By Yusuf Hashim
Ethiopia, the tree where Man was born, is such an amazing place for photography. Alongside Rome, Persia, China and India, the Kingdom of Aksum was one of the great world powers during the third century. Ethiopia was the first major empire in the world to officially adopt Christianity as a state religion. Lalibela in the north, was built by the Emperor to be a likeness of Jerusalem, with magnificent stone churches carved out of solid rock in the mountain sides, and even with its own artificial River of Jordan. As a result, Ethiopia today is home to the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites in Africa. These are marvels of ancient architecture and engineering.
During the scramble for Africa in the 19th Century, Ethiopia was the only African country that was able to retain its sovereignty by defeating an invading European Colonial power. It has been under monarchy rule for most of its 2000 years of history, until 1974 when the last Emperor, Haile Selassie, was toppled by the Dergs, a communist military group backed by the Soviet Union. The Dergs were in turn defeated by the EPDRF (Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front) about the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. As a result of the blood letting and civil war, it wasn’t very safe to visit Ethiopia until recently, when Ethiopia began to open up and welcome visitors.
PhotoSafari organized a pioneering photography expedition to Ethiopia in September 2013, and it was such a jaw dropping experience that we have decided to return to Ethiopia for another PhotoSafari from 1 to 18 May 2014, to visit those areas and tribes we didn’t have to visit the last time. Like in the previous PhotoSafari, we will be hiring the same 5 go anywhere four wheel drive Toyota Landcruisers with experienced local drivers. Each vehicle will carry only 3 photographers, so everyone will have a comfortable window seat. Apart from returning to the Omo Valley to shoot some more of the 800 native tribes that we didn’t get to visit last year, this time we will also drive north into the Danakil Depression, an active volcanic region at the tip of the Great African Rift Valley, where an amazing photographic kaleidoscope awaits us. The landscape there is fabulous, and the natives in the arid Danakil Depression get their drinking water by condensing the steam that comes out of the volcanic steam vents called fumaroles.
To cater for people who cannot be away from work for 18 days which includes 6 days of weekends, we’ll do the PhotoSafari in 3 parts. Part one will cover the Omo Valley in the South and South West, where the subjects will be mainly the ethnic tribes that we did not manage to see the last time we were in Ethiopia. Part 2 will cover the Danakil Depression and Lalibela in the North and the Muslim Sumerian tribes of the East. The Sumers have a peculiar custom of feeding meat, mouth to mouth, to wild hyenas – a sight that has to be seen to be believed and would be a treat to photograph.
And Part 3 will be an optional detour on the flight back, to Zanzibar, to shoot this ancient slave trading centre which has remained relatively unmodernised ever since slave trading ceased in the nineteen fifties….
Places are limited with 6 slots already pre-booked by early birds. Contact either Yusuf or Maxby if you want us to hold a place for you. Watch this space for further information on the detailed itinerary.