On the Road, Ethiopian Edition: Bahir Dar

After a few days in Addis Ababa, Juliet and I started our real Ethiopian adventure with a ten-hour bus ride to Bahir Dar. This is a rough breakdown of how we spent the time:

Lunch & bathroom breaks — 1 hour
Sleeping — 3 hours
Watching Ethiopian music videos — 30 minutes
Looking out the window, enjoying the view of the mountains and the Blue Nile — 1 hour
Trying to figure out the plot of an Ethiopian soap opera (“omg, she’s trying to poison him! … no, I think that’s just medicine … now she’s hugging him … wait, no, she’s trying to smother him with a pillow! … is that the same guy? … forget it, I’m going back to sleep.”) — 30 minutes
Looking out the window, becoming increasingly terrified as the bus took more and more hairpin turns down the the mountains — 1 hour
Watching The gods must be crazy II (must admit that we really enjoyed it) — 2 hours
Praying that the bus would not tip over and careen down a mountain — 1 hour

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We spent our evening in Bahir Dar enjoying the gorgeous hotel at which Juliet somehow managed to wrangle us a discount rate.

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Bahir Dar is famous for its lakefront monasteries, so the next day we took a boat ride across the lake to see some of them.

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Ethiopia is not particularly known for its wildlife, but we did spot a big flock of pelicans and one hippo from the boat.

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The monasteries were very old but well-maintained, and inside of the main prayer areas, there were beautiful floor-to-ceiling paintings of scenes from the Old and New Testaments, painted with natural inks.

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There were a lot of monks praying inside, which was really interesting to see. The monks wore long, flowy clothing and hats and were barefoot inside the churches, all of which reminded me of muslims, and the way that they prayed — with one monk reading (almost chanting) from a large bible at the front of the room, and others circled around him, focused on their own small bibles, reminded me of jews. Either way, it was definitely very different than the way that Christians pray in the U.S. Everything that I learned and saw of Ethiopian Orthodoxy throughout this trip felt that way — completely new and different, and yet somehow familiar at the same time.

The next morning, I watched the sun rise over the lake …

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… and then we hired a minivan to drive us to our next stop. Goodbye, Bahir Dar (as seen from minivan window)!

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4 thoughts on “On the Road, Ethiopian Edition: Bahir Dar

  1. The images on the walls of the church are really interesting to me as the vast majority of individuals both on earth and certainly in heaven as depicted as white?
    Just an observation… Thanks again for sharing… Very cool… Barrie, Simon and the Gang…

  2. Darn you auto correct! This is what I meant to send…
    The images on the walls of the church are really interesting to me as the vast majority of individuals both on earth and certainly in heaven are depicted as white?
    Just an observation… Thanks again for sharing… Very cool… Barrie, Simon and the Gang…

    • I agree, very interesting — we asked about that and our guide said that the oldest paintings depict everyone with Ethiopian coloring and features, but that starting in the 16th century, when Portuguese missionaries started coming to Ethiopia, more figures were painted as white. Now you usually see a mixture of the two styles.

      PS, there are entire websites devoted to complaining about auto-correct. It can be so good and yet so frustrating 🙂

  3. sounds so, so interesting – loved the views and the way you describe your experiences – the bus ride sounded very “hairy”….
    xxoo Mom

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