On location making a film about girls' education, Amhara state
Ethiopia and I go back a long way. It started in 1999 when as a filmmaker by trade I heard about Gem TV, a community film school that needed help to make a campaign of healthcare TV commercials. I initially went out for two months but ended up living and working in Ethiopia for 7 years. Some years later Gem TV won the Special Award at the One World Media Awards, the Oscars of developing world filmmaking.
Photo: Blue Nile Falls
I arrived knowing next to nothing about Ethiopia, but filmmaking took me and the young filmmakers of Gem TV to the furthest reaches of this most misunderstood and misrepresented country. I discovered a land of breathtaking natural beauty, a veritable patchwork of peoples (over 80 separate languages are spoken in Ethiopia), a history that can trace its origins back to the days of the Queen of Sheba, and a culture that’s as rich as the country was then poor. Ethiopia also abounds in natural wonders including the Sof Omar caves , the volcanic Danakil Depression, the Simien mountains and the Blue Nile falls, which are the second highest waterfalls in Africa.
Photo: Lisak Resort Hotel, Bishoftu, Ethiopia
For far too many years Ethiopia had been the go-to country to witness all the ills of “Heart of Darkness” Africa and underdevelopment. Today, the secret is out, and Ethiopia offers the more adventurous and culturally curious traveller a truly unique experience. This is supported by a growing tourism infrastructure which is attracting huge investment. You can find hotels and lodges all over the country that offer the highest standards of comfort and service, and many are run along eco lines supporting the natural environment, its wildlife and the people whose ways of life the land sustains.
Bet Giorgis , Lalibela
If one place alone sums up the mystery and majesty of Ethiopia it's Lalibela. This is where in the 12th century 11 complete churches were carved out of the living rock. To this day archaeologists still don’t know how the churches were carved, both inside and out, but ask an Ethiopian and they’ll tell you that angels came down from heaven each night to finish the day’s work. A UNESCO world heritage site, today the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela are recognised by many as the eighth wonder of the world. Ethiopia is the second oldest Christian country on earth and Lalibela remains as holy a place of pilgrimage today as it was when the first churches were craved over a thousand years ago.
Hamar woman of the Lower Omo Valley
Since I left Ethiopia I have been back many times, and continue to write about the country and share its tourism offering with those travellers who seek a completely different kind of rewarding travel experience. Knowing the country, and its people, as I do I am happy to share Ethiopia's story and champion its growing tourism industry.
As technology continues to shrink the planet and homogenise travel, everywhere in the world is becoming more and more like everywhere else. Except Ethiopia, which is like nowhere else.
For details about my book, Lights, Camera Jemuru - Ethiopia through the lens of a community film school, please click the button above.