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

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Last Day in Bahir Dar - our pilgrimage draws to a close

the boat display on Lake Tana outside our hotel
This is our last day and we fly back to Addis Ababa at lunchtime. But first we have the morning for a little last minute savouring of the culture of Bahir Dar.

It is a big day in Bahir Dar. The Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) are celebrating the 35th anniversary of their foundation with a variety of proceedings and celebrations and the closing ceremony will be held in this town, capital of the Amhara region.

the kingfisher we rescued that flew into the
hotel window
We noticed some of the preparations in the hotel last night and the high security all around town and in the hotel gardens this morning - soldiers and police. There was also a crazy display on the lake early this morning of boats, of all sizes, circling around with increasing speed in ever decreasing circles - quite a stir on the water and quite fun to watch! Perhaps this is also for the benefit of the ANDM. There is also the unveiling of a new statue on a roundabout near the hotel - perhaps part of the same celebrations I suspect. There are crowds of people all around it as we drive by - with all the photographic paraphernalia of the media. On our return it has been unveiled and the crowds gone.

Before going to the market, said to be one of the best in Ethiopia, we drive up to the top of Bezawit Hill, about 2.5km out of town, for the view of the town and the Blue Nile below. Here we see the hilltop palace which was built for Haile Selassie, heavily guarded with no entrance allowed. We can pick out hippos wallowing in the shallows of the river near a sand spit.

the Martyrs Memorial Monument
On our way down we see massive plastic sheets laid out by the side of the road on which seeds, pulses and spices are being dried in the sun. Just past the bridge over the Blue Nile we see the large Martyrs Memorial Monument that is dedicated to those who died fighting the Derg.

panoramic view of the Blue Nile below Bahir Dar
We spot hippos wallowing in the shallows
After a stop for a coffee and cake in a local cafĂ© we are soon heading for the airport for our flight back to Addis Ababa, where after a rest and supper at the hotel we head back to London.  

Lasting impressions of our trip:

There is much poverty but also much happiness.
Bahir Dar market
Lives in rural areas at least are simple but the diet seems nutritious, making for lovely teeth and smiles. There is a very strong Christian faith - the people often walking miles and miles to attend churches and festivals, often barefoot. Children can walk for many miles to school each day. They invariably want money and pens from us. But such begging, we are told, can divert them from education which is becoming much more widely available and so very important. There seems to be very little obesity. They are very friendly. The strong faith underpins strong moral values and mutually supportive communities and families. It seems to me that there are so many lessons for us to learn here.
spices for sale in Bahir Dar market
And the countryside: sometimes words seem inadequate to describe some of the views. Dramatic, spectacular, beautiful, stunning, breathtaking, awesome…so many superlatives are appropriate.

Of course the country has its own problems to find if we scratch below the tourist veneer. No place can be perfect. But we had a wonderful time and I feel sure that given the opportunity many of us would wish to return.   

My blog for Ethiopia has come to an end. Thank you for staying with me to the end and I would love any comments.   

view of Addis Ababa from my hotel balcony
Before taking a break for a while from posting here - until the next pilgrimage perhaps - I would like to thank Rosemary and McCabe Pilgrimages for such a well organised trip, The Revd. Canon Adrian Slade who with his wife made such a good job of leading and spiritually guiding us, our excellent guide Johannes with his encyclopaedic knowledge of just about anything we wanted to know, and our drivers who transported us safely and cheerfully throughout the journey, always there to meet us and look after us. And thank you to all my fellow pilgrims for being such good company. 


  1. Thank you for another fascinating account and lovely photos.

  2. Thank you Heather - it is lovely to know people are reading this and appreciating it as much as I enjoy writing it and reliving all the experiences again. All best wishes Eleanor