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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  

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October 10 - October 14. ADDIS ABABA Leaving Aksum was a particularly bad experience.  Because of the abundance of rare archeological items for sale in Aksum the airport monitored luggage carefully to catch anyone taking out things that they shouldn't.  The security detail had a fair amount of attitude as well.  While my backpack was going through the hand-luggage sized x-ray machine one of the straps got caught in the belt.  The guy monitoring the machine was so obliviouAksum, Ethiopias that he didn't even notice.  I am sure he wasn't all that adept at catching anything that wasn't supposed to be taken out either.  I yelled to have the machine stopped but while I was still yanking on the strap the guy just started the machine up again without looking.  Finally someone came over to help me.  When Rob's bag went through the x-ray the guy was watching and decided to hassle him about his bag of coins.  He had been saving a coin from each country and they now amounted to a sizable bag.  The guy was supposed to be looking for ancient coins but these were all new and too large. Still, he had Rob pour all of them out so he could look through them. But the really funny thing was that after we checked our bags and were waiting for our flight Rob found a souvenir shop in the airport selling ancient Aksumite coins.  Sure you could take them out, the shopkeeper said.  Unlikely. We went through a hand luggage search again before we were allowed to board.  It was a manual search and the security woman who went through my bag made me open absolutely everything.  She was punishing me for having yelled at the x-ray machine operator. She had been standing there talking to him during my ordeal.  Then she wanded me.  If someone was carrying anything metal it would have been found. Of course it would have been the traveler, not the shopkeeper in the airport, that woulAksum, Ethiopiad have been in trouble.    

It was a relief to arrive back in Addis.  We didn't regret our decision to cut out Mekele at all.  I am not sure that Aksum was really worth that second day but we were still glad to be moving on to the UAE sooner.  In total we cut about a week off of our time in Ethiopia.  The guys in the taxi area even recognized us so we didn't have much of a hassle there.  But, we didn't have a reservation for the hotel.  We made one for our original return but we were back much earlier.  As it turned out they were full.  We tried to look pitiful and reminded them that we had already stayed several days at their hotel and we had bags in storage with them.  They contacted the manager and arranged for us to stay in a suite for one night.  It wasn't such a sacrifice for them really.  We paid soAksum, Ethiopia much more than the locals and the hotel was mostly full of locals.  If we walked away they lost three more nights of us paying foreigner rates.  But that extra big room was a welcomed sight.  

Our last days in Addis were harder than when we arrived three weeks earlier.  We initially found it a relaxed city but this time we were frequenting the piazza area and down along Churchill Road, where all of the gold and silver and other souvenir shops were congregated. In those areas the tourist hassle was more frequent and we had absolutely not patience anymore.  Our one little respite was a cafe on Adwa Ave, where most of the gold and silver shops were located, called Raizel Cafe.  It served great breakfast food and delicious sandwiches.  It was actually a pretty stylish cafe which was frequented by Addis' wealthier youth.  We like it for the food and insulated atmosphere.  

We did make some final attempts at sightseeing and made a visit to the Ethnological Museum in Addis. We just wanted to walk around the large Holy Trinity Cathedral, the biggest Orthodox church in the country, but guards came running as soon as they saw us. Unaware, we entered the property from a side gate after some directions we got from guards in fAksum, Ethiopiaront of the Menelik Palace.  We considered paying for a ticket to see the inside but just weren't feeling interested enough.  That was the end of our sightseeing.  After we bought all of our souvenirs we went and had them inspected at the Department of Inventory and Inspection.  They scrutinized a bracelet that I bought but ultimately let us take it out.  Everything got wrapped in white paper and then they stamped all over the outside.  

In those last days we had so many more instances with aggressive and persistent begging that we didn't leave our hotel much on the last day.  We had one poor little girl follow us for blocks, followed by a guy that grabbed Rob hard on the shoulder to get his attention, and so many others I can't even record them all.  It just felt like people were coming at us from all sides.  And while it sounds pathetic we did seek comfort in the tourist hotels and cafes because it was the best thing to do.  When you really know you have reached your limit you are better off distancing yourself before you get mad and regret it later.  By the time our flight came on the evening of the 14th we were just downright eager to go!  

Aksum, EthiopiaOur experience in Ethiopia was been anything but all bad but it was certainly amongst the most trying places we had ever traveled.  There were enough good experiences that we would consider going back but would probably choose less touristy areas.  For all of the fascinating history that we learned and wonderful sights that we saw it was hard to really experience the true Ethiopian culture in a way that would have been more satisfying.  

ADDIS ABABA Oct 26 Oct 27 Oct 28-29

BAHAR DAR Sept 30 Oct 1 Oct 2 Oct 2-3


LALIBELA Oct 5 Oct 6

AKSUM Oct 7 Oct 8 Oct 9