Ethiopia, 2006

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Ethiopia: Africa’s Overlooked Gem


Ethiopia is rich with historic and cultural treasures and deserves to be more recognized as a travel mecca. Ethiopian people are friendly and, due to the scarcity of tourists, often eager to converse with foreigners. They tend to like to be photographed as well. While there I was sometimes approached by people who asked me to take their photo. Of course I was happy to do so.

If you fly into Ethiopia you’ll invariably arrive in Addis Ababa, the capitol. ‘Addis’ as Ethiopians refer to it, is by far the largest city in the country. It’s centrally located and acts as the hub of travel throughout the country. I returned to it a few times in the 5 weeks I was in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is no tourist hot spot but of those that do venture here, most head north from Addis. It’s there that the most of the notable historic sites are located. These include the rock hewn churches of Lalibela, the monasteries of Lake Tana, the castles of Gonder, and the gigantic stone stelae of the ancient kingdom of Axum. I was fortunate to have enough time to be able to travel in all 4 cardinal directions from Addis.

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Tunisia, 1997

I spent more than a month in Tunisia in January and February of 1997. I had originally intended to be in Tunisia for about 10 days.

According to the then current edition of the Lonely Planet guide to North Africa, Tunis was the best place to get a visa for visiting Libya. In actuality when I went to the Libyan embassy I was told in blunt terms that they would not issue me a visa. No explanation was offered. So that’s how I came to spend over a month in Tunisia.

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Morocco, 1997

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I visited Morocco for 3 weeks in January of 1997. As it turned out this was during the Muslim month of Ramadan during which business hours, train and bus schedules, and visiting times for tourist sites are reduced. Fortunately this meant that there were fewer tourists around. Unfortunately, it meant that I would not have time to visit every place I had hoped to.

During Ramadan Muslims are prohibited from allowing anything to pass between their lips from sunrise to sunset. So no eating, drinking, or smoking is allowed. This only applies to the local populace and no non-Muslim visitors are expected to adhere to these strictures. I was able to eat and drink in restaurants during daylight hours without attracting any notice.

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Egypt 1989

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Ever since I was a kid I dreamed about seeing the ruins of ancient civilizations. I was a history buff back then and I still am. No place offers more opportunities to explore the remains of long lost cultures than Egypt so it was a real thrill for me to arrive there.

My introduction to Egypt was Cairo. It’s a city that’s noisy, crowded, dirty, and generally chaotic but if you’re looking to escape the ordinary and explore around it offers some fascinating neighbourhoods. There’s an old Christian Quarter, a Muslim Citadel, and a camel market (not for the queasy). I really regret not making time to visit the City of the Dead which is a vast cemetery inhabited by both the living and yes, the dead.

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