My book Why Religions Work explores religious tolerance issues. It could not be more relevant at the moment with the world in its present state.
This blog has concentrated recently on the wonderful pilgrimages I have been on - to the Holy Land and to Turkey and more recently to Holy Georgia , Greece "In the Steps of St Paul" , Ethiopia and most recently my experiences in Iran.

"If I was allowed another life I would go to all the places of God's Earth. What better way to worship God than to look on all his works?" from The Chains of Heaven: an Ethiopian Romance Philip Marsden

Monday, 30 November 2015

Ethiopia - a pilgrimage in search of the Ark of the Covenant

Addis School children 
All my inoculations are up to date - hepatitis A, diphtheria, tetanus, typhoid, polio and yellow fever, and I've been taking the malarial tablets for a week. I'm ready to leave for Ethiopia "in search of the Ark of the Covenant" along with the other 13 in this party of pilgrims organised by McCabe Pilgrimages. So it is that after a busy Sunday in our local church I find myself at the airport in the early evening for the overnight flight to Addis Ababa, the world's third highest capital city - sprawling across the southern slopes of central Ethiopia's Entoto hills and reaching an altitude of more than 2600m at its highest point.

detail of the roof in Holy Trinity Cathedral
As we start the descent into Addis Ababa after a fairly sleepless night - why do airlines turn up the lights again and serve breakfast just as you are beginning to nod off from sheer exhaustion? - the scenery below us is stunning - the rock formations are incredible, and the mountains appear to be cut into huge slices of cake with precipitous drops from huge plateaus. I fear I see a little air pollution hanging at the base of the hills in the near distance though.
Addis street view on way to hotel
We arrive into a chilly dawn, staggering bleary eyed into an airport which is much quieter than I imagined. We are very soon being whisked off to our small coach and introduced to our driver and our wonderful guide Johannes who will accompany us throughout the trip. Although the air is brisk, the sky is a clear pale blue, tinged with the various hues of a pink dawn and promising a pleasantly warm day ahead. Already the streets are very busy with people scurrying to work, if they are lucky enough to have a job to go to. It is soon apparent that unemployment is a problem here, as we see scores of young men poring over the huge notice boards which we are told list work vacancies. The contrasts everywhere are stark: modern buildings tower over mud and corrugated iron roofed huts, beggars plead on street corners as children in their neat uniforms stride purposefully to their schools, bundles of books under their arms, and there are small flocks of sheep standing around for sale awaiting their fate - these are destined for private homes where they will be slaughtered by the family, skinned and butchered for the next few meals.
City of Refuge Church sign

bustling Addis early morning
We are glad to arrive at our hotel where we have a welcome breakfast. Eggs will be cooked however you like them as you watch - I particularly like the omelettes which incorporate finely chopped onions, tomatoes, peppers and chillies - very tasty. We have time for a few hours rest before we are taken on an orientation tour of the city. The National Ethiopian Football Team is staying in the hotel - there seem to be presentations going on and much noise in the room next to mine! I am reluctantly forced to ask a maid if they could please be quieter. Once we are suitably refreshed we will visit the National Museum of Ethiopia, a must to see on everyone's visit to Addis Ababa, and the Trinity Cathedral where Emperor Haile Selassie and his wife are buried, with its wonderful stained glass windows and wall paintings.More about that in the next post...

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