Poverty is obviously in your face when you visit Ethiopia. Certainly, steps are being made to overcome the abject poverty of so many people in the country, there is still plenty of evidence to show that vast numbers of people are struggling to exist on a daily basis.
One of the more heart wrenching moments during our recent visit was to witness the plight of the women firewood gatherers on Mt Entoto near Addis Ababa. These poor women carry huge bundles of firewood from the forest around the mountain down to the city. The load is more than most people would be capable of carrying, yet these small women, bent over from the sheer weight of their load, probably do this journey daily. In some cases I believe that some of them do the trip several times a day. The income derived from this enterprise barely covers the living expenses of their family.
The encounter made me concerned for their welfare, but I felt extremely helpless.
On a more positive note, there are programmes beginning to emerge to help these hapless women. By giving them alternative means of making an income, some are being freed from what can only be called slavery. One such strategy is mentioned here.
On our visit to Emperor Menelik‘s palace in Entoto Natural Park in Addis Ababa we were intrigued to see several gardeners in the grounds of the palace employing traditional farming techniques to harvest the hay growing there.
On several occasions we witnessed this kind of manual harvesting of the crops. In fact, our first encounter with hand sickles harvesting came as we were taxiing to the airport terminal only seconds after landing in Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia has no shortage of manual labourers, I guess. In reality, such intensive work is mandatory if locals are to survive.
On our visit to Addis Ababa late last year we employed a local driver on several occasions. One fine, sunny day we had him drive us to the top of Entoto Natural Park. At 3200 metres altitude it was quite chilly at the top but the view was wonderful.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church on top of the mountain is well worth a visit though we weren’t allowed inside. Never mind, the church is magnificent on the outside.
The Entoto Maryam Church is a short drive from Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. It is set in beautiful forest in the Entoto Natural Park. This Ethiopian Orthodox Church is a popular tourist site. We spent over an hour wandering around the grounds and the adjacent palace of Emperor Menelik II.
Clear days don’t happen all that often in the capital city of Ethiopia. The pollution can be very bad on most days in Addis Ababa. When we drove to the top of Entoto Natural Park on our visit there last December, we were fortunate to have a relatively clear day. The view from near the church at the top of the mountain is quite spectacular. My photos on this post don’t really do the scene justice.
Although it was a clear day with lovely sunshine, the air was very crisp and even cold. Not surprising, really, seeing the altitude is about 3200 metres. Fortunately there was very little breeze, so we were able to enjoy our wandering around the beautiful church grounds as well as inspecting the old kings’ palace next door. Photos of both will follow in a few days’ time.