Journey to Ethiopia
The many Africans who are scattered throughout the Diaspora would love to travel to Africa. However, the cost of travel is often a barrier. So when I learned that Black Food Bookstore & Culture Shop customer Duranda K. Minus would be traveling to Ethiopia I asked her whether she would be willing to share her experience with the Black Food Bookstore & Culture Shop family; some of whom have a deep appreciation for the continent but have yet to make it home. Duranda welcomed our request and graciously shared the ins and outs of her first trip to our Africa (Ethiopia). Below you will find our conversation with Duranda along with pictures of her trip.
BFS: What does Africa mean to you? DKM: Home – I’ve always wanted to visit. From a child, I’ve always heard about the continent of Africa - watching about it on TV, reading about it and learning about it in school. The only Africans I had actually met at that time were my some of my high school teachers. When I attended university in England, I met students from all over Africa. In fact, one of my best friends from university, to this day, is South Sudanese. While at University, I joined the Afro-Caribbean Society and the East African Society and quickly made friends with students from other countries in Africa - Rwanda, Morocco, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Algeria, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Cameroon, Nigeria, Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda, Angola, Ghana and South Sudan. Having joined these societies and interacted with the people, experienced the various cultures and foods, I became even more intrigued. For the first time, I tried African dishes such as Jollof rice, Fufu, East African stew. BFS: Why did you decide to travel to Africa? DKM: Overall, Africa has a rich history. I thought it was important as a young black person to go back from whence we came, to our Roots. What better way to celebrate my 30th birthday, than a trip to the Motherland! I wanted a memorable, unique and different experience, having traveled in the past to parts of Europe, USA, Canada and the Caribbean. I wanted to get a full appreciation of our ancestors, their lifestyle, experience and their journey, and to touch the soil of the country that was never colonized - Ethiopia.
BFS: Was this your first trip to Africa?
DKM: Yes, this was my first trip to Africa and the first country I visited.
BFS: What did you do while there? DKM: I ate the national dish which is called “Injera” and had some of their “fasting foods” such as a veggi sub. I visited and had lunch at the African Union with friends. I also visited the Addis Ababa University, which was formerly known as the Haile Selassie I University. I was able to learn much more about Ethiopian history and culture and get an inside look on how Emperor Haile Selassie lived while he resided there.
I also visited the Tiya UNESCO World Heritage Centre which is an archaeological site where there are intricately carved stone monuments of symbols of ancient Ethiopian culture.
I also drove down South and journeyed through various cities en route to the “famous” city of Shashemene, also known as the Rastafari Capital. While there, I also visited the Twelve Tribes of Israel Headquarters, the Nyabinghi Temple, the Banana Art Gallery/International Banana Museum, which contains banana leaf art, the museum of Haile Selassie medals and other memorabilia. I also visited one of the monolithic churches (a rock hewn, underground church that is hewn into the ground).
I also experienced the nightlife, which was amazing.
I also witnessed the Timkat "Baptism", the Orthodox Tewahedo celebration of Epiphany, which was celebrated on January 19th , commemorating the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River.
I also visited a restaurant called Habesha 2000, where I experienced a cultural show with singing, dancing, and enjoyed native food and drinks. I also went on a horse cart ride with local men going to work – that was fun. I also went to a day party in the Mountains to watch the sunset and see the beautiful view of the city.
BFS: What was your most memorable experience?
DKM: My most memorable moment was experiencing the monolithic underground church. It was definitely a sight to see. It was also spiritual, as I had to cover myself with a scarf and remove my shoes before I entered the temple. Visiting the Lion of Judah statue was also very symbolic as it reminded me of strength.
BFS: What was your impression of Ethiopia? DKM: My impression of Ethiopia was a feeling of wow. It felt surreal being there. Just as each country has a native language, Ethiopia’s language is Amharic. The capital Addis is very developed and has many sky scrapers. Besides eating native food, there is a plethora of restaurant options to get a taste of Western food (i.e. burgers, pancakes, etc.) Overall, like The Bahamas and other Caribbean countries, it has its good parts and its not so good parts in terms of modern development and infrastructure. There are still some parts outside the capital where tribal communities reside, where many persons travel to work by horse and donkey carts and, also use those animals for transport. However, poverty does exist in this country and children help their parents with farming, cattle and other menial jobs.
BFS: What airline did you travel on and where did you stay in Ethiopia? DKM: I flew on Ethiopian Airlines. At the time of booking the airline, I did not know that it is rated the best African airline. I wanted to fly with them because they were the host country and I wanted to experience a little of the culture before I landed in Ethiopia. I flew direct on British Airways to London, stayed in London for a day and 1/2 and then traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The flight was about eight hours hours to Addis.
The hotel I stayed at is the Sidama Lodge Apartment Hotel. The staff was friendly and it was located in the city center.
BFS: Did you plan the trip yourself? DKM: I only planned my flight itinerary, but my friend who works in Ethiopia planned our tours. I just told her what I wanted to do and see. We planned the trip for about three months.
BFS: Would you visit Africa again?
DKM: Yes, I would visit Africa again. I plan to travel to Ghana December 2019 for the “The Year of the Return, Ghana 2019” celebration. It is a major landmark marketing campaign targeting the African-American and Diaspora market to unite Africans on the continent with their brothers and sisters in the Diaspora.
BFS: Do you have any advice for Bahamians traveling to Africa?
DKM: Research the country you are visiting and plan accordingly. I would say make sure purchase a lock for your suitcase that is TSA approved. Be open minded. It would be helpful if you knew a local in the county you are visiting, if not book a tour guide and a driver. Take safe cabs. Try to blend in. Be vigilant and aware at all times. When converting U.S. currency to local currency, keep the receipt so that you are able to convert the funds back if necessary.
DKM: Fun Fact: According to the Ethiopian Calendar, it is year 2011. The country is eight years behind the "regular world”, which uses the Gregorian calendar (an internationally accepted civil calendar), (due to a leap year) “and owing to alternate calculations in determining the date of the annunciation of the birth of Jesus Christ. The Ethiopian calendar has 13 months in a year, 12 of which have 30 days.