- Posted May 16, 2014 by
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This iReport is part of an assignment:
The Africa we don't see
In Search of the Old Abyssinia
- Jareen, CNN iReport producer
In Search of the Old Abyssinia by Neal Moore (CNN iReport)
I've dreamed about East Africa for a very long time -- about the views I'd encounter and the people I'd meet, and the steps I would take. I wanted the journey to be memorable. Walking through the back-country of northern Ethiopia -- with a donkey and a camera for company -- was the big idea, along the dirt paths, well off the beaten track. This ancient civilization is on the fast track to modernization, and so, while there is still time, I wanted to experience and document the ways of the old. When I returned home, some friends asked if I found what I was after, if I experienced the old Abyssinia, and the answer is absolutely every which way that I looked. I found it out on the dusty trail, in the farmsteads, in the coffee, in the music, in the mosques, in the markets, among the priests, in the architecture, along the cliff-top churches, in the faces, in the clothing, in the rituals of the people -- a manifestation of their culture.
The following photographs document a slice of the three-month experience:
A) A young wedding couple at Sken Enderam, rural northern Ethiopia. As we passed by the Bederam-Berhan family farmstead, we were drawn by the lively music and celebratory good cheer. Upon learning of the wedding, I volunteered to snap a photo -- and the family were overjoyed. Together, we drank tala, a local home-brewed beer, danced to the family's good fortune, wished the young couple well, and were again on our way.
B) Berhani Zeru, a farmer at Mariam Mereto, photographed inside his family homestead in the remote foothills overlooking the Wereii River, near Adi Grat, northern Ethiopia. Besides farming the surrounding land, Berhani is a beekeeper, and as he explained, the white honey produced in the north Tigray region of Ethiopia is some of the very best in the world.
C) Under this tin roof I spent the night with the Shaoweit family. The cross up atop their mud rondoval signifies this is a Christian house and they are followers of the Ethiopian orthodox religion.
D) On the road to Gaber Church in old Aksum town. The Ethiopian Orthodox faithful paste cotton to their faces and dress in old man garb on the annual "Gaber Day" to celebrate the birth of their beloved Saint Gaber, who famously sported a flowing white beard.
E) Letkidan and Moris, a young woman and her mother-in-law, on the trail to Debra Absa, a rock church perched on a cliff in Wetek, northern Ethiopia. Ethiopian orthodox women often have the sign of the cross tattooed onto their forehead, as both of these women demonstrate.
F) Old meets new: a Tigrayan woman walks past a traditional stone homestead along an under-construction "China" road. Ethiopia is currently undergoing a sweeping transformation as Chinese contractors update the nation's infrastructure. This family farm will soon be a casualty of progress.
G) The making of tala, a traditional home-brewed beer, in preparation of a community festival. The festival will attract the whole society with the aim of raising awareness and money for the local, rural elementary school (where the tala is being made): to construct a new cement floor, add electric lights, and to even out a playing field on which the children can play.
H) Out on the trail a few hours away from the Weri River, a rural farmer offers injarra, the traditional food of Ethiopia. In a region I'd been warned could be extremely dangerous (prolific with armed bandits known as shifta), we only met people willing to give.
I) The early morning sun peeks over Aberyahani Mountain, lighting up a duo of Ethiopian orthodox devotees on their way to Debra Ansa, a rock, cliff side church near Wetek, northern Ethiopia. Well before sunrise, countless faithful across the country congregate for early morning services.
J) A young shepherdess on the trail to Abiy Addi. By day, children drive their family's sheep, goats, donkeys, and cows down to graze and source water, bringing them back before nightfall to the family homestead, to protect them from the jib, or hyena.