to Bahir Dar, a pleasant town on the shore of Lake Tana, and were driven south to see the Blue Nile, a tributary of the Nile River. It had rained overnight, and the trip was a slow and slithery affair on an unpaved road. Then we hiked for about a mile through bright green fields, across a wobbly wooden footbridge, and through patches of shoe-swallowing mud. We encountered women herding cattle and a man working his small plot with a plow harnessed to a bull. […] CONTINUE READING