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zEaster in Ethiopia

13 days

Exclusive Adventure Travel with Bob Drumm for only 16 Guests

Exclusive Discoveries on our President’s Adventure to Ethiopia

+ Witness the moving Last Supper Ceremony on Holy Thursday as the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church washes the feet of 12 fellow priests – just as Jesus did with his 12 disciples.
+ Descend into the tunnels and trenches excavated centuries ago to explore the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela… Then join the many Ethiopians who come to this ancient site at midnight to celebrate Easter with music and evocative candle-lit pageantry.
+ Experience the remarkable range of Ethiopia’s ethnic traditions, spending six days among the tribes of the Omo Valley including the Mursi, Dassanech, Karo and Hamer.
+ Mingle with the diverse tribal groups who gather with their livestock at weekly markets to barter, sell and buy.
+ Travel into the Konso Highlands where tribal settlements are ingeniously defended by walls and maze-like alleys.
+ Learn about Lucy at the National Museum where the 3-million-year-old fossil is housed, and hear how this amazing find has shed so much light on hominids – our earliest human ancestors.
+ Includes 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites c

+ Add another UNESCO World Heritage Site with our Pre-Tour visit to ancient Harar c

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Thu, April 5, 2018: Welcome to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Upon arrival at the airport, we’ll be warmly greeted and escorted to the Radisson Blu Hotel, ideally located in the city center near the United Nations Conference Center. After time to refresh, we’ll join Samrawit, our expert Ethiopian guide, to begin our exploration into the evocative traditions of Easter as it’s celebrated by the country’s 45 million Orthodox Christians.

Today is Holy Thursday and we’ll join celebrants at the Holy Trinity Cathedral. Enacting events of the Last Supper, the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church will wash the feet of 12 fellow priests – who represent Jesus Christ’s 12 disciples. It’s a moving cultural tradition that plays out against a backdrop of stained glass windows and murals by famed Ethiopian artists like Afewerk Tekle. This evening, we’ll enjoy a congenial welcome dinner with cocktails.  Meals D


Fri, April 6, 2018: Out and About in Addis Ababa

After a buffet breakfast, we’ll begin our guided tour of the city. Situated at an altitude of 8,200 feet above sea level in the Entoto Mountains, the Ethiopian capital boasts a pleasant year round climate and wide avenues graced by lovely jacaranda trees. We begin our sightseeing atop Mt. Entoto for a sweeping view and introduction to the city. At the National Museum, we’ll discover an expansive collection including medieval artifacts, memorabilia of former rulers like Emperor Haile Selassie, and an exhibit of Ethiopian art from the traditional to the contemporary. But the Museum, of course, is best known as the home of Lucy; for security reasons, we’ll see a replica of this famous 3 million year-old hominid fossil, discovered in northern Ethiopia in 1974, and learn about its far-reaching impact on our understanding of human origins.

Not far from the National Museum and the modern center of the capital, the kaleidoscopic tumult of the Addis Mercato reveals a very different facet of the city. Said to be the largest market in Africa, it’s a sprawling and colorful open-air expanse with thousands of vendors; most are selling locally-grown agricultural produce, including world-famous Ethiopian Highlands coffee, but you’ll also find exotic spices, jewelry, textiles and household goods.

After lunch, we’ll continue our Easter in Ethiopia experience as we join celebrants for Good Friday services. Many worshippers have been fasting and praying all day and the anticipation of Easter Sunday adds palpable emotion to this cultural experience. We’ll end our sightseeing at the Ethnological Museum. Set in Haile Selassie’s former palace, the museum’s vast and well-curated collection of artifacts and handicrafts promises a fascinating overview of Ethiopia’s diverse groups – and a great introduction to the enriching days yet to come.  Meals B+L+D


Sat, April 7, 2018: Candle-Lit Pageantry at Lalibela c

After breakfast, we’ll be escorted to the airport for our flight into the mountains of northern Ethiopia, where the 11 cave churches of Lalibela bear witness to the extraordinary vision of a 12th-century king.  Seeking to create a New Jerusalem after Muslim conquests halted Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land, King Lalibela excavated these monolithic churches below ground level. Hewn from enormous blocks of solid granite, these churches are connected to one another by an extensive system of trenches and ceremonial passages, some with openings to ancient hermit caves and catacombs. These churches were then further embellished with stone-carved entry ways, windows, columns and other decorative elements including mural paintings. With its five aisles, Biete Medhani Alem is believed to be the largest cave church in the world. Biete Ghiorgis has a remarkable cruciform floor plan distinct from the other rock-hewn churches. Together, these ancient churches have been important sites of worship and pilgrimage for nearly 9 centuries, though some may have served as royal residences soon after their construction. The 11 churches are divided into two main groups, divided by a river, and this afternoon we’ll begin our expertly guided exploration of the first group.

After dinner and time to relax at our hotel, the comfortable Tukul Village Hotel, we’ll return to the World Heritage Lalibela site to witness and participate in Easter Midnight Services at Biete Mariam, the Church of St. Mary. Easter, or Fasika in Amharic, is a climatic celebration for Ethiopia’s Christians – more important than Christmas since Orthodox theology regards Jesus’ resurrection as a more significant event than his birth. As we arrive in the darkness, we’ll find the Faithful garbed in colorful clothing and celebrating the Resurrection with candle-lit pageantry, sacred music and chanting. It’s a powerfully moving experience that reveals much about the centuries-old Orthodox traditions of the Ethiopian people.  Meals B+L+D


Sun, April 8, 2018: Easter Sunday at Lalibela

The preparations for Easter Sunday will have begun the day before with many families planning and cooking a special meal to break their 56-day Lenten fast when strictly no meat was eaten. Some families will have awoken early this day to slaughter a lamb for the day’s feast, a celebratory meal accompanied by tella, a local brew made from grain and honey. With our insider access, you’ll have the opportunity to experience these celebrations for yourself.

In addition to continuing our exploration of Lalibela’s ancient cave churches, we’ll also enjoy a guided visit to Yemrehanna Kristos, an Axumite church that predates the nearby cave churches by nearly a century. Named for a 12th century ruler of the once-mighty Axumite Kingdom, this ancient church is built inside a natural cavern in the mountain ridges below Mount Abuna Yosef, one of the country’s tallest peaks. Its construction is quite unusual, built with alternating layers of recessed timber beams and projecting plastered stone. The windows are embellished with carved cruciform lattices and the entire interior is decorated with geometric carvings and paintings.  Meals B+L+D


Mon, April 9, 2018: Fly to Arba Minch

After breakfast, we’ll head to the airport for our included flight back to Addis Ababa where we connect with the onward flight into southern Ethiopia. On arrival in Arba Minch, we’ll be escorted to the Paradise Lodge, where thatched bungalows and private verandahs offer wonderful views over the forests and lakes of the region.  Meals B+L+D


Tue, April 10, 2018: Lake Chamo + Chencha

Surrounded by lush vegetation and wetlands that give way to picturesque rolling hills, Lake Chamo is home to hippos, a remarkable variety of birds and enormous crocodiles that grow to more than 18 feet in length – among the largest ever recorded. This morning after breakfast, we’ll embark on a guided boat expedition across the waters of Lake Chamo to search for these amazing wildlife inhabitants!

After lunch, we travel into the Guge Hills north of Arba Minch to Chencha, a highland village of the Dorze. This tribal group is especially known for their unique bee-hive shaped homes which they build from local materials including hard wood poles, woven bamboo, ensete leaves (false banana) and other natural materials gathered from the mountains. Towering as high as 20 feet (two stories), these dwellings usually feature just one door with no windows and are built to stand for up to 80 years. Inside you’ll usually find a fireplace, seating area and bedrooms. Smaller structures can include a guesthouse, workshop, kitchen and even a cattle shed. With expert insight from our guide, we’ll observe and even experience various facets of daily life – from the crops the villagers plant and the foods they eat to the colorful cotton textiles they weave.  Meals B+L+D


Wed, April 11, 2018: Into the Omo Valley

Today’s overland journey takes us into the mesmerizing landscapes of the Omo Valley to Jinka where we’ll check in to the Eco-Omo Safari Lodge. At dinner this evening, our expert guide will provide important and fascinating information for our upcoming experiences with the tribes of Ethiopia’s celebrated Omo Valley.  Meals B+L+D


Thu, April 12, 2018: Ways of the Mursi + Onward to Turmi

Situated on the eastern banks of the Omo River and bisected by the Mago River, a tributary of the Omo, Mago National Park is a remote sector of Africa’s Great Rift Valley, home to the Mursi, a tribal group known for adorning themselves with paint, beads and ornaments of horn and feather.

Heading out from our lodge in Jinka, we’ll travel deep into the National Park to spend time with Mursi villagers. The women of the tribe adorn their faces and bodies with white paint and from the age of 15 or 16 also wear pottery or wood discs in their lower lips. Through the years, larger and larger plates are inserted causing the lip to stretch. By tribal custom, the larger the lip plate, the more the women is worth before marriage. Although this practice is an integral part of their heritage and tradition, the plates are worn for only short periods of time as they are heavy and uncomfortable. The men of the Mursi tribe also use white paint on their bodies and faces, and are widely known for their fierce ceremonial dueling with a donga, a long wooden pole.

Drawing tribal villagers from near and far, many who come with livestock in tow and laden with goods to barter and sell, the region’s weekly markets offer a chance to experience Ethiopia’s diverse tribal traditions in a lively and colorful setting. From Mago National Park, we’ll travel to Key Afer to mingle with Bena, Ari and Tsemay villagers at the weekly Thursday market, a memorable experience that promises a deeper look inside the life of these tribal groups. We then continue to Turmi where we’ll check in to the Buska Lodge for a 3-night stay.  Meals B+L+D


Fri, April 13, 2018: Tribes of the Omo River’s Eastern Shores

Today’s guided exploration introduces us to two of the tribal groups that live along the eastern banks of the Omo River. In the morning, we spend time with the Karo, a small tribe with an estimated population of less than 3,000 people. Raising small cattle and practicing flood retreat cultivation of maize, beans and sorghum, the Karo are an agro-pastoralist society known for their highly-detailed body painting. White chalk paint is the basic material with some use of colored paints derived from natural occurring pigments in local minerals, iron ore and charcoal. Red clay mixed with butter is sometimes used to color the hair. We’ll also see the men of the Karo with scars they have given themselves to represent an enemy or dangerous animal killed.

In the afternoon, our guide will introduce us to the life and culture of the Hamer Tribe who live in distinctive huts made of wood, straw and mud and who subsist with cattle herding and agriculture. The women of the tribe are known for their colorful dress and elaborate jewelry made from beads and cowrie shells. The men are celebrated for their traditional bull jumping, a rite of passage that is part of an event that can last three days. The man must jump over a line of 10 to 30 bulls several times without falling. If the task is completed, the young man joins the ranks of the Maza, other men who have successfully completed the bull-jumping. Because this is a coming-of-age rite, there’s no assurance that the time of our visit will coincide with the event. Regardless, our time here promises a deep look into some of Ethiopia’s vanishing tribal ways. At the end of the day, we return to the Buska Lodge for dinner and another night.  Meals B+L+D


Sat, April 14, 2018: Omorate + the Omo River’s Western Bank c

Head out from our lodge after breakfast and travel overland to Omorate, a riverside town deep in the lower Omo Valley. From here we cross the river to immerse in the lives and customs of the people who have lived for millennia here along the Omo’s western shores.

Also known as the Galeb, the Dassanech are cattle herders, farmers and fishermen. Unlike southern Ethiopia’s other tribes, the Dassanech are not defined by ethnicity and members come from the many different ethnic groups that inhabit the region. There are eight clans that comprise the Dassanech tribe, each having its own name; these include the Elele, Koro and Inkoria. Each clan is defined by its territory, with the Inkabelo being the wealthiest of the eight clans. As we spend time with the various Dassanech clans, we’ll gain deep insight into their daily lives and some of their unique cultural traditions related to fertility and marriage.

From here, we’ll head to the town of Dimeka to mingle with members of the Hamer Tribe at their Saturday market; this is one of the most atmospheric and liveliest of the region’s weekly markets. After dinner, enjoy your third and final night at the Buska Lodge in Turmi.  Meals B+L+D


Sun, April 15, 2018: Highlands of the Konso Tribe c + Back to Arba Minch

After breakfast, we’ll check out and travel northward into the scenic highlands to spend time with the Konso people who live in unusual walled towns and settlements strategically built on hilltop plains and summits. Here we’ll learn about living cultural traditions that stretch back more than 400 years. Konso villages are partitioned into separate communities with each community having a main hut. The entire enclave can be entered only through a limited number of gates and a series of maze-like alleys provide added security. Surrounding these settlements, we will see extensive dry stone terraces that bear witness to the generations of Konso who have struggled to grow their crops of sorghum and grains in an inhospitable region of hard, dry rocky soil. These terraces protect valuable soil from erosion, collect water and create the terraced fields that have allowed the Konso to live here for centuries. Unique burial rites in the surrounding forests and anthropomorphic wooden statues are other cultural traditions that we will come to understand and appreciate. From the Konso highlands, we continue back to Arba Minch to spend another night at the Paradise Lodge.  Meals B+L+D


Mon, April 16, 2018: From Arba Minch to Addis Ababa

After breakfast, we head to the airport for our included flight back to the capital. Upon arrival, we’ll be escorted once again to the Radisson Blu Hotel where we have the afternoon to refresh, relax or explore. This evening’s congenial farewell dinner at Yod Abyssinia features a variety of traditional Ethiopian dishes. Lively performances of song and dance showcase Ethiopia’s diverse ethnic groups and provide a wonderful conclusion to our exploration of the country and its people. After a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, we’ll be escorted back to our hotel.  Meals B+L+D


Tue, April 17, 2018: A final day in Addis Ababa

You’ll have most of this day to enjoy as you wish. After lunch, you’ll be escorted to the airport for your homeward flight.  Meals B+L

Extend Your Trip

Begin with Bob in the Ancient Walled City of Harar

3 days for $1,499 | April 3 to 5, 2018

Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ancient walled city of Harar is also famed as the home of Hyena Men such as Abbas Yusuf who, like their fathers before them, have learned to feed the wild hyenas that enter the city every night from their caves outside of town. Our 3-day Pre-Tour to is fully guided from Addis Ababa and includes transportation, accommodations, meals + sightseeing. A pre-tour hotel night on April 2 is available.

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Tue, April 3, 2018: From Addis Ababa to Harar

With our engaging Ethiopian guide, we’ll fly from the capital to Dire Dawa where we’ll continue to Harar. Revered as the fourth Holiest city of Islam - after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem – Harar is filled with lively streets, labyrinthine alleys and a remarkable architectural assemblage. Along with more than 180 mosques and shrines, three of which date to the 10th century, you’ll discover exceptional homes that reflect a myriad of influences from coastal Arabia to the wooden balconied houses of 19th-century Indian merchants.

In one of these handsome merchant homes, we’ll tour the Arthur Rimbaud Center. Set in the house where the mercurial French poet was said to have lived for 5 years, this unique museum traces his life through a number of illustrated panels. In addition, there’s a marvelous photography exhibit of Harar at the turn-of-the-century, including several that were taken by Rimbaud when he lived here in the late 1800’s. Mingling with city residents in the local market brings us back to the present day, and offers us a chance to experience contemporary life in this ancient city.

This evening, we’ll meet one of Harar’s celebrated Hyena Men. In a tradition that is passed from father to son, Abbas Yusuf and his peers have learned to feed these wild animals directly from their mouth. The hyenas live in caves outside of town, but descend upon the city streets every night in search of food. Though considered to be dangerous throughout the rest of Africa, the residents of Harar are not afraid. As Mr. Yusuf recently told a reporter from Reuters, “Hyenas have never attacked the people of Harar since my father started feeding them, unless you harm the babies.” Indeed, the Hyena Men of Harar view their nightly work as a service to the community and look forward to passing on the task to their own children.  Meals L+D


Wed, April 4, 2018: Sightseeing in Harar

The unique houses of Harar are one of the city’s most distinctive features, and we’ll continue our sightseeing today by spending time with a resident family in their traditional home. Entered through a beautifully carved door, we’ll find a welcoming residence of exceptional interior design centered on a living room that is elaborately adorned with dozens of household items – most notably the colorful baskets for which Harar is famed.

Continuing to the Harari City Museum, set in a balconied mansion where Emperor Haile Selassie spent much of his childhood, we’ll find a diverse historical collection including antique Islamic manuscripts, Harari coins minted more than 200 years ago, traditional clothing, and old musical instruments. We’ll also visit the unusual tomb of Emir Nur, the ruler who built the ancient walls of the city.  Meals B+L+D


Thu, April 5, 2018: The Awaday Khat Market

Departing Harar early this morning, we’ll make our way to Awaday – distinguished as the center of Ethiopia’s Khat trade. Native to the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, this leafy plant is ingested for its stimulant effects. Every morning, this boom town is enlivened by the frenzied pace as an estimated 50,000 pounds of Khat is sold on a daily basis. In many respects, it’s a medieval industry where everything is done by hand from the sorting of the leaves and the careful weighing-out with brass weights and metal scales to the giant ledgers where each transaction is carefully recorded by hand.

After this remarkable, once-in-a-lifetime experience, we’ll continue to Dire Dawa for our return flight to Addis Ababa for the start of our 13-day Easter adventures in Ethiopia.  Meals B+L+D

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Adventures in Ethiopia

You’ll love this unique Ethiopia tour with our engaging Trip Leader... In the congenial company of never more than 16 guests, you’ll travel to Harar and enjoy unhurried exploration of Lalibela’s rock churches. And with our 4-night stay in the Omo Valley, we give you more time to engage with the tribes and to experience their unique cultures.