Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.
|Wednesday, November 20, 2013 20:33:55|
BLACK SEA, SUDANS, ETHIOPIA 2013: 14 Lalibela to Harar, Ethiopia
Sunday, November 17, 2013
This mornings fight stopped at Gondor before continuing to Addis Ababa for my connection to Dire Dawa. It is a sad day today for Ethiopian football fans, whose national team was beaten 2-0 by Nigeria last night - they would have gone on to Brazil had they won,
It was necessary to recheck my bag in Addis Ababa as there were no computers in the Lalibela airport. There was a long line for the final security check point so I settled at a table in a cafeteria in front of security to do some writing and drink beer until the line got down to 4 or 5 people. In the boarding area was a bride in a full formal wedding regalia, her husband in his best suit and 4 members of the wedding party. Apparently that is not abnormal, they would have been married with family in Addis Ababa and then fly to a reception with friends in Dire Dawa.
Dire Dawa was a total opposite from my expectations. We had been flying over desert, and I expected a dusty desert town, however it is a clean city of 375,000 with wide boulevards shaded by big trees. On the narrower streets the trees meet over the street and traffic circles at intersections have statues. The city was founded in 1902. It is a railway town, and the road transport centre between Addis Ababa and the main port for Ethiopia in Djibouti.
On the way to Harar we passed through the busy market town of Awash which has a big chat market. It is the same narcotic leaf that is chewed in Yemen where they call it qat. It is legal and is in all market places for sale.
My home for two nights, the Hotel Heritage Palace, could boast 1 ½ or at most 2 stars. A shower was not possible, as the trickle of water was so slow it would be difficult to get wet. There was no maid service, and the dinner menu had 2 choices, spaghetti with tomato sauce or macaroni with spaghetti sauce - both priced the equivalent of $2.50 and with no starters or desert on offer. The restaurant, where I was the only customer, was outside and freezing cold. After about an hour wait for food I went in for more cloths. The hotel is owned by a Muslim who lives in London, but permits no alcohol sales, however the cook/waiter went out to a store and bought 2 beer for me.
Monday, November 18, 2013
Harar has a population of 205,000, 45,000 of whom live in the old city, which is surrounded by an intact wall 3.7 km long. It is a World Heritage Site. No new construction is permitted inside unless it is with the same traditional materials, usually mud brick. The old city is about 65% Muslim, the new part has a majority of Christians. The wall was built by emir Nur from 1551-1567 with 5 gates originally and a 6th gate was added in 1889. The wall encloses about 48 hectares (119 acres). The city has 90 mosques and they say it is considered the 4th holy city of Islam. The city was originally founded in the 10th century. It is only 175 km (109 mi) from the Somalian frontier by road, which accounts for the number of police check points..
At breakfast I joined Jacques Klein, who is from Brittany and now lives in Paris. We had a lively conversation before heading off on our separate ways. He has his own vehicle and driver as well.
My guide, Terry, took me for a walk through the colourful, narrow passages of smugglers market, then on to the second hand market where almost anything can be found. We visited the massive spice market with open sacks of dozens of types of spices. The markets smells very sweet, with incense and spices. There was very little garbage.
We walked for miles through the narrow, twisting streets of the old city, where often the walls on each side could be touched at the same time by elbows. There are only a couple of roads that allow vehicles, in most of the area the walkways are shaded and quiet. Some areas are residential, others have small markets. We stopped in one place with about four tables to have tea, there were only local people inside.
There are a number of historic buildings inside, including one three story wood house filled with black and white photos from the early 1900s. Another house was where Haile Selassie was raised - that was not his name then. Both houses were built by craftsmen from India. Emirs ruled Harar from 969 to 1886
Lunch was at the Ras Hotel, where they have finished renovating 10 rooms and have a good restaurant. I had the roast goat, and it was excellent. I'm sure they will take business from the Heritage Plaza. Jacques was at the restaurant as well, and joined us for lunch.
In the evening we went back into the walled city to see hyenas. There are several small openings in the walls of the old city to let these animals in, as they clean anything edible from the streets. The legend is that at one time the hyenas came into the village and took livestock and young children, so the wise man said to put a bowl of porridge with honey under a tree just outside the walls. If the hyenas ate the porridge, then a contract would be made between them and the town to respect each other. The villagers watched breathlessly as the hyenas came and ate the porridge. Since then they have been fed by people in the town.
We went to see the feeding. There were about 5 hyenas where we were, and I had one eat out of my hand, and another was fed while climbing onto my back. I was down on hands and knees, and those animals are heavy!
Jacques joined us at another restaurant where we made the mistake of ordering pizza - it was not great, but the company and beer were.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
I had breakfast with Jacques at our hotel - I'd learned that the one pancake option was pretty safe. We were both picked up at 9 AM by our respective drivers and taken to Awash to walk through the chat market, which is huge. It was packed with people haggling over price, some buying in quantity and others just enough for the day. I was supposed to be driven the 102 km to Jijjiga today, but Terry came out with a lot of reasons why we couldn't - as close as he came to an outright refusal. I wanted to see it, as it is a desert market town very near the border of Somalia. It was included in my program, but Terry had not been informed of that.
Back in Dire Dawa I tried to change more money, but only one of the $100 bills I have was accepted, the others were too old. Back to tight money policies! We stopped at the train station, where hundreds of box cars and a lot of diesel engines sit idle. There is an 800 meter (2,624 ft) repair shop with loads of heavy metal working equipment, and a roundhouse that can work on up to four engines at a time that have been abandoned. The railway was built by the French, and signs are in that language. The old fellow who looks after the place was visibly upset by the fate of the trains - it was obviously that he'd loved his job when the place was going flat out. Passenger trains still run from Addis Ababa to Djibouti on Tuesday and Saturday, a full day trip, and the line is used for freight, but the caretaker says the tracks are in bad shape. There are signs up saying the Chinese are going to rebuild the railway, as they did in Sudan.
At the airport there was some confusion, as Jacques and my boarding passes had different times on them. It turned out there are two flights to Addis within 20 minutes of each other. Jacques was on first one, my second one was over an hour late leaving.
Mconan from Caravan tours picked me up and drove me to the four star Jupiter Hotel to check in before taking me to the markets. The market area here is totally unlike anything I've seen in the smaller towns. Here there are separate blocks, or even streets devoted various items. For example a street for electronics, one for cell phones, another for kitchen supplies, appliances, cloths, children\s cloths, hardware, tires and so on. It was far too big to walk so we did it by car. There are various parking areas, including one for donkeys.
The Chinese are putting in subway and elevated trains, and the torn up streets are causing traffic jams in the construction areas. There is lots of Chinese activity here, and the government are buying Chinese products such as buses.
The Jupiter Hotel is an oasis. It is showing its age a little, but has a uniformed, well trained staff, well equipped rooms and beautifully decorated cocktail lounge and restaurant. The food was good and inexpensive - main dishes ran from less than $4 to $6. I had a good shepherds pie that was more than I could eat for $4.25. A double Chevis Regal in the bar was about $5