This morning we loaded our suitcases onto the bus while it was still dark- we headed out of town a bit behind schedule but still beat the rush hour traffic. Before we knew it our bus was taking us through an incredibly scenic drive in the Blue Nile Gorge. For more than a million years the Blue Nile has been carving a huge gash through the Ethiopian Highlands.
At more than 1,000m deep, about 20km wide and over 600km long, this is Africa’s Grand Canyon. From all over the highlands, huge rivers pour into the Blue Nile Gorge. By the time it leaves Ethiopia, it will be 50 times the size it was in the dry season. The fields around us are the proverbial green patchwork of Ethiopia’s popular cereal crop tef, yellow ground nut flowers and ploughed fields. In spite of the long drive we are captivated by the scenes outside our windows and the never-ending line of people walking to schools, markets or the fields.
It’s becoming a bit cliché for us, but it seems like every day here is uniquely incredible. We use the word often. This particular incredible day began with a visit to a nearby reading room. As is becoming the norm we were greeted by a group of enthusiastic children wearing mismatched clothes and the biggest grins you’ve ever seen. On our way back to town we were invited to join in on a women's millennium celebration. Several hundred women were in attendance - most draped in white cotton dresses and shawls.
We arrived in time for the coffee ceremony (our third one!) and enjoyed rich dark coffee heavily laced with cinnamon and accompanied by fresh bread and popcorn. We were entertained by beautiful dances. The women in our group jumped on stage and together we took a shot at gyrating our shoulders.
Ethiopian dance is hard to explain in words, it involves rotating and bouncing various shoulder and neck muscles in a rhythmic way we couldn’t possibly mimic correctly. This type of dancing has been around for centuries and is as prominent in popular urban clubs as it is in cultural dance shows. I don’t think we looked quite as elegant as our Ethiopian counterparts, but the audience cheered us on with great whoops and applause.
The energy and drive of these women conjured that old adage “educate a woman, educate a nation.” I was inspired to share this thought and gave a small speech as a thank you. The response goes down as another incredible moment in an incredible day. After the celebration we shared a delicious meal of tebs and njera (traditional pancake and meat stew) and met with local children’s authors. We finished it all off with a relaxing cruise on Lake Tana’s calm blue water.
Tomorrow we pile back into our bus for a full-day drive to Lalibella. Pictures coming soon.