This is a photo blog post of my two-week trip with a long-time friend through Ethiopia’s Historic Route of Lake Tana, Gonder, Lalibela, and Aksum.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about the best way to articulate my journey through Ethiopia. I am still struggling to find the right words to describe my time spent in this fascinating country. So I’ve decided to use photos and an excerpt from Pico Iyer’s book, Tropical Classical, to help illustrate my time in Ethiopia…
I had seen empty spaces before I came to Ethiopia–in the Australia outback, say, or Patagonia. But what made there so much more rendering and exalting was that there were people living amidst this nothingness, walking across it, trying to eke out a living from it. Nomads pale with grime, men wielding axes, women bearing staffs. And, in the midst of the desolation, long lines of people, most of them rail thin, bedraggled, barefoot, long lines of people, walking, walking, walking, from nowhere to nowhere. The sadness of Ethiopia is that even in the areas that are relatively prosperous, all the lean figures look as if they are walking out of the photographs of famine that shocked the world a decade ago; next year, we were told, a million people would be without food, and there was nothing that could be done.
And the fervor and the desperation, the suffering and the piety, threw light on one another. Amidst this extreme deprivation, one could see how extreme devotion could arise; amidst this barrenness, the burning brightness of the religious rites and buildings made better sense. Prayers in the wilderness, I thought; water in the desert. It was easy, in Ethiopia, to understand how religions caught fire (easy, too, to see why people became monks, in a world that was already naked, unaccommodated, and bare); and it was possible in Ethiopia to see how people who have nothing will give everything to faith.
~Excerpt from Tropical Classical by Pico Iyer (1997)