Updated: Jun 8, 2020
As an anthropology researcher, culture fascinates me and Ethiopia has one of the oldest cultures on earth.
Comfort zones are necessary in certain periods of our lives- consistently pushing your boundaries will wear you out and knowing our limits is important. But we shouldn’t let fear hold us back from attempting to change our routine. Fear has driven me in directions I never thought I would walk. You can’t sit and wait for things to happen. You have to actively work to receive the gifts and achieve the rewards you want from life. A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there. It is a wonderful place for healing and rest but it was time to get my feet moving again.
My first trip in over 18 months was to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Growing up in Kenya meant that I knew a little bit about Ethiopia. The most impressive thing about this country for me was that aside from Liberia, it was the only African country that resisted and defeated European colonisation under Emperor Halie Salassie - a powerful Pan-Africanist who is still venerated in the Rastafarian religion.
As an anthropology researcher, culture fascinates me and Ethiopia has one of the oldest cultures on earth. It is the site of the emergence of modern humans and our oldest ancestor 'Lucy' was discovered there. I spent a whole day museum hopping in Addis, from the Ethnological Museum of Addis Ababa to the National Museum of Ethiopia which hosts the remains of 'Lucy'. It was a wet and rainy April day so it was a good day to be inside. The National Museum of Ethiopia, happened to be hosting an Afro-futurist art display with local artists depicting blackness in all its glory, I realised in this moment that African art is so much more prolific than is depicted in the West. It got me thinking about the future of art in Africa and the huge milestones that artists are crossing to redefine blackness in a futurist perspective.
I also learnt that Ethiopia was a melting pot of culture and religion even before the advent of Christianity. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is the oldest pre-colonial Christian church in Africa. It was built to commemorate Ethiopia's liberation from Italian occupation and is one of the most important places of worship in Ethiopia. It’s also the final resting place of Emperor Haile Selassie. I happened upon a service on the way back to my hotel from a day trip to Entoto Mountain. I wasn't dressed appropriately for the service- women can’t expose their hair, shoulders or legs in places of worship- so I sat in the taxi and listened to the beautiful chants in Amharic as they were broadcast over the speaker to the congregation who gathered all the way out to the gates next to where we were parked.
Most people have heard about Emperor Hallie Selassie but not many people know about the reign of Menelik II who ruled the from 1844-1913. He founded the capital Addis Ababa and lived atop Entoto Mountain-- his house has been turned into a museum which you can visit. He was instrumental in modernisation which included implementing a national currency, constructing improved educational facilities and ministries, installing railways and establishing the first telephone and telegraph systems in Ethiopia.
Aside from the rich culture and history, Ethiopian food and coffee is simply amazing. I spent my last night in a local restaurant 'Habesha,' which hosts traditional music and dance while you share Injera around the table. Injera is the national dish of Ethiopia- a sour flat bread served with meat and vegetables. I highly recommended this cuisine to anyone who hasn't tried it. Ethiopia is also the origin of coffee and they have intrinsic coffee ceremonies which you can attend while there. Being mixed race and having grown up in two different cultures, I often feel like an outsider- but in Ethiopia, most people think I am Habesha, because incidentally, I happen to have the same physical appearance as Habesha's. Traditionally not somewhere most people, especially Kenyan's actually go on a short break, the culture, food and people of Ethiopia is so inviting and warm.
I couldn't imagine a better place to visit to step out of my comfort zone.