Many of us know Ethiopia as one of Africa’s largest producer of Arabica coffee or the home of the legendary Olympic gold medalists Haile Gebreselassie and his protégé Kenenisa Bekele. The FAM trip of touring Northern Ethiopia was therefore an eye opener and pleasant surprise for the 17 Travel agents, Tour operators and media personalities who were selected to participate in this tour.

Our journey started in Addis Ababa – a cosmopolitan city, filled with all the modern amenities, sightseeing attractions, shopping and a venue for many conferencing events. It offers a wide range of accommodation facilities, with great value and excellent service for the business and leisure traveller.

I cannot talk about our experience in Addis Ababa without mentioning the Boston Day Spa – this was a heavenly experience. A welcoming and luxurious setting, aimed at pampering your body with a choice of relaxing massages, facials, baths, body treatments, manicures and pedicures, I could go on and on…. If we had a choice, we would have been at the Spa every single day but we were excited to experience the rest of Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is amazingly blessed with natural beauty and magnificent scenery of landscapes. Ranging from the splendors of the Rift Valley and rugged Simien Mountains in Gondar. The Simien National Park provides fantastic hiking opportunities and a variety of wildlife – it is the only place in the world you will find the Gelada Baboons. Then there is Bahar Dar, situated on Lake Tana – and is the base from which to explore the intriguing monasteries built on the many islands around the lake. The breathtaking views of the Blue Nile Falls, left a lasting impression, and is a must-see for any traveller.

Ethiopia has rich culture which even in the modern world, the people of Ethiopia, still keep their cultural heritage very close to their hearts. It was refreshing to see in the cultural centres the colourful traditional attire worn by various ethnic groups as they stepped to the rhythm of their unique folk dances. One dance particularly performed by the Oromia people, women in particular – a very fast circular motion of the neck was something we will never forget. And yes the injera – the Ethiopian staple food, a soft spongy, bread-like pancake, served with spicy sauces and meat dishes. Simply delicious.

The museums are filled with a lot of history, artifacts and countless items of cultural heritage. We got to understand why Ethiopia is known as the cradle of mankind. It is here that we saw the skeleton and skull of Lucy known to the Ethiopian people as Dinkenesh – a female skeleton believed to have been the beginning of evolution and lived 3.2 million years ago. It was interesting to know that we were walking on the foot prints of our ancestors.

On the historic route, ancient civilization has been remarkably preserved and it took us on a journey thousands of years ago. The architectural skills were outstanding – we kept asking, how did they do it, with just simple hand tools, of chisels and hammers? The medieval city of Gondar has more castles, palaces and churches than any other city in Africa. In the holy cities of Lalibela and Axum, we saw the replica of Jerusalem where churches were made of massive monolithic rock – undoubtedly the most incredible manmade structures in the world, and today Lalibela is still a center of pilgrimage for many orthodox Christians and the venue for sacred ceremonies. While in Axum where the Emperors were crowned and is the resting place of the original Ark of the Covenant, we saw the giant obelisks some upto 30 meters tall and some participants were brave enough to enter the royal tombs. Lalibela and Axum gave us a tip of the iceberg of what Ethiopia offers.

Indeed a memorable trip that will forever remain with us.

Thank you

• Ethiopian Airlines,

• Ethiopian Holidays

• The Ministry of Culture and Tourism in Ethiopia and

• The Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia for this amazing and educational trip

All things said and done, this is the beginning of a great partnership between Kenya and Ethiopia tourism; With Ethiopian Airlines operating two flights per day between Nairobi and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia offers a unique weekend getaway and extended tour of the historic routes. There is great potential for both countries to collaborate and complement each other as we continue to push forward tourism within the region. The foundations have been laid and the greater job has commenced. On behalf of the participants that traveled on this trip, we convey our commitment to working with you and actively promoting Ethiopia. Thank you

Report by The General Manager – Muthaiga Travel