The first city most backpackers are likely to see is the capital, Addis Ababa, as it’s where Ethiopia’s only international airport is. Addis Ababa is a built up city, debuting the largest shopping centre in Africa and a fast-paced lifestyle. One of the most sobering places for travellers to visit is the Red Museum near the Meskel Square. From 1975 – 1987, the Ethiopian people faced true horror at the hands of the ruling military communists, who violently executed thousands of Ethiopians who dared oppose the regime. The Red Museum holds artefacts from the time, with survivors of the Derg period re-encountering their hard-to-believe stories. This museum is extremely moving and thought provoking, and will definitely put things into perspective for any lost traveller.
Another stopover in Addis Ababa is the Holy Trinity Cathedral as Ethiopian orthodox Christianity and is a huge part of this country’s culture. As far as cathedrals go, this one is quite the baby being completed in the 1940s after the liberation of Ethiopia from the Italian occupation. The cathedral holds the bodies of those who fought against the occupation as well as the Emperor Haile Selassie and his wife. The design of this building, both inside and outside, displays amazing detail, art and architecture. Just by the way the Ethiopian people bow their heads to kiss the steps of this astounding building allows you to really understand how important religion is in this country.
500 miles away from Addis Ababa, lies what was once the capital of the Kingdom of Axum. This ancient city was once the most powerful state in the Eastern Roman empire and Persia and still holds historic monuments from the 1st to the 13th century A.D. Now, that’s pretty old. Some of the hotspots are the tall monuments known as a ‘monolithic obelisks’, the royal tombs of past leaders buried by the towering stelae and the ruins of what were once mighty castles. It doesn’t did get more authentic than that, folks.
In northern Ethiopia is Lalibela, the holiest city in Ethiopia and the centre of the country’s pilgrimages. The main attraction in Lalibela is the UNESCO world heritage site, protecting 11 medieval ‘cave churches’ that are carved out of stone. These ancient churches are thought to date back to the 12th and 13th century, with one of the stone churches, Biete Medhani Alem thought to be the largest monolithic church in the world. Known as ‘New Jerusalem’ these churches are situated near the Tukul Village, a village/resort, where travellers can stay for the night and try the local cuisine, often a spicy stew served on top of an injera, which is a large sourdough flat bread.