GVET 005 Debre Berhan and Ankober - 1 day (or 2 days with overnight at Ankober)

We set off at 7.00 am, heading north on the Asmara Road.  Our first stop will be Debre Berhan, some 130 km from Addis Ababa.  The great Emperor Zera Yaqob (1434 - 1468) made his imperial capital here, after seeing a “heavenly light” (almost certainly Haley’s comet), which he took as a divine sign.  Later rulers abandoned the town but once again it became an important centre under the Shoan kings, notably King Sahle Selassie (1813 - 1847).  However, it was largely destroyed in 1855, when Emperor Tewodros advanced into Shoa.  Emperor Menelik made it his capital for a period, and visitors should see the church of Selassie which he restored in 1906.
In the town itself, visitors might like to buy the woolen hats worn by shepherd boys, and carpets with the designs characteristic of the area.

We now take the road east to another former imperial capital - Ankober, a little over 40 km from Debre Berhan. Founded by King Amaha Iyesus, Ankober commanded the very important trade route between the eastern lowlands and the Showan plateau.  Abandoned by Menelik II in favour of Entoto (and later Addis Ababa), the old palace ruins can still be seen, and two of the original five churches (Mariam and Medhane Alem) are still used as places of worship.

From the town of Anokober, there are marvellous views over the escarpment, and for ornithologists there is the chance of seeing the very rare Ankober Serin, and other species such as Smith’s Francolin, Yellow Throated Serin, White billed Starling, Black-winged Love Bird, Lammergeyer, Mountain Buzzard, Peregrine, Red-breasted Sparrow Hawk, Alpine Swift, Crag Martin and Blue Rock Thrush.  Wildlife recorded in the area includes: Leopard (rarely seen), Colobus and Vervet Monkeys, Gelada Baboon, Menelik’s Bushbuck, Klipsringer and Rock Hyrax, which despite its small size is a distant relative of the elephant.

One could return from Ankober back to Addis Ababa but there is now a new lodge built at Ankober in a traditional style.  Using this lodge as a base, there are some great walks and hikes – one could easily spend a couple of days here, enjoying the air (it is 2870 metres asl) the great views and tranquility.

GVET 004 Senbete (Sunday) Market - 1 to 2 days

This trip can only be done on a Sunday, the day the market takes place.

Pick up from the hotel is earlier than usual at 6.30 am, since it is about 275 km to Senbete or about 5 hours’ drive up the main road north, or the Asmara road. There is spectacular mountain scenery en route.  We should aim to get to the market before it gets hot, and before the other shoppers imbibe too much local beer, honey wine and home distilled spirits!  Markets in Ethiopia are not only about buying and selling, but are major social occasions, where people meet and exchange information.  Once the business is done, the socializing begins.

Senbete market is a place where the highlands and lowlands meet, and brings together different ethnic groups: the Afar (with their camels and distinctive knives), the Oromo, the Amhara, Gurage and Argoba. 

(The latter claim descent from the Muslims who fled persecution in Saudi Arabia before the triumph of Islam.)   Visitors can buy different kinds of crafts, jewelry, baskets and woven materials.

We can either take a picnic lunch, or stop at a local restaurant.  We should set off back to Addis Ababa after lunch, arriving early evening.  This trip is a bit long for one day, and can easily be extended to 2 days with an overnight at Ankober Lodge, situated at the old imperial capital, on the escarpment overlooking the Afar lowlands. See EQST 005 for more details.

GVET 002 Full day Addis Ababa City tour

We start at 8.30 with a pick up from your hotel and drive north up to Mount Entoto.  In 1881 Emperor Menelik II made his permanent camp there, after remains of an old town (believed to have been the capital of 16th century monarch Lebna Dengel) were discovered, which Menelik thought was a divine and auspicious sign.
Addis Ababa at between 2300 - 2500 meters is the third highest capital in the world and Entoto is a few hundred meters higher - as we drive up the hill there is an appreciable drop in altitude and the air is filled with the scent of the Eucalyptus trees which line the road.

From the top, there is a panoramic view of the capital and surrounding countryside.  Entoto is an important watershed, to the north water flows to the Blue Nile, to the south to the Awash River.   Your guide will point out the important landmarks of the city.

Entoto was soon abandoned as a site for the capital - it was cold, difficult to provision and there was a shortage of wood.  Empress Taytu was said to have led the move down to the plain of Finfine, and to have named the new capital Addis Ababa, or New Flower.  However, two important structures remain within the old imperial compound, the churches of Mariam and the Archangel Raguel.  It was in the church of Mariam that Menelik was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia in 1889, and in the small museum in the compound there are various clothes, court and household implements and weapons dating from the period.  The church of Raguel is unusual in that it is octagonal, rather than round.  There is a first story balustrade around which Menelik liked to stroll.


Leaving the churches we descend to Addis Ababa, stopping off at the National Archaeological Museum.  Here visitors can see exhibits ranging from the 3.5 million year old bones of Lucy, through the Axumite and Gondarene periods to the monarchs Tewodros and Menelik.

We will take a break here for lunch - there are a number of possibilities, we could take lunch in the Lucy Restaurant, in the grounds of the National Museum, at Blue Tops across from the National Museum, or visitors may prefer to sample Ethiopian food at the atmospheric Addis Ababa restaurant, once the home of Empress Zauditu.
After lunch we resume our tour with a visit to the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, where we can see clothing from different regions, along with artifacts, household utensils and in a separate section, paintings reflecting the history and culture of the country.

This building was once the Genete Palace of Emperor Haile Selassie, and visitors can see his bedroom and bathroom.

There is an interesting display in Giorghis Church, and after seeing that we will visit  Menelik’s mausoleum, where Etege Taitu and Queen Zauditu are also buried.
We then move to the Mercato, the largest market area in Africa, where virtually every possible commodity is on sale, from livestock to computers.  For the visitor good at bargaining, there is a huge selection of Ethiopian arts and crafts.

We now return to our hotel.  Tonight we will take our dinner in a national food restaurant, and see dancing from Ethiopia’s different regions.

GVET 003 Debre Libanos and the Jemma River Gorge - 1 or 2 days

Pick up from the hotel is at 8.00 am and we then head north on the Gojjam road to Debre Libanos, about 110 km from Addis Ababa or approximately two hours’ drive.
Debre Libanos is an important monastic center for Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, the monastery there was founded by the renowned 13th century mystic, Saint Teclehaimanot and there is a small cave near the church (which is of recent construction) where he is said to have stood for seven years on one leg, until the other wasted away and dropped off.

On this tour visitors can combine history and culture with some good bird watching, as we pass through the Sululta Plain we can see Black-winged plovers, Wattled Ibis, Blue-winged geese, Common Cranes and Wheat ears.

On arrival at Debre Libanos, we will first stop at the Jemma River gorge.  The Jemma River is one of the tributaries of the Nile, and there is a drop of nearly 1000 metres to the valley below.  Here at the gorge (and in the forest around the church) we can expect to see the Banded Barbet, the Black-headed Forest Oriole, the White-billed Starling, the Red-billed Starling, the White-winged Cliff Chat, the White-backed Black Tit, the White-cheeked Turaco and Hemprich’s Hornbill.  We will also see one of Ethiopia’s endemic mammals, the Gelada or bleeding heart baboon.   (In the gorge we will see a variety of vultures - Lamergeyer’s, Ruppell’s and Lappet faced vultures.)

Leaving the Gorge we proceed to the church.

After the church visitors can make the climb to the cave of St Tehaimanot.  Near the cave monks may show visitors the remains of some 300 monks, slaughtered in 1936 by the Italian invaders.  Mussolini and the fascist authorities saw the Ethiopian Orthodox Church as one of the key elements of an independent Ethiopian identity, and thought that by carrying out the massacre they would cow the Church and by extension the Ethiopian people into submission.  Rather, this atrocity fed the flames of resistance.

If you continue up the hill from the cave from the top there’s a great view of the surrounding countryside.
At some stage we will take a picnic lunch, either at the Gorge or in the forest near the church.  We will leave Debre Libanos around 4.30 PM, returning to Addis Ababa early evening.

With the opening of the Ethio – German Lodge (the owner is an Ethiopian who had been resident in Germany), it is possible to spend the night in a great location, overlooking the Jemma Valley Gorge.  The scenery is stunning, and it is very peaceful.  As yet, the catering facilities there are not fully operational.

GVET 001 Addis Ababa City tour - half day

We start at 1.30 PM with a pick up from your hotel and drive north up to Mount Entoto.  In 1881 Emperor Menelik II made his permanent camp there, after remains of an old town (believed to have been the capital of 16th century monarch Lebna Dengel) were discovered, which Menelik took as a divine and auspicious sign.
Addis Ababa at between 2300 - 2500 meters is the third highest capital in the world and Entoto is a few hundred meters higher - as we drive up the hill there is an appreciable drop in temperature and the air is filled with the scent of the Eucalyptus trees which line the road.

From the top, there is a panoramic view of the capital and surrounding countryside. Entoto is an important watershed, to the north water flows to the Blue Nile, to the south to the Awash River.   Your guide will point out the important landmarks of the city.

Entoto was soon abandoned as a site for the capital - it was cold, difficult to provision and there was a shortage of wood.  Empress Taytu was said to have led the move down to the plain of Finfine, and to have named the new capital Addis Ababa, or New Flower.  However, two important structures remain within the old imperial compound on Entoto, the churches of Mariam and the Archangel Raguel.  It was in the church of Mariam that Menelik was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia in 1889, and in the small museum in the compound there are various clothes, court and household implements and weapons dating from the period.  The church of Raguel is unusual in that it is octagonal, rather than round.  There is a first story balustrade around which Menelik liked to stroll.

Leaving the churches we descend to Addis Ababa, stopping off at the National Archaeological Museum.  Here visitors can see exhibits ranging from the 3.5 million-year-old bones of Lucy, through the Axumite and Gondarene periods to the monarchs Tewodros and Menelik.
This completes the half day tour and visitors will be taken back to their hotels.

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