My Ethiopian friend with whom I travelled asked me about a week ago, “Where would you like to go back to if you go back to Ethiopia?” With a little hesitation while various places flitted through my mind, I answered, “Bahir Dar.” Why? Bahir Dar’s climate suits me perfectly, tropical but not all that hot, lush flowers everywhere, Lake Tana, the Nile. What more could one ask for?
You can drive down streets that look like this and go to restaurants along Lake Tana with beautiful scenery and gardens plus a lake view.
And I could drink the only beer I have ever tasted that I actually liked.
Saint George Amber Beer. Yes, Saint George is everywhere, even beer.
To get to the Nile Falls, you have to drive through the countryside on less than fabulous roads and park in probably the dirtiest, most dismal village I saw in all the places I visited in Ethiopia. Part of the dirty appearance, I know, was due to it being the rainy season with puddles and mud everywhere. Once I walked away from the village on the path to the falls, lush farmland lay before me.
Fields of beans and corn. Off and on all my life, I have raised corn. This corn is as good a crop as I have seen anywhere.
On the path to the Nile Falls, youngsters show up everywhere selling various items. This young man walked all the way to the falls and back with me. I bought this flute for my grandson. We have all tried to play it, my daughter and grandson, and I. We cannot make a sound. This young man made it sing.
He also spoke very good English which he learned in school. He could explain all the crops, when they plant, everything as we strolled along.
The falls, although impressive, failed to meet my expectations. After seeing numerous photos of them, I expected something grander. They used to be. Now, 80 per cent of the water is diverted from the Nile before it reaches the falls. Ethiopia produces enough hydroelectric power to export it to nearby countries. 85% of the people in Ethiopian have electricity. As you drive by villages, you can see dishes for TVs on rooftops.
We were told that the falls used to be so large they covered everything where we stood.
My friends took a different route to get to the falls than I. I crossed the Nile at another location to get there. They hiked around some large hills and crossed this footbridge made by the Portuguese years ago.
Children of varying ages crowded around us selling various types of items. My friend, Zuriash, is in the middle with the hat.
Twice that day I crossed the Nile in this boat.
The morning we left Bahir Dar, Alemu took us to this restaurant at a fancy resort on the lake. The owner’s story remains one of those success stories one hears off and on in Ethiopia. He came to the US, worked for a big hotel here, learned the trade, saved his money, returned home, and built a couple of very successful luxury hotels. This is the restaurant at the one in Bahir Dar. All the rooms, the landscaping, everything deliberately duplicates African traditional architecture and gardening, a certain, special atmosphere.
These hand carved chairs may look uncomfortable but they are not. Somehow they fit the human body perfectly. The following is a view of the pool and some of the rooms.