We are going to Africa! Africa?! Yes, we are going to spend Christmas and New Years in Ethiopia. Or well, in Ethiopia they celebrate Christmas and New Years on different dates since they use a different calendar. Three weeks in Ethiopia are going to be interesting, probably stressful (we aren’t used to travelling with many people since we always travel with the two of us) and very exciting. It’ll also be very different from our past trips since we will go off the grid. With our daily Instagram stories and posts, we are used to sharing our lives with everyone, immediately as things happen. Sadly in Ethiopia, this isn’t possible for two reasons: the internet in Ethiopia is terrible and the country isn’t exactly welcoming LGBT people. Of course, safety always comes first. We know sharing our experiences on social media can provoke bad things, so better save it for later and save ourselves some possible troubles. The reason we refuse to boycott countries because of anti-gay laws is that we believe travelling the world is for everyone! And it’s up to LGBT travellers like us to pave the way for others!

Read about our unique reason(s) to visit Ethiopia!

The Capital City of Ethiopia: Addis Ababa

It’s time to leave our favourite continent behind (that’s Asia in case you were still wondering!) and we make our way to Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. The first thing we notice: it’s freaking COLD! We are used to temperatures around 30 degrees and when we arrive in Addis it’s around 15 degrees. Somehow I always thought it would be super warm in Africa, but of course, it’s winter in Africa as well. And we find out Addis Ababa is the fifth highest capital city in the world (+ highest in all of Africa), with an altitude of 2355 meters. So it isn’t weird it’s chilly in the Ethiopian capital city.

Ethiopian Culture

We have a couple days to get to used to Ethiopia and to finish work before the arrival of Maartje’s family and before heading to the Ethiopian mountains! I really need those days to get used to the cold (yes, I’m more of a hot temperatures-kinda girl) and the Ethiopian culture. It’s so busy on the streets and there’s so much going on everywhere. We also stand out as much as in Asian, but people are a lot more curious in Ethiopia. Before you know it you are surrounded by twenty locals with barely any space to move! One thing I’m very excited about from the start is Ethiopian food. I already had eaten it in restaurants elsewhere in the world but of course, this is the real deal! Believe me, you should try it. The traditional food is injera, a kind of sour, spongy pancake, with a topping of your choice. My favourite topping is shiro (chickpea and broad bean stew) and doro wat (chicken curry/stew).

Injera, traditional Ethiopian food at Yod Abyssinia Restaurant, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Mercato: Africa’s Biggest Outdoor Market

When Maartje’s family arrives it’s time to leave Addis Ababa and head out of the big city. But first, we quickly visit the Addis Merkato (market), which is the biggest outdoor market in Africa. Everyone scares us by saying it isn’t safe. And I must say, it’s a whole new experience. The safety concerns aren’t just about people stealing things, it’s also about getting hit by donkeys or buses passing by. Before we thought the regular streets in Addis were busy, but it’s nothing in comparison to the crowds at this market! We eventually buy some traditional Ethiopian scarves and bargain it down to a very good price – it’s always a very good idea to bring a habesha (aka local)!

Addis Merkato, market, Ethiopia, Africa

Family Reunion

The next days are all about meeting the biological family of Maartje’s little brother, who (logically) was born in Ethiopia! With a driver and translator, we head to rural Ethiopia – somewhere in the oromia region. With all the bad roads it takes us ages to get there. And the funny thing: our driver needs to ask the way so many times and every time people tell us we are almost there. But apparently in Ethiopia, that can mean ‘it will take you half a day’. Very weird for us Dutchies, we can reach a different country in just two hours in the Netherlands. As we drive through small villages where no tourists ever visited, locals are even more curious than in Addis Ababa. When we arrive at Maartje’s brother’s family the entire village has arrived as well to see what’s going on. The big difference we notice: at places tourists often visit people ask us money, while at the places no tourist ever goes nobody asks us that. There’s just a lot of curiosity.

Curious locals while flying a drone, Lake Chitu, Abjiata Shalla National Park, Ethiopia, Africa

Flamingo Spotting at Lake Chitu

I have never ever seen flamingos in the wild, so I get super excited when we visit Lake Chitu. Lake Chitu is a crater lake with thousands of flamingos. We sleep on top of a hill overlooking the lake and it’s the most beautiful view. Seeing the flamingos from above is really amazing, parts of the lake are fully pink!

Flamingos Lake Chitu, Abjiata Shalla National Park, Ethiopia, Africa

We made a short video with our drone to show you more of this awesome lake. Some people even asked if the shots were from National Geographic, thank you for the big compliment. Go and check it out yourself:

Flamingo spotting in Ethiopia ? First time I saw them in the wild.Happy New Year❤️

Posted by Roxanne Weijer on Sunday, January 6, 2019

I could stay for weeks at this place but we only got two nights before we continue our trip. Sadly, Maartje gets super sick but there’s no time rest. They say everyone gets at least sick once, mostly of food/different bacteria, in Ethiopia.

Want to see more pictures? Take a look at our Ethiopia Photo Gallery!

Northern Ethiopia, Here we Come

There’s always a first time for everything. Like the first flight we ever miss. It honestly was a combination of unfortunate events: not having Wifi to check updates, a flight change that moved the flight three hours early (when does that ever happen?!) and a driver who forgot to check the gas – so we end up stranded in the middle of the expressway. I told you it was a kinda stressful vacation right? Luckily we catch another flight the next morning and fly to Gonder in Northern Ethiopia to start a four-day trekking trip through the Simien Mountains aka the Roof of Africa.

Simien Mountains & Gelada Baboons

Wow, four days of hiking through the Simien Mountains are intense. For most of us a bit too intense. We never made it to the third camp, our group of ten people is cut to seven after the first night. And on the second day, Maartje needs a mule to make it up the mountain. We totally can see and feel why the Simien Mountains are called the Roof of Africa. The altitude varies between the 3000 and 4000 meters above sea level. Maartje and I have never been this high and breathing is difficult. But the views are incredibly beautiful and the highlight of the trekking trip, for me, is the Gelada monkeys. Or well, our guide tells us we aren’t allowed to call them monkeys since the geladas are super friendly (while monkeys can be aggressive). I’m a huge monkey lover and what happens during sunset at camp geech (the second night) is one of the most special things I have ever seen in my life. During sunset, all Gelada Baboons come together to head to their caves. They jump, roll and run down the steep mountain to make their way to bed. And the sound they make is so funny.

Gelada baboons group during sunset Camp Geech, Simien Mountains, Roof of Africa, Ethiopia

Happy New Year

We celebrate New Year’s Eve in the mountains or well, celebrate… at 8 pm we act like it is midnight. It’s too cold at night to stay up, the temperatures go below zero and we’re camping. Our guides make our New Year’s Eve a bit more special than the other ‘regular’ nights. They get us red wine and make us a new years cake. It’s weird to not be connected to the rest of the world. I can’t even wish my family a happy new year. Luckily we told everybody we would be offline. Nevertheless, we’d like to wish everybody a happy new year now! To a new year with lots of new travels and love!

Regain Energy

We definitely need to rest after the Simien Mountains. Next time we need to practice for the hike. We thought we were pretty fit girls haha. Maartje tells me we will postpone our trip to Nepal. No way we can handle that now. But who knows in the future ;). We make our way to Lake Tana and relax at Tim & Kim Village, run by a Dutch woman. It’s the perfect place to regain energy and to enjoy the last days with Maartje’s family. Travelling through Ethiopia can take lots of time, distances are big and often the roads are bad. So, time passed by so quickly!

Ethiopian Christmas – Gena – in Gonder

Maartje and I stay in Ethiopia six more nights and decide to stay longer in Gonder. That means we need to say bye to Maartje’s family in Gonder, but not for long as we will be back in the Netherlands at the end of the month. So much love for Maartje’s mom for taking us on this African adventure. For me, it’s actually the first time in Ethiopia and it’s a trip I will never forget. But it isn’t over yet, we will celebrate the Ethiopian Christmas in Gonder!

Remember I told you Ethiopia has a different calendar? In Ethiopia, they celebrate Christmas, or as they call it: gena, on the 7th of January. Gonder is a great place to celebrate gena since there are many churches in the city. By the way, did you know most people in Ethiopia are orthodox Christian? We visit the Haile Birhan Selassie Church for the early morning mass on January 7th. It’s a unique church in the form of the arc of Noah (upside down) and incredible paintings on the ceiling. Visiting the church for a mass is even more special. Everyone is wearing traditional white dresses, gabis, and netelas and it’s incredible to witness. Gena in Ethiopia is a private celebration for friends and family, so after going to the mass, people go home to eat with family and friends. Traditionally they eat doro wat, and break the fasting period (eating vegetarian). While walking back from the church we are invited by an Ethiopian family to eat a homemade meal, of course, we can’t refuse! We enjoy injera with doro wat and couldn’t have wished for a better way to celebrate Christmas.

Traditional Food and Dancing in Addis Ababa

Our last two nights in Ethiopia, we spend in Addis Ababa. We can’t leave Ethiopia without going to a traditional Ethiopian restaurant so we go to Yod Abyssinia. For me it’s the first time, Maartje went to one before, during a previous visit to Ethiopia. I absolutely love it. Ethiopia has so many different dancing styles and we see so many of them while we enjoy some delicious Ethiopia food and Tej, traditional Ethiopian honey wine.

Morocco here we come

After three weeks we leave Ethiopia. I had a fantastic time but I’m also happy to leave again. I miss the comfort of having comfort food (yes I know, we are spoiled) like chips and chocolate. And of course, we are also excited to have a normal internet speed again. Wifi in Ethiopia is really the worst we have ever had. We loved being offline for a while but we are also happy to connect with you all again. Ooh and Morocco, here we come!

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Travel Journal #50 A Very Special Christmas Holiday in Ethiopia | Once Upon A Journey LGBT Travel Blog #ethiopia #gonder #gena #christmas #africa