Beautiful People

We’ve been awed by the magical scenery of Ethiopia, but its people are just as lovely. Here are a few portraits of the country’s beautiful inhabitants.

Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee and the crop remains an integral part of the country's cultural identity. Here a young woman administers a traditional 'coffee ceremony,' in which a sample of beans is roasted then filtered three times for three unique brews. Each brew has a unique taste—each being slightly more mild than the last.

This young girl was helping her mother make injera, the traditional Ethiopian grain in their house-restaurant where we stopped for lunch. Most Christian Ethiopians abstain from animal products on Wednesday and Friday, which makes finding veggie food quite easy! Yum!

Get, our nature guide in the Simien Mountains, knew the area like the back of his hand, having led tours for over twenty years. His knowledge really paid off on the final day of our trek when he pointed out some of the elusive ibex just across the gorge!

A man attends a ceremony in one of the stone churches of Lalibela. He dons traditional white, religious attire. Ethiopian Christianity has a unique flavor from European Christianity, especially in its brightly-colored, animated-looking religious art. The majority of Ethiopians are Christian at 62%.

Basket weaving is a common handicraft in rural areas. These mountain children make and sell baskets made from dried grasses and straw that has been coiled into varying-sized bowls with tight-fitting lids. The larger versions are used to store grains and fruits.

A woman carries her child at a religious ceremony in one of the stone churches of Lalibela. I spy a cute little hand reaching for mama!

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The Simien Mountains

Crossing the border from Sudan into Ethiopia, it took all of an hour for the landscape and culture to change dramatically.  Harsh desert unfolded into lush, rolling hills and eventually the mountainous Ethiopian plateau, and the people and culture quickly became far more African than the middle-eastern-feeling Sudanese.  The colors and textures of the Ethiopian landscape have astonished us time and again, and none more so than the Simien Mountains.  A four-day trek through this UNESCO World Heritage Site brought us to altitudes of over 13,000 feet; through grassy highlands, soggy mountainside forests, and baboon country.  The days were crisp and sunny, the sunsets were dramatic and saturated.  A photo could never do the Simien Mountains justice, but we’ve tried our best to give you an idea of the epic landscape that we were lucky enough to visit.

A stunning evening view from camp in the Simien Mountains.

Endemic Gelada Baboons live on the cliffs of the Simien Mountains. Their agility scrambling along vertical rock faces often made our stomachs turn...

Young Geladas are just as (if not more) playful than young children!

The Simien Mountains are a National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site, but local people are still allowed to live in their traditional homes in the mountains. Here, livestock graze on a lush plateau at sunset.

A traditional thatched hut in a cliffside village near our camp.

Villagers in the mountains cultivate barley and Teff, a local grain native to Ethiopia, on the mountainsides. The grains are grown purely for subsistence, and are not sold or traded outside of the villages.

Another beautiful cliff-side vista at about 12,000 feet.

'Red Hot Pokers' growing on the cliffs.

Giant Lobelia, an endemic plant species to the Simien Mountains.

A late afternoon view.

Cliffs at sunset.

And what’s next?  An 8-hour bus ride to Lalibela to see the famous rock-hewn Churches!

Nubian Desert

From Wadi Halfa, one can take the paved road that follows the meandering Nile to Khartoum in about 10 hours.  Boring.  We took the 3-day desert route.

The start of our route across the Nubian Desert to Khartoum.

We followed the railroad tracks laid down in the early 1900s for reference. Cars and trucks make this trip regularly, but it's hard to know whether or not following a set of tracks will take you down a well-traveled route, or lead you into tricky soft sand.

Stuck in soft sand, straddling the railroad tracks. It took us hours to dig out of this and eventually we had to drop a spare tire into a hole underneath the back wheel just to provide enough solid ground to get out!

An abandoned push-cart on the tracks.

Mads hanging out in our desert-proof truck.

Blazing sun even in the late afternoon.

Telephone poles extend the length of the railroad tracks and disappear into the distance.

Spare parts are scattered along the railway, unused for decades and covered in sand and dust.

Ferry Crossing into Sudan

When gearing up for our ferry crossing from the southern tip of Egypt into northern Sudan, we were instructed to bring our senses of humor. The 18+ hour crossing is the only way to enter Sudan from Egypt and we happened to be traveling the weekend before the large Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, meaning that the ferry was full to the brim with Sudanese returning to their home towns from Egypt. Things were a little bit cozy.

We secured a nook on the top deck of the ferry for the overnight voyage. During the middle of the day when the heat was unbearable, we made a make-shift shelter from whatever we had handy.

Chilling underneath the "shelter of shade" with our friend Meg.

The family next to us had thirteen energetic children, eight of whom were on the boat. Josh and I soon became the honorary daycare.

With 570 passengers, there was a lot of luggage!

Getting off the boat in Wadi Halfa was ... slightly disorganized.

Land rovers from the colonial period are still one of the major modes of transport around northern Sudan.

Our "hotel."

Our accommodations in Wadi Halfa were pretty basic. We thought our best bet was to forgo the mattresses and pitch camp on the floor.

Luxor & Aswan

It’s been two weeks since we’ve had internet—trekking from Dahab down through Luxor and Aswan, and finally into Sudan.  Here are a few quick photos from our final days in Egypt.  Hope to have more reliable internet in the future so we can post more regularly!

Karak Temple was the largest place of worship in the ancient world. Lines of statues adorn the entrance.

Massive columns line the entry hall of Karnak Temple, with unusually deep hieroglyphic engravings.

A Hot Air Balloon ride over Luxor gave us a great view of the temples and monuments scattered around the city.

A beautiful study of the lines and curves of our hot air balloon before sunrise.

A very distinct line can be seen where the agriculture supported by the plentiful fresh waters of the Nile gives way to harsh, dry desert.

Enjoying my first time up in a balloon!

A new perspective on an ancient temple.

A hot air balloon just after sunrise.

On the Nile around Aswan, young boys take an innovative approach to begging: 'surfing' on flotsam and jetsam while holding onto boats laden with tourists. They sing a tune to encourage tips.

A two-day Felucca ride down the Nile from Aswan to Luxor was just the thing to induce complete and utter relaxation.

Mads takes some time to relax and sketch our felucca on the way down the Nile.

Depictions of Egyptian gods at Edfu Temple near Luxor were chiseled out by medieval Christians who saw the pagan gods as an insult to their religion.

Striking carvings inside Edfu Temple.