Life with 4 kids 6 and under. Our trip to pick up Tonito in China is: mid-March 2008 through April 12. Our trips to pick up Ricky in Ethiopia are in June and August of 2010.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Discovering ET history in Addis

Addis Abeba.. pronounced "Ah-dis Ah-baba," which means "new flower," had an interesting start. According to our guide, Emperor Menelik II (side note- Menelik I is believed in ET to be the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba) was building a military capital on a different site near the current location of Addis Ababa. His wife, Empress Taytu, would go to the natural hot springs to relax with her friends. In the 1880's Menelik II was running out of firewood and water, and so began to build in the valley where his wife had been vacationing. This settlement too was in danger of losing the forests of firewood- until someone suggested that the emperor plant some fast-growing eucalyptus trees (that you can still see planted around the city and in wood for sale). Menelik II was emperor from 1889 until 1913, and during this time Addis grew by leaps and bounds. After Menelik II passed away, his grandson Iyasu become unofficial emperor until he was removed and replaced with Menelik II's daughter Zewditu. She was empress for 14 years, until Haile Selassie came into power in 1930. On the campus of the Addis Abeba University, we visited the Ethnological Museum housed in the old palace of Selassie. The grounds are beautiful, lush, green gardens with meandering stone paths leading to bubbling fountains.

The last picture above right is a monument the Italians built, with each step representing one year Mussolini's regime was in power. Ethiopia prevailed, and the Lion of Judah atop the stairs shows their victory over the facists. The campus was bustling with students and adults, and we saw what seemed like some graduates celebrating.

In the foyer, was an exhibit about the history of the palace, and how Selassie came to power. The hallways on the first floor led to large meeting rooms and offices, and were decorated with beautiful Ethiopian art detailing "country life" (as one title proclaimed). Click on the pictures and you can make them bigger, to see the details better. The paintings themselves were about 4 feet high and maybe 8 feet long.

Here is Queen of Sheba and King Solomon:

Upstairs we found the Ethnological Museum. First there was an exhibit about different Ethiopian artifacts, jewelry, baskets, and other pieces... except instead of the objects, many times there were enlarged photographs of the objects, with notes that the originals were somewhere else like the British Museum after being taken by British soldiers (for example). It was a sad illustration of cultural treasures having been wrongfully removed from their origin by Westerners. A museum worker told me that years ago there was some sort of agreement that the goods would be returned, but that so far the museum only got pictures. After this exhibit, the upstairs was organized into 3 sections: 1) Childhood, with games and children's tales; 2) Adulthood was the largest section, and talked about traditional medicine, had tools, handicrafts, and discussed the different tribes and their customs; 3) Death and Beyond was a smaller section and showed different grave markers from the obelisks at Axum to the Konso totems. We left the 2nd floor and went upstairs to see a beautiful exhibit on religious art. We learned that the paintings were influenced by cities such as Jerusalem, Cairo, and Venice. There was even a Venetian painter, named Nicolo Brancaleon who lived in Ethiopia for over 40 years, whose paintings of the Virgin Mary and St. George were very influential. We saw a lot of different crosses- stamped on coins from the 4th Century Axum Kingdom, 12th C processional crosses where the large, shallow shaft would mount on the bottom to a wooden stick, hand crosses that priests would pass out to be kissed when met, and neck crosses that children and women Christians would use to protect themselves against evil. The silver crosses were made from leted Maria Teresa dollars: the cross was carved out of wax, then covered in clay, heated up and the wax drained out, and then filled with the molten metal. I wish I could have taken pictures!!

This is the 4.4 million–year–old skeleton of "Ardi, "a 125-piece hominid skeleton that is 1.2 million years older than the famous Lucy. (all of the bones displayed are replicas as the real fossils of Ardi and Lucy are being studied, and Lucy's remains are actually in the US right now). Ardi was a biped, walked upright but also could climb, and her teeth were very similar to modern human's teeth. So amazing! Next we saw what Ethiopian's were calling "the earliest child-" 3.3 million year old remains of a 3 year old biped they named "Selam."

The most hyped exhibit was of course the 3.2 million year old fossil of Lucy. It is no wonder the Ethiopian proudly proclaim their land as the birthplace of humanity!
I had to take a picture of this family tree- hehe, see the lemur on the right? (in case you don't know my family very well, my daughter Vivi is obsessed with lemurs)

Sites of significant fossil discovery:

The fossils and paleontology exhibits were all in the basement, and then on the second floor there was a great display of Ethiopian art. Traditionally, ET artists include a picture of themselves at the bottom of the painting, instead of their signature- can you see it below the Virgin and Child?
I believe this painting is of the Queen of Sheba and Solomon:

Virgin Mary and other religious scenes:

This shows the Ethiopian style of painting- large almond eyes, short black hair on a "moon" shaped head (as told to me).

The above detail came from this painting- again with the Virgin Mary and St. George- an oil mural on canvas that was 300 years old.

Here is a celebration dinner that our guide told us was Haile Selassie's banquet.

This is a large modern painting called "African Heritage" by Afewerk Tekle, a famous Ethiopian painter.

This painting was done in 1974 and was called "Victims of Famine," of the first famine in ET after the huge drought.
I believe that this painting was in honor of women who have suffered from genital mutilation:
I wrote down that this next painting was "Meysaw Kassa" by Eshetu Tiruneh, done in 1989, but I can't remember anything else!

Here are some other images from the National Museum. First a throne and some farming tools.
Lion of Judah, Imperial symbol of Ethiopian because of the lineage to the tribe of Judah (from Solomon and Sheba's union and first son Menelik I).

Our guide teaching us some geography. You get a "free" guide upon entering the museum, and we tipped him well for his excellent English services. To the right is a traditional Sidama girl.
The picture tot he left shows Hawlti, who was worhipped in Tiray in the 5th and 4th Century before Christianity came. To the right is a stellae (tombstone) from Axum.

When we left the National Museum, we headed toward St. George Cathedral and met a young man named Amslu on the street. He showed us around, helped us get a taxi, and asked that we pass around his name to other future tourists: Amslu 0911-658-365 or amslu200 (at) yahoo (dot) com.
At St. George Cathedral, I finally was able to ask a pressing question: why is St. George so popular in Ethiopia? I know he is famous in Eastern Europe, among Catholics and Orthodox Churches, but how did his legend come to Ethiopia? I had asked several people, and they proudly told me "He is the patron saint of Ethiopia." I know, but how did he come here? According to an older man we met outside thie cathedral (who spoke English really well!), during the battle of Adwa the soliders saw a white man on a white horse and knew immediately it was St. George. The Lonely Planet tells a different story: it says that St. George cathedral was "commissioned by Emperor Menelik to commemorate his stunning 1896 defeat of the Italians in Adwa, and dedicated to St. George (ET's patron saint), whose icon was carried into the battle." (btw they must mean Menelik II). DIfferent web sites concur, but say a relic of St. George was carried into battle, helping the Ethiopians beat a European power as the first African country to do so. Another web site says that "when King Lalibela had almost completed the group of churches which God had instructed him to build, Saint George appeared (in full armor and riding his white horse) and sharply reproached the king for not having constructed a house for him. Lalibela promised to build a church more beautiful than all the others for the saint. The church of Bet Giorgis is a nearly perfect cube, hewn in the shape of a cross." We'll never really know if, when or when St. George appeared, but visitors do understand quickly that St. George is a very important saint in Ethiopian cultural!

The octagonal cathedral was completed in 1911 and both Empress Zewditu and Haile Selassie were crowned there and we hear that the inside was beautiful (we did not get to see it because it was already closed!). Here are some scenes from the outside:

On our walk back to the taxi station:

Once back at the hotel we went across the street to try the pizza place. Even though the Italians never conquered Ethiopia, they did occupy ET for 6 years and shared some Italian cooking secrets- macchiatos and pizza might be my favorite remnants! When we walked to the internet cafe by the guesthouse, we chatted with some of the WACAP families that were there with their adorable kids-wow!!! Bellos!!!


Viv and Pete said...

Again...I just love reading your posts! Your trip looks amazing!!! We really enjoy reading your descriptions and seeing the beautiful pictures! The Ethiopian culture and history is incredible, thank you so much for sharing! It has helped me through days of waiting for our own trip! We wish you all the best!

Anonymous said...

You have perfectly portrayed various features in Addis and your comparing of Saint George consecration in Eastern Europe and in Ethiopia is pretty exciting. Wish you good times wherever you are!


Vive...rie...ama said...

Thanks John! :) I loved my time in Ethiopia and hope to make a trip back with my kids when they are a little older-- so they can appreciate all of the beauty and the culture as we did.