It’s a season, when body and soul merge for sacred duality, when conscious living pervades and when vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes honored more than ever.
It’s a season, when fifty something days before every Fasika (Ethiopian Easter) becomes challenging, soul purifying but memorable for many Orthodox religion devotees of Ethiopia.
Tsome Kudade is a season usually welcomed with a ritual locally known as Kibela – the last weekend before lent offering officially starts, when family and friends gather to feast on foods which they are going to be abstained from – meat and all dairy products. It’s a weekend when Siga Bet – butcher shops with restaurant and bar, which usually serves raw meat and stir fried meat with local beers – overly occupied for the ritual as most butcher shops would be closed during lent offering.
It’s a season rhythm and rhyme with Zelesegna – meditating traditional tune emanates from exotic traditional musical instrument known as Begena. It’s when the overall vibe of the country hugged by a sense of composure, when big music concerts, weddings and other events postponed as celebration and food are very much intertwined in Ethiopia.
It’s a season when the usual, an early morning church service moved to mid-day until 3 in the afternoon. Thus, it becomes a season with a rare scene – clothed in white pilgrim flocking to the church at the middle of the day, the ringing of bell and the meditating melody vibrating from the church as a constant reminder of conscious living.
It’s a season when vegetables and fruits outshine meat, when certain types of dishes appeared as once a year treats like Siljo. It’s when Beyaynetu – an assortment of fasting dishes – becomes the king of all dishes instead of only on Wednesdays and Fridays – Fasting days of the Ethiopian orthodox devotees.
It’s a season when vegetable shops with juice bar takes over the spotlight. It’s when colorfully layered Spriss juice, avocado juice and a hearty salad of vegetables and fruit becomes rich gastronomic delight.
“One of the more seductive ways that Life attempts to woo us each month is with seasonal foods.” Sarah Ban Breathnach – Romancing the ordinary
It’s a season when cafés switch from the famous foamy layered delight of Macchiato to the fasting version – usually Soya replacing Milk. It’s when Black tea becomes a café sensation – heavenly paired of spiced black tea with dairy free pastries like Teff Muffin, Baklava or Teff Biscuits.
It’s a season which seem gastronomic deprivation but rather it’s a season to nourish body and soul by conscious living, contemplating, praying and worshiping for many Ethiopian orthodox devotees.
“Amazing grace, it appears, is bestowed not on the perpetually sighted, but on those who ‘once were blind but now can see’. Rebecca McClanahan
Romancing the season!
In honoring the realm of nature, I decided to pair some of my favorite nuggets of wisdom about nature from a book called Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle, with pictures of the three endemic animals of Ethiopia from among many, which I’m blessed to witness and capture, from my wonderful trips in my own country – Ethiopia.
Enjoy and be inspired!
“To bring your attention to a stone, a tree, or an animal does not mean to think about it, but simply to perceive it, to hold it in your awareness.
Something of its essence then transmits itself to you. You can sense how still it is, and in doing so the same stillness arises within you. You sense how deeply it rests in Being – completely at one with it is and where it is. In realizing this, you too come to a place of rest deep within yourself.”
“When walking or resting in nature, honor that realm by being there fully. Be still. Look. Listen. See how every animal and every plant is completely itself. Unlike humans, they have not split themselves in two. They do not live through mental images of themselves, so they do not need to be concerned with trying to protect and enhance those images. The deer is itself. The daffodil is itself.
All things in nature are not only one with themselves but also one with the totality. They haven’t removed themselves from the fabric of the whole by claiming a separate existence: “me” and the rest of the universe.
The contemplation of nature can free you of that “me,” the great troublemaker.”
“Watch an animal, a flower, a tree, and see how it rests in Being. It is itself. It has enormous dignity, innocence, and holiness. However, for you to see that, you need to go beyond the mental habit of naming and labeling. The moment you look beyond mental labels, you feel that ineffable dimension of nature that cannot be understood by thought or perceived through the senses. It is a harmony, a sacredness that permeates not only the whole of nature but is also within you.”
Let’s learn from nature.
It’s a journey which started somewhere from deep inside of a longing soul to go back home and to check off a bucket list – The Bale Mountains. Actual path which involved crossing the world from Brussels to Addis Ababa – home turf. Elongated to the southeastern Ethiopia, 375 km Southeast of Addis Ababa to the Bale Mountains, via Assela, of a five-hour drive to the headquarter – Dinsho. which took seven days, camping in the wilderness, of an exciting and sometimes challenging attempt, to capture the soul of The Bale Mountains.
It’s a journey which soared way up to the roof of Africa, to one of the Earth’s eight biogeographic realms – Afrotropical – to witness Lava outflow and glaciation magical invention of the soul enlivening Bale Mountains.
It’s a journey interestingly specified to Ethiopia’s hidden gem, universally recognized, biodiversity paradise and to the heart of The Bale Mountains – The Bale National park. To a park which naturally and uniquely divide in five habitats, to see the wonder of nature by the most scenic drive on the highest all – weather road in Africa, crossing a plateau, one of a kind animal watching and sacred mountain trekking and pony – trekking.
It’s a journey studded with a memorable experience of a Park with many unique universes of its own. Witnessing one by one via a thrilling, remarkable and challenging journey started from 3000 m high, ascending to 4000 m and descending to 2000 m from a plateau along an escarpment into a forest.
It’s a journey distinctively cascaded through Gaysay Grasslands with its rivers, swamp, unique fauna and flora and home to the endemic Mountain Nyala and other animals. Juniper Woodlands with its beautiful African tree Hagenia Abyssinica and other trees. Afroalpine Leas and Upper Web valley with its rich Afroalpine vegetation to create a unique world of its own. With its very own unique spectacle of animal watching only Ethiopia can provide – the endemic Ethiopian wolf hunting another endemic giant mole rat on a unique landscape. With its Impressive rock formation, magnificent valley and home to the second tallest mountain in Ethiopia –Tulu Dimtu (4,377 m). Erica Belt as Descending down from Sanetti plateau along the Harenna Escarpment to enter into a fairytale like forest – Erica trees beautifully, impressively and extremely clothed with moss. Harenna Forest the largest cloud forest in the country which encompassing bamboo forest within and being home to another endemic – The Bale monkey.
It’s a unique journey which delivered a rare and exciting chance of trekking on a flat land in the ether and a picturesque drive through clouds on a roof of Africa. Experiencing mountain air and ruthless cold, encountering very interesting people along the way, losing oneself in wide open spaces but ironically finding true self, gathering around campfire and having heated conversations with strangers.
It’s a journey which lend an actual opportunity to live a profound quote “To travel in ignorance of a region’s history leaves you unable to understand the “why” of anything or anyone” Dervla Murphy, from the book which accompanied me on this particular journey and one of travel books I deeply cherish – The Tao of Travel by Paul Theroux
It’s a journey inspired to mug up on a particular history. Bale Mountains named after a formerly high powered Muslim State, that was discovered in Bale during the 11-th century. Bale is the original state of Muslim. Bale was the base of the 13-th century Arabian Missionary Sheikh Hussein who left a still existing legacy of his shrine – The Sof Omar Caves. Thus, these historical facts answered the “why” induced by roadside authentic everyday life spectacles – the local unique way of living, clothing and bamboo fenced small colorful mosques dotted here and there.
It’s a journey which incorporated gastronomic experience of a particular culture – Taste Of Bale. Golden barley farm fields, was not only an eye vista as Barley appeared on a plate as one of Oromia’s delicious delicacies famously known as Chechebsa. From the farm fields, potato ended up being deliciously warming companion in a very cold evening out on the mountains. Traditional beehives, on one of unique trees of Bale, magically appeared as traditional mild mead – Birze. Fresh picked from a garden and steamed Collard Green which locally known as Gomen with home baked bread, distinctively unique delicacies of Bale from Harenna forest village Rira, and seasonally harvested wild forest coffee from Harenna forest in a cup for a soul.
It’s a journey with its own miss out and rewards of seasonal offerings of The Bale Mountains. Bale during January means, missing out flowers which only blossoms during August – November like the colorful Red –hot poker, excessively and beautifully covered Erica trees with moss, rainy, muddy and misty but warmer journey. In spite of being the coldest time of year for the Bale Mountains, it was a journey blissfully rewarded with clear blue sky, once a year seasonally harvested wild coffee, the flowering of a distinctive African tree – Hagenia Abyssinica and many other beauties of its own.
It’s a journey which rhymed with another profound quote about Travelling in a Time of Trouble again from The Tao Of Travel book “A national crisis, a political convulsion, is an opportunity, a gift to the traveler; nothing is more revealing of a place to a stranger than trouble. Even if the crises is incomprehensible, as it usually is, it lends drama to the day and transforms the traveler into an eyewitness.” Ghost Train to the Eastern Star. However, for someone who is a traveler in her own country, it has a slightly different take – an emotionally charged connection. Peace and Love to Ethiopia!
It’s a journey which induced feelings, emotions, thoughts, conversations and insights about nature, security, freedom, true self, home, wilderness and so on.
All in all, it’s a journey which provided a once in a life time experience on the roof of Africa – beautifully diverse, exotically distinctive and excruciatingly cold.
To Be Continued…
It is always good to go back HOME – ETHIOPIA.
Coming soon is – My seven days trekking in The Bale Mountains travel memoir.
There is no place like HOME!
“Supreme spiritual delight is a guarantee for all travelers around the world while visiting the cradle of humanity – Ethiopia. The sacredness of visiting Ethiopia lies on coming back Home – visiting the grandmother of all humanity – and being able to reconnect with source in the holiest place of Africa.”
The above quote is from my published article which entitled ETHIOPIA: Historical And Spiritual Tradition For The Soul on The global S.E.E Africa Magazine by Afro Tourism about Timket Celebration and Gondar – which I strongly suggest you read if you want to know more about this colorful celebration.
And here is a photo essay to commemorate Timket!