A Journey to Ethiopia/Tigrai after 14 years

It was my first time back in Ethiopia after leaving Ethiopia on 12 January 1994. It was a great opportunities to visit relatives, friends whom I haven’t seen for the last 14 years. Returning to Ethiopia for the first-time was a pretty special and unforgettable memory.

Addis Ababa:

I arrived in Addis Ababa airport at 7:45 PM on Sunday, December 2, 2007 after eighteen plus hour’s flight from Washington DC – Dulles Airport. The flight was very smooth but long. The food was great but entertainment not so great. Ethiopian airlines gives a personal screen per passenger where you can choose what to watch but you don’t find what they advertise on the screen. You end up watching the same movie again and again. The flight attendants were polite and helpful. Overall, the end of the flight was incredible. Though finally we arrived in Addis and the airport terminal was very impressive. Even though I saw the airport in the past (in pictures/video) it was unexpected for me. The terminal, design and the structure of the airport are beyond what I had expected before. It is a great piece of engineering work. On the contrary Alula Abanega Airport it didn’t surprise me at least to my expectation. I was expecting way better than what it is now (Read below my experience in Mekelle).


Riding to my family home I had an opportunity to glance Addis at night-time and I observed that the city I know 14 years ago is quickly moving toward a prosperous economy. For a second I ask my self if I am in Addis Ababa if not somewhere in New York City or Los Angeles. You wouldn’t believe you are in Addis when you see high rising building, world-class cafes, and restaurants. It is amusing to see the city is growing. Numerous cafes and restaurants have sprung up everywhere around Addis especially in Bole and surrounding area. Addis is booming toward one of the most expensive city to live in.

For about ten days I stayed in Addis and most of the days I spent walking, and riding around the city. The city I know is amusingly changing. The city live was amusing to watch especially at night. The crowd of people and the hectic environment gives a pleasant scene to watch besides the city is too hectic and very crowded – too much cars and people. The cars, and people are competing each other to have open spaces. Every café, restaurant, nightclubs were packed with people most of the time and the service were some how great. But the price is too expensive to the people who live there. Every café around Bole area are amusing. Over all, Addis is a city of surprises. It is just a good place to be. One main issue, which I don’t like from Addis Ababa is being highly polluted. The air is too thick and dry. As a result of many cars in the city resulted a big damage to the environment as well as to the climate. I would like to advice here to the residence of the city, governments, and businesses that to look over these concerns and find a solution before it is too late.

Tigrai – Mekelle

After spending about 10 days in Addis Ababa, I flew to Northern part of Ethiopia – Mekelle. My flight to Mekelle was short and it took us about 45 minutes. Approaching Mekelle City from the sky is a wonderful scene to watch. The landscape around Mekelle and the city by itself a very attractive scene. My instance glance from the sky it is really Mekelle is growing. I took out my camera and able to get some picture (see picture below).

About 8:00 AM we landed at Alula Abanega airport. The runway looks great but the airport terminal was small for an international standard airport. I wasn’t really impressed by the air port terminal. There is no facility at all. I think it got a huge publicity beyond its current status. When I first seen it in a picture it looked great with its exterior and interior shape but when you see it physically you will get pissed off.

Anyway, finally I got off the plane, checked out my baggage and headed toward the exit and I met my best friend. He escorted me with his lovely sport car toward Mekelle city. In our way to Mekelle and passing through Endayessus and Mekelle University I got the feeling of not believing that I am in Mekelle. I really enjoyed the view of Mekelle from Endayessus while heading to the city. I asked lots of question about Mekelle and one of the questions was which one is the best hotel that is clean and have hot shower? Surprisingly my friend listed few of them like Atse Yohannes, Milano (formerly Hawzen), Axum and TopHill (formerly Bubu Hill). My choice was Atse Yohannes which was the right choice. It was clean and comfortable room. It is also at the center of the city and has a nice view to some of the most beautiful scenery (like Mekelle Museum) you could ask for. Of course it is close to everywhere too.

After checking into Atseyohannes Hotel I couldn’t wait to see Mekellena and we begun our day with breakfast at one of the local popular café (I forgot the name). The breakfast was great and as expected we ate one of the most popular foods in Mekelle – fa’ta. I spend much of the day touring around Mekelle. In the sector of private construction, and public education Mekelle is heading in the right direction. Across to my hotel you get into Atse Yohannes Museum, to the south you find Mekelle University campus; Endayesus Campus at the center of the hill toward Endayesus.

In the southeast direction of Mekelle there are magnificent residential architectures everywhere. This new area of Mekelle city (Adi Haki-Adi Hous’e) is one of the most developed residential area and by far one of the most eye catching buildings as you head farther to left/right direction. It is one of the perfect spot in Mekelle city. Furthermore, the structure of Adi Haki campas and the Martyrs Monument adds up another beauty to Mekelle City.

Atse Yohannes Museum

We toured Atse Yohannes Museum. Our guide led us inside the Museum and surrounding structures and gave us a very interesting history lesson. He explained the legacy of Emperor Yohannes, the lifestyle of the royalty and other historical facts about the Emperor lifetime. It is an interesting Museum and worth to visit.

Martyrs Monument

On the same day we visited Martyrs Monument. The structure of the building was really built well and it has a great location. I really loved the structure of the buildings. This is another location a must and worth to visit.

Apart and within 80 kilometers of Mekelle there are lots of historical places that are worth visiting. From my base in Mekelle, I had a chance to visit Adigrat, Wukro and Tekeze project. Visiting Adigrat for about one hour was my first trip in life time. Since I don’t know Adigrat before it would be hard for me to recapture the growth of city. I don’t have anything to compare with but as far as I heard and from the residence information the city growth is somehow stopped since the Ethio-Eritrea war. On the contrary Wukro is developing well at least it holds a sign of development. You can see that the city is getting bigger. Wukro is suitable for agriculture as a result there are lots of research projects going on in the city and surrounding area – Atsebi, Womberta and Geraelta. Another aspect is tourism attraction. It is getting a great deal of attention. Over 100 rock hewn churches can be found in Wukro and surroundings. I heard also very recently that a group of students found a grave (believed to be Yodit) and other artifacts close to Wukro. Any tourist has an easily access to visit these historical areas.

Another exiting and wonderful experience is visiting Tekeze Hydro Electric project.

Tekeze Hydro Eletric Power

I got my fist glimpse of the countryside of Tigrai toward Temben Abiyi Adi. The six hours trip back and forth to Tekeze was beautiful. The drive which offered spectacular views of the Geraalta mountainous was extremely hard-going. None of the roads were paved and it is difficult to drive through. The highlights were however worth the trip. This includes visiting Alula Abanega birth place and the gorgeous mountainous skeleton of Tigrai landscape. I couldn’t take my eyes off the beauty that nature had blessed the mountain of Tigrai. One of the highlights was the mountains of Tigrai and they are spectacular scenery in their own right. It is truly inspiring.

Tekeze Hydro Electric Power

After about three hours drive we got in Tekeze project. I don’t have words to explain about Tekeze project, it is just incredible to imagine that how they built the structure in a very difficult mountainous area. It was one of the top attractions of my travel. Seeing such kind of engineering work is literally breathtaking.

Facts about the project

  • Generate 300MW of electric power
  • The dam will begin generating electricity – at least from one of the four turbines at the end of 2008 – 180m high dam
  • The powerhouse found deep in the belly of the maintain chains

Back to Mekelle we finally arrived at our hotel at about 7:00pm after a long day.

Conclusion

As a media person, I have been watching closely the progress of Ethiopia for the last 14 years but this first trip was a surprising trip and helped me to see the reality of Ethiopia more clearly and closely than before.

I learnt a lot about my own country. I would like to make a call to all Ethiopians to visit their country and see what is going on there. There is a lot to say about Ethiopia. I think this trip was an amazing experience and worth remembering. I am hoping this story would give some exposure about Ethiopia/Tigrai. Over all, it is a must do trip, no matter from which angle you look at it. One amazing feeling I earned from this trip is the incredible feeling of simplicity of living. There is no limit or boundary to be happy when you are in Ethiopia. It is a true happiness.

Alem T. Areki (February, 2008)

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