Ancient Ethiopia    (10 Days)


Weekly Departures, Except in April, May and June.

Operates from November 1, 2017 through December 31, 2018 $6,005 - $6,215

Africa is not only where man was born, but where many of the first human empires arose. Likely the earliest, certainly the most colorful and absolutely the most enduring was the Ethiopian civilization. Ethiopia is the only country in Africa that successfully fought off colonization, a testament to the strength of its culture and history.

EWT owner Kathleen Morgan has taken this journey several times before, and has planned a tour for enthusiastic travelers to the oldest ancient human civilization on the continent. With artifacts dated to as old as 5000 BC, and written records of grand and colorful and complex civilizations from the 5th century BC, Ethiopia has no rival on the continent.

Yet even today Ethiopia remains one of the most inwards of Africa’s countries. Its development — still impressive — lags its neighbors. Its willingness to partner with other countries politically, even in Africa, is unusual. With one foot in the modern world Ethiopian Airlines flies dreamliners into Washington’s Dulles airport, while its internal domestic air service reminds many of the 1950s.

Join your personal guide on this remarkable tour to explore the very old and pretty intransigent traditions of ancient Ethiopia, to learn why the ancient veil is so hard to lift here.

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Dates & Pricing

Details

*Contact EWT for the best international air fares and for recommendations on how to use your frequent flyer miles.

Day 1: ADDIS ABABA

Saturday

Whenever you arrive Addis Ababa, you'll be personally met and privately transferred to the Addis Ababa Sheraton Hotel. Those who have time this afternoon can join your EWT guide on a fun excursion to one of Africa's largest open-air markets, Addis' famous Mercato. The capital of Ethiopia is an eclectic mix of the very old and the not so very new. As the brain center of contemporary Ethiopia, everything of importance travels through here. But its growth has been poorly planned, the services are poor and it stands mostly as an abject lesson of Ethiopia's difficulty emerging into the modern age.

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Day 2: ADDIS ABABA

Sunday

Touring of the city today includes the opulent St George's Cathedral built in 1896 in thanksgiving to the saint whose standard was carried into the Battle of Adwa, where Italy was defeated in its attempt to colonize Ethiopia. Also included is a visit to the Ethiopian National Museum. The museum is home to "Lucy," the 3.2 million year old hominid skeleton found in 1974 by American scientists. Equally interesting are the extensive exhibits of historical and cultural artifacts from all eras and corners of Ethiopia, and the impressive collection of modern and traditional Ethiopian art. Stops will also be made at the Trinity Cathedral Complex and Africa Hall, which houses the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. Ethiopia's renown artist, Afewerk Tekle, designed three stained glass windows for the hall covering an area of 1600 square feet, depicting the sorrow of Africa's past, the struggle of the present, and hope for the future. This evening your EWT guide hosts you for a welcome dinner party featuring some of Ethiopian's most famous cuisine. Overnight at the Addis Ababa Sheraton Hotel.

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Day 3: LALIBELA

Monday

Today we begin an 8-day excursion onto the famous Historic Route north of Addis. Our morning flight today brings us to one of the most wondrous sites of ancient times, the great stone city of Lalibela. Hidden within a small rural village lies this medieval king's marvelous creation: eleven monolithic churches, each hewn from a single mammoth block of stone, some almost completely hidden below ground level and some standing in open caves, all connected by a web of tunnels, narrow passages, galleries and grottos. The scope and majesty of the project overwhelms the visitor, who often finds it unbelievable it could have been completed in a single lifetime. But in the 12th century King Lalibela had a vision that God ordered him to build ten churches, all more spectacular than any yet seen on earth. According to beliefs still widely held locally, God directed the King where and how to build the complex, then sent a battalion of angels to help in the construction. When the last church was finished, Saint George appeared in full armor on horseback to demand a church of his own. Meals and overnight at the Mt. View Hotel.

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Day 4: LALIBELA

Tuesday

Exploration of the site continues today. St. George's Church is one of the most elegant, cut into the shape of a cross 40 feet below the surface and entered through an elaborate front door. One of the most amazing aspects to these structures is that every church is essentially a single piece of sandstone. The pews, the columns and portals, the altar, and every other part of the church is hewn from the same piece of rock. Each of the other churches has unique and impressive features, including fragile windows, delicate moldings and stone carvings. As remote and forsaken as Lalibela seems to be, today, it takes little imagination to realize how awesome the complex was in early times, the greatest religious city in the world. Meals and overnight at the Mt. View Hotel.

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Day 5: AXUM

Wednesday

Morning flight to Axum, the ancient capital of Abyssinia, the city of obelisks. The earliest accounts of what we know of today as "Ethiopia" were rather of "Abyssinia" which is essentially the northern half of today's country. The capital of the empire was Axum, and it remained Africa's powerhouse for nearly a millennium, from 400 BC through the 10th Century before it collapsed to the growing dominance of Islam in the region. But until then it was one of the greatest civilizations ever developed in Africa, with flamboyant kings that ruled both overland and naval trade through the Persian Gulf. This was where "Ethiopia" was Christianized while paying homage to Rome as a protector. When Axum fell, the empires of Ethiopia began to coalesce around Addis Ababa. Among the many interesting places we'll tour is the church of St. Mary of Zion, which Ethiopians still today believe houses the original Ark of the Covenant. Meals and overnight at the Yeha Hotel.

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Day 6: GONDAR

Thursday

Morning flight to Gondar on the northern shore of Lake Tana. Although centuries old, a section of the town has a modern European air with its central piazza and the 1930's-style Italian buildings constructed during Mussolini's occupation. In the 1630's, Emperor Fasilades banished most foreigners, raised the Orthodox Church to a position of primacy, and ushered in two centuries of prosperity. In 1636, Gondar became his capital and was transformed into a major cultural and trade center. This was when the lengthy myth and widely embraced legend of Prester John was ended, when Portugese monks exploring Gondar reported back to Pope Alexander that Fasilades was not "white." Prester John had been assumed to be a white Christian who went to Ethiopia before the modern age and Christianized the natives. Touring here includes a number of ancient castles. Meals and overnight at the Goha Hotel.

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Day 7: SIMIEN MOUNTAINS

Friday

The Simien Mountain National Park is one of Ethiopia's most precious wildernesses, a massive area in which are found several very rare animals including the Simien Fox and Walia Ibex, along with a number of endemic birds. Today we take a day trip into the area, a very simple "first glance" since the wilderness itself has few tracks and true exploration would take a week. Nevertheless we expect to experience some grand scenery and a few interesting animals and birds, such as the gelada ("bleeding heart") baboon. The mountain range is mostly semi-arid at a tremendous height, most of it above 10,000'. It is one of the few places in Africa where snow regularly falls. We'll enjoy a picnic at the edge of the park where the main road from Gondar ends before returning to the city for dinner and overnight at the Goha Hotel.

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Day 8: BAHIR DAR

Saturday

Today we'll enjoy a lot of beautiful Ethiopian countryside as we drive along Lake Tana from Gondar to Bahar Dar. Along this route of heavy primitive agriculture live the Awramba people who have sustained a unique way of life for several millennia. Personal property is prohibited. Everything -- even the smallest item -- is considered communally owned. Unlike the rest of Ethiopia which is universally Coptic Christian, the Awramba practice no organized religion, and in a similarly astounding fact, men and women are virtually completely equal, performing no social roles differently from one another. Famous for the production of woven cotton clothing, you'll have an opportunity to buy some of this along with their other handicrafts. By mid-afternoon we should reach Bahar Dar for dinner and overnight at the Kuriftu Resort.

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Day 9: BAHIR DAR

Sunday

Bahir Dar is often considered Ethiopia's prettiest city. The deep blue waters of the lake and the town's broad boulevards lined with palms and flowering trees create a feeling of a tropical resort. This morning we visit the Blue Nile Falls, known locally as Tis Isat, "Smoke of Fire." The river drops 150 feet, throwing up a constant spray of water before continuing its legendary journey to Khartoum where it converges with the White Nile from Uganda before winding its way through Egypt. After lunch we take small boats to explore centuries-old monasteries and churches built on islands in Lake Tana. Many of the monasteries and churches are richly decorated with ceiling frescos and wall paintings. Several continue to be lived in by orders of monks that have been here since the 14th century. Monks will guide us through various monasteries, displaying their local treasures including antique manuscripts and musical instruments, many which continue to be used today. Dinner and overnight at the Kuriftu Resort.

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Day 10: ADDIS ABABA

Monday

Morning flight returns us to Addis, with private rooms available at the Addis Ababa Sheraton until 6 p.m. Private transfers to the airport are provided for the various overnight flights to Europe as you begin your departure home.

Consider an exciting extension to Kenya's Maasai Mara! The Mara is generally considered one of East Africa's finest game locations, and Ethiopia is less than a few hours from Nairobi. Click here for our 3-day suggested extension, and here for our 4-day extension. EWT will handle everything seamlessly for you, including any overnights and transfers that might be required in Nairobi, depending upon your international flight arrangements.

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