Friday, April 13, 2007
(March 17, 2007: Entoto Mountains, north of Addis Ababa.)
The Entoto Road leads north out of the centre of the city of Addis Ababa, past the American Embassy and the campus of the University of Addis Ababa, to the Entoto Mountains.
These days, since 9/11, much of the beautiful gardens on the grounds of the American Embassy are hidden behind large concrete barriers. The surface of the barriers facing the street have been painted over with colourful murals. It's a sad thing to me, since it seems in my foggy memory of childhood, I think I can remember walking in the gardens of the embassy grounds, something probably very unlikely to be permitted now.
The Entoto Mountains were the site of the Emperor Menelik's former capital. However his wife Empress Taitu, a woman of strong influence, was granted title to some land in the foothills known as Filwoha, or "boiling water", after the hot springs found there. She named the site "Addis Ababa", or "new flower". Soon a settlement grew around the site and as the royal court began to spend more and more time there, the capital was eventually moved to Addis Ababa.
Menelik II (1889-1913) of Shoa, predecessor of the well-known Haile Selassie, was the ruler who, through many conquests, enlarged the Empire to more or less the borders of Ethiopia as it is today.
Ethiopia, unique in Africa, consistently resisted the efforts of European countries to colonize it. While Italy proclaimed its first colony in Eritrea in 1890, claiming a protectorate over the whole of Ethiopia, the humiliating defeat of the Ethiopians at the battle of Adwa, 1896, resulted in fueling a proud Ethiopian resistance to all further foreign influence.
Despite further wars with Italy, and the loss of Eritrea to Italy, Menelik largely succeeded in unifying the country and in maintaining its independence. Under Menelik, some modernization also took place, the building of railways, roads, banks, hospitals and schools.
Below, panaromic views of the city of Addis Ababa from the summit of Entoto Mountains:
I noticed that reddish haze above the skyline throughout Ethiopia. It was suggested that it is a perpetual dust in the air that blows over the mountains into Ethiopia off the Sahara Desert in the west. I find that easy to believe, because on the way to Ethiopia, my plane made a brief stop in Khartoum in a dust-storm the size of which I could not quite believe!
Near the summit, is the Beta Maryam Church (in the photo below), it's octagonal shape typical of the many smaller round churches found all over the countryside in Ethiopia, often on the top of a mountain. (More on religion in Ethiopia later.)
As we enjoyed the panaromic views of Addis Ababa from the summit, the sound of the sing-song chanted prayers carried up the mountain. The afternoon services were being broadcast over loudspeakers.
During my whole trip, in part because it occurred during Lent, but also because religion is a large part of everyday life in Ethiopia (most Ethiopians are Orthodox Christians),we were to hear those chanted prayers again and again and again.