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Four Days Danakil

Trip to Ethiopia , Danakil Depression

Trekking Up a Live Volcano in Ethiopia

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (June 27, 2011) announced that it has added the ‘Konso Cultural Landscape of Ethiopia’ to it's World Heritage List.

Konso Cultural Landscape is a 55km2 arid property of stone walled terraces and fortified settlements in the Konso highlands of Ethiopia. It constitutes a spectacular example of a living cultural tradition stretching back 21 generations (more than 400 years) adapted to its dry hostile environment. The landscape demonstrates the shared values, social cohesion and engineering knowledge of its communities.

The site also features anthropomorphic wooden statues – grouped to represent respected members of their communities and particularly heroic events – which are an exceptional living testimony to funerary traditions that are on the verge of disappearing. Stone steles in the towns express a complex system of marking the passing of generations of leaders.

A total of 35 nominations, including natural, cultural and mixed properties are being reviewed by the Committee, which is holding its 35th session at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. The Committee expects to finish the inscriptions by the end of the day.

In addition to Konso Cultural Landscape, Fort Jesus, Mombasa (Kenya) and Citadel of the Ho Dynasty (Viet Nam), have also been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Inscriptions are to continue this afternoon. According to the press statement received from UNESCO.
Source Internet (Monday, 27 June 2011 19:31 By NEW BUSINESS ETHIOPIA REPORTER)

Letter of Testimony for WITNESS ETHIOPIA TOURS
To all who are interested in the experience of a life time in Ethiopia,

I have traveled the world and have had the luxury to visit no less than 40 countries spanning North America, Africa, the Middle East, Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean Islands. When I recently visited multiple countries all over the African continent, I decided to research Ethiopia. Although I must admit I didn’t know as much about the rich history, amazing culture, and absolutely gorgeous landscape which this country has to offer. I began my research on the Internet, and that’s when I came across WITNESS ETHIOPIA TOURS and a seemingly well-designed website which was exactly what I was looking for.

Upon emailing Mr.Ermias, the company owner, I found him to be very informative as he answered many of my questions in regards to tour timelines, cost estimates, and what historic sites to visit. Ermias’ communication skills are outstanding, and as a customer, I am happy to say that I was very pleased with the Ethiopian tour he had arranged for me on a very short notice! He even went out of his way to compromise on the fixed cost for a six day adventure as he arranged all of the air travel, local tour guides at each location which were very informative, lodging for each night at various locations, and vehicles with drivers for some of the more remote landmark sites. Ermias is extremely resourceful, courteous, and well respected in the tour business. He has connections and assets that I am sure others do not have. A true pleasure to deal with!

I began my journey with a one day tour of the capital city, Addis Ababa. Addis is a fairly new city, founded in 1886 by Emperor Menelik II. It is also home to a major university, a brilliant and vibrant market, the Ethiopian National Museum which is home of "Lucy," a famous 3-million year-old hominid that is a must-see.Although Addis is not as religiously important as Axum or Lalibela, it has several interesting churches and other significant religious and historic sites such as St. Mary’s Church, Entoto Mountain, and Red Terror Martyrs Memorial. It was worth the trip to see all that I saw and experienced in one short day.

Day two of the trip I flew to Axum, in northern Ethiopia which was the original capital of the Eponymous kingdom of Axum. This historic city was the African continent’s center of trading power, known as the Aksumite Kingdom. Around 356ADunder the reign of King Kaleb,its ruler was converted to Christianity by Frumentius. Axum also predates the earliest mentions in Roman era writings, and furthermore was a staunch ally of the Byzantine Empire against the Persians Muslim invasion. It houses some of the oldest history within the region predating the time of Moses and the Christian gospels. Most interestingly, residing in Axum is the ancient Ruwin Palace – home of the Queen of Shebah, wife of King Solomon of Jerusalem.

Day three began with a flight to Lalibela – my favorite of all ancient cities I visited. In my opinion, Lalibela is possibly the most awe-inspiring collection of buildings and ancient architecture in all of Africa. It is located in the highlands of Northwestern Ethiopia at nearly 9,000 feet above sea level nested in the Lasta Mountains.I never knew it competes with (and quite possibly rivals) historicChristian places such as Jerusalem, Greece, Italy, the UKand others. Here high in the mountains of Lalibela there are a collection of eleven 1,000 year old churches such as St. George’s Church, hewn out of red volcanic rock that will definitely leave you speechless, as they did me. A truly wonderful and long-lasting experience!
Day four featured a hike up Asheten Mountain, an absolutely beautiful three and a half hour trek to the 12th century rock hewn monastery of Asheten Mariam. The church is situated atop the mountain at an altitude of 3,150 meters. My guide Memekia and I returned back to Lalibela for lunch and in the afternoon we finished the day visitingthe other group of three rock churches including Beta Giyorgis, possibly the most elegant of all the Lalibela churches. It lies in the southwest part of the town on a sloping rock promenade somewhat isolated. It can only be reached through a tunnel. The group of four, south of the Jordan River, includesBeta Mercurios, Beta Libanos Beta Emanuel, and Beta Gabriel and Rafael. It was truly an amazing experience and one for any note-worthy bucket list!

On day five I flew to the city of Gondar and visited all of its historic attractions. We first toured the wondrous Royal Compound or better known as the “Castles of Gondar”, as it iseven included in the World Heritage List. The 16th century royal Fasiledes Bath and the Church of Debre Berhan Selassie with its unique murals were also included in the tour. I must admit that the Castles and ruins themselves rivaled even visiting all the rock hewn churches of Lalibela. Again, an awe-inspiring experience and a must see for anyone choosing to visit Gondar in Ethiopia!
The last day of the tour my guide and I drove three hours to Bahar Dar. After a great lunch at a local favorite hotel right on Lake Tana andsome refreshments, we took a pleasurable boat trip on Lake Tana to visit two ancient monasteries. These most accessible and representative of the monasteries, UraKidane Mehret, and Azwa Maryam,still serve their original function! In the afternoon we pay a visit to the impressive Blue Nile Falls, locally known as Tis Isat or 'Smoke of Fire’. The falls themselves as well as the surrounding scenery was absolutely breath taking. I took some of the most scenic photos I ever have of any African country. The memory of this beautiful place will last me a lifetime.

Overall I had a wonderful experience, thanks to Ermias and WITNESS ETHIOPIA TOURS. Virtually every guide he assigned to me was well spoken, very informative and educated, and knew more about the history of Ethiopia than can possibly remember! This was one of my most memorable tourist experiences, competing with places like Rome, Italy and Buenos Aires, Argentina as the most interesting and inspiring trips I have ever taken! I would VERY HIGHLY recommend W.E.T. and Ermias to anyone who wants to have an experience of a lifetime!

- Robert
17 November, 2011