Our first stop on a three-week journey around Ethiopia was to the northern part of Ethiopia. This, of course, is the focal point of most international tourism. The main destinations here are Lalibela, Gondor and Aksum. Lalibela is especially popular because of its ancient churches carved out of rocks. Most of the vestiges of ancient civilization are also in the north.
However, I also wanted to see the south, which is famous for nature. So the second half of our trip was devoted to a road trip around southern Ethiopia. This part of the country is full of beautiful lakes and national parks.
WHAT TO DO IN ARBA MINCH
We used the modern city of Arba Minch as our base. It’s a new and nicely laid out city, with a Haile resort at the top of a mountain overlooking two lakes. The Haile resorts form part of a hospitality chain owned by Ethiopian’s most famous athletes. The chain is well-run and each hotel has its own charms. The Haile resort in Arba Minch was one of my favorite hotels in Ethiopia.
I loved the views from the room at the Haile Resort Arba Minch and we ate every meal on the terrace. In fact, I spent as much time as possible outside, just gazing at the view. This really made me feel close to nature.
One of the highlights of visiting Arba Minch is driving up the mountains to see the village of the Dorze people. The Dorze people belong to one of the oldest tribes in Ethiopia. They live in a high-altitude area, in a village with also offers traditional accommodations for tourists.
I loved the views from the room and we ate every meal on the terrace. In fact, I spent as much time as possible outside, gazing at the view. This really made me feel close to nature.
STAYING AT A DORZE VILLAGE
Adventurous tourists get to sleep in a typical Dorze hut. It’s simple but it looked so comfortable. In fact, when I peeked inside and saw the thick blankets on the wooden beds, I was tempted to stay the night too.
The Dorze also have a small shop selling organic white honey and handwoven products. There’s also a restaurant for the overnight lodgers since there’s nowhere else to eat but here, after all.
VISITING THE DORZE VILLAGE
During our visit, we asked a young Dorze man who could speak English to tour us around. The young man and his friends walked us through family homes with soil floors, mud walls, and thatched roofs. You can actually stay here if you are adventurous enough, as the village accepts tourists for supplementary income.
Inside, the cooking pit iss the heart of every home in this high altitude, and the beds arranged around it for warmth as it does get chilly in these parts..
“There’s a small hole in the roof to let the smoke out,” explained our guide, “and the smog from the fire actually hardens the fiber of the roof and makes the house more durable.”
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WHERE THE ANIMALS SLEEP
Interestingly, each home also made space inside for their animals. The families basically let the cattle sleep in their living rooms.
“This keeps the animals safe and also helps to generate more heat for the house,” our guide said.
EATING A FAKE BANANA PANCAKE
At the end our visit, a Dorze grandmother who continuously flashed a toothless smile demonstrated the cooking of the local specialty. This was a pancake made from the grated stalks of a tree everyone called the “fake banana.”
The fake banana looked like the real one in Asia, but it had no fruits. However, the stalks of the fake banana trees are pretty similar to the real ones. The Dorze grate the stalks into a paste and bury the paste underground for months so that this can ferment.
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We sat in one of the huts to eat the fermented pancake. It was freshly made and slightly sour in taste. We ate it together with local honey and small cups of moonshine. Yes, the Dorze make their own drinks and these are potent.
MOONSHINE & FAKE BANANA
Although we never found out what was in the drink, the combination of all three made for a nice afternoon treat, sitting with some locals in a hut. Some of them could speak English so we asked them about their culture.
This enabled us to take away a useful custom of the Dorze people. If you fight with someone, they told us, all you need to do is to drink some moonshine from the same glass together to make peace.
Read more about traveling around Ethiopia in Travelife Magazine.