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Wednesday
Jul012009

Touring with Red Jackal

While in Ethiopia, you'll benefit from the services of experienced tour guides.  We certainly did.  Two days with staff from Red Jackal Tours proved worth a week's immersion in Ethiopia's sites, sounds, beliefs and practices.

On the first day, Red Jackal staff made sure we understood all points of Addis Ababa, the country's capital city.   You can't understand Ethiopia if you don't understand the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, so our first visit was to Trinity Church -- the final resting place of Emperor Haile Selassie and a memorial to the company's historical struggles to remain independent.  Next was a tour of the city's two major museums -- the Ethnographic and the National.  One gives you a sense of the country's long history and diversity while the later shows important exhibits such as Lucy, the oldest and most complete example of pre-human remains ever discovered.

We then went to the Merkato, the world's largest open-air trading market.  Merkato is a maelstrom of buying and selling activity that could overwhelm any consumer.  Think analog eBay!  Our drive by visit brought us a selection of local spices and resident prices.

We capped the day with an early dinner at Finfine Restaurant, a wonderful example of traditional Ethiopian dining culture.  A typical platter or injera and stews, eaten with hands, filled our bellies and got us drowsy enough for an early night's sleep.

The second day gave us exposure to the rural countryside.  Less than an hour south of Addis Ababa lies the "crater lake" region.  As it sounds, seven lakes formed by the country's ancient volcanic activity sit nestled in the foothills of this rural area.  We drove directly to the shores of four of these lakes, viewed, hiked and exchanged stories with local residents.  During this trip, we experienced a taste of the country's natural beauty.  Beyond landscapes, we saw many of the country's avian citizens.  Ethiopia has several bird species unique within its borders, from the smallest of humming birds to large, horn-billed creatures.

If you are interested in touring Ethiopia, start by checking out the offerings of Red Jackal Tours.

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