by Dr. Tariku Teshale


Ethiopian rural site

As an early bird I watched darkness recoil in slow motion while the new-born morning approached shivering out of the cold night. At this altitude mornings are harsh and merciless. The ghabi we picked at Dessie was my salvation. The rising sun was chasing the stars that had now retired leaving a dusty, emptiness behind them. I wonder- where do stars hide and where does the moon abide with its fleet?

This Friday morning started with tea, buckets of tea, and the kitchen people couldn’t keep up! To the dismay of a coffee-Ethiopica addict, me, they said it was too early to serve this beverage and soon everyone was jumping into the cars while I was still figuring out ways of opening my eyes without my drug.

A new day dawned exposing the breathtaking scenery of the landscape. The cliffs and the green plateaus lay before and behind, sometimes above and sometimes below us on the serpentine road, unfolding 360° of bucolic pulchritude!

And at last we were there, at Selamge, the elementary school we were building, which we intended to visit! Impatient to touch ground and get more than a fleeting glance of the landscape we drove through, we drove up to the hill, kissed the Selassie church door in a hurry, said a brief hi! to God, crossing my heart, and then hurried out to look down at the school, zigzagging through an enclave of eucalyptus trees!

A beautiful school revealed itself spreading its wings across the field, right under the foot of the hill. And guys, do you know you have a country, a divine sample of how it might look like in paradise? Ethiopia the country is not poor, although we, the people might be!

Then the little ones, our small school kids came running towards us, in their green & yellow uniforms, some falling in their anxiety, brandishing wodqa yetenesachiwun bandira. Their size and color made a perfect complement to the size and color of the fresh and sprouting plantation of lentils demarcated with wild yellow flowers they were running through.

And so, when I saw the kids running in their uniforms, I said to myself: Now the future was here; what a wonderful world!

A very nice carpentry and masonry indeed, it stood proudly neighboring the Meqdela plateau, facing cannon Sebastopol and declining comfortably on the trees that embraced the church behind. At the foreground, the sky rested on a long chain of mountains that made almost a straight line across the horizon. The green, yellow and red fields, the shifting shades of these colors in the sun, the vastness of the landscape – no words, just mesmerizing!

We walked down the field to catch a glimpse of King Tewodros of Meqdela. He was absent. But we saw the cannon his people had left behind. An old man showed us where Gebrye fell and where a thousand other people possibly fell transporting Sebastopol, he commented.

Standing there, in my mind, I could also see the English officers dressed in their clownish misfit outfits, with their Indian soldiers called the Bombay Africans running barefoot behind them, alongside the poor elephants! I could be wrong; it is just a picture I have in my mind. One thing is certain though, all this had forced our brave king to express himself as brutally as he usually did; only this time, definitively, irreversibly!


Ethiopian village Ankober

We waved bye-bye to the Meqdela tableland and the children…. heavy-heartedly. The way back took us to the cold town of Debre Brhan! From the last time I saw it, I have no other memory left other than people wrapped in thick Ghabis, standing by the side of the only highway that took you away from this gelid nowhere! Now, I see that it is a town with colorful hotels and similar edifices! But the people are still standing by the side of the now asphalted road, still wearing their authentic Ghabis!

We got there late in the evening, delayed because a certain amateur photographer dropped one of his cameras in the wilderness and yet insisted on taking a zillion pictures that cost us our dinner! Nobody served dinner that late! Dire straits! No coffee the other day for it was too early; no dinner tonight because it was too late!

The road to Ankober was different from that of the road to Meqdela. Unmistakably different! The big blocks of gray stones sticking up on the gravel road looked like jaws of a crocodile – and I tell you, some guys are scared to death of crocs!! Still, sitting behind the 4wheel drive, all doors closed and a high gear in place, we all felt secure as the Toyota danced its iskista, bumping, jumping and shivering like a virile Efratyan at a local wedding feast!!

From Meqdela, we crossed river Beshlo via Ethiopia´s longest bridge, I understand. Then we saw the majestic mountains of Ambassel, waved hello to Gishen Mariam on the left and couldn’t take off our eyes from the crystal clear water of the river Teleyayen!

Ankober itself was different too. As the road meandered toward the school site, we were filled with a kind of psychedelic nostalgia of a place we have never seen before and yet a place that seemed so very familiar – a kind of déjà vu experience.

The fog traveling over the mountain, just a stone throw away from the little school that seemed to cover the whole of the immense plateau, sucked your soul into it-you glided on the mountain with it… The valley way, way below, maybe a thousand meters down, the colors of the farm plots, the tiny church in the middle, Gedamoch Mikael, pulled the upper half of your body down, down, complying with gravity!

Way back, at a distance, at the skyline, one could see a small building standing alone, proudly sticking up on the top of this highland, caressed by the thin mist sweeping it as it passed by. It was the school toilet; the most beautiful school toilet in the world!

That architect´s lateral thinking made my day! After visiting this simple and neat school building, we set off to see Negus Menelik’s palace – but came just short of actually getting there because our guide was obsessed in getting back to civilization before noon!

Anyway, it was an interesting drive, passing through the market crowd on the road; the car literally pushed aside the people and their means of transport, i.e. their indefatigable donkeys. Creeping through the market crowd we stopped at a suitable spot to see the adorable palace at a few kilometers distance. We entered Addis as the setting sun entered its stealthy abode. The condos of Addis with their red capes welcomed us back, although unreciprocated!

This journey was a journey in celestial dreams, a dream journey and a journey through dreams into real Primary Schools, for real children, in real, rural Ethiopia.

Eskinder Hailu - Manager, Highway Tours

Eskinder Hailu
Turning Your Dream Vacation Into a Reality


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