Red Terror Museum, Ethiopa

The Ethiopian Red Terror, or Qey Shibir … was a violent political campaign in Ethiopia and Eritrea that most visibly took place after Communist Mengistu Haile Mariam achieved control of the Derg, the military junta, on 3 February 1977.

It is estimated that between 30,000 and 500,000 people were killed over the course of the Red Terror. …

Mengistu was found guilty of genocide in absentia and was sentenced to life in prison in January 2007. After his conviction, Zimbabwe, where he received sanctuary due to friendship with Robert Mugabe, said it would not extradite him. …

The Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum in Addis is the #1 tourist attraction.

It’s sobering.


The museum is well laid out and incredibly moving. Nothing more so than the walls of photos and names of just some of the estimated half a million killed under the Derg, or the display cabinets filled with human remains dug out of mass graves. Some of the skulls and other bones are displayed alongside a photo of the victim and personal artefacts they had on them when they died. …

Lonely Planet

There’s very little reason, aside from this museum, for tourists to spend many days in Addis Ababa. It’s a dusty construction nightmare right now.

I’d like to return some day, but only after the new Addis Ababa Light Rail opens.

It looks great. Addis Ababa’s rail project keeps Ethiopia on track for transformation.

Even more ambitious is the new Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam. Ethiopia’s Nile dam project signals its intention to become an African power.

I wish them luck.

Lalibela rock-hewn churches

Lalibela 2,600m (8,500ft) is a rural town of 15,000 people on a stunning escarpment in the eastern highlands of northern Ethiopia. It is famous for rock-cut architecture churches hewn from living rock, most built more than 900 years ago. They were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978.

King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela wanted to create a “new Jerusalem” in Africa. The layout and names of the major buildings are accepted by the local clergy to be a symbolic representation of Jerusalem. The town’s river is known as the River Jordan.

Of the 11 churches, St George’s is considered the masterpiece.

photo by Victor Watt

photo by Victor Watt


I was pleased to finally see the churches, yet wasn’t blown away.

In fact, my most memorable highlight of Lalibela is a weird restaurant.

The churches are sometimes compared with Jordan’s Petra. Sometimes with the amazing Kailasa temple at Ellora in India. Lalibela is more impressive.

Nobody likes the ultramodern protective roofs added a few years ago to most of the 11 churches.


Cost of entry is $50, high most agree. I hired a guide ($40 for 6 hours over 2 days). That’s not mandatory, but recommended. Guides at Lalibela are not all that great, I found.


They go through the motions without much passion. A priest in training at the attached museum was excellent, however.

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Ben Abeba restaurant, Ethiopia


Whimsical looking (Gaudi meets Mad Max) restaurant that was planned by a Scots woman, Susan, and her Ethiopian business partner, Habtamu, and opened in October 2011. It has a gob-smacking location on a little hillock standing on a rock promontory to give in-cre-di-ble 360 degree views and is surrounded by rock gardens and flowers (Ben means hill in Scots Gaelic and Abeba means flowers in Amharic).



The menu is one of the most imaginative in Ethiopia (you should try the tuna pate drizzled in lemon juice with tiny home-made oatcakes and their savoury home-made bread is delicious) and reasonably priced.


Get up early and go to Ben Abeba for breakfast to see the sun rise over the valleys. This is a terrific spot for watching brightly coloured weaver birds investigating the variegated seed sources in this restaurant’s garden and you are on the same level as soaring birds such as lammergeier, falcons and eagles. …

Trip Advisor – Ben Abeba:

“Worth travelling to Ethiopia just for the experience”

You meet other visitors at night around the campfire. :-)


more photos

Gelada baboons, Ethiopia

I hiked the Simien mountains in northern Ethiopia with Joshua and Nadine from Edmonton. They are nurses living in Africa for the past 2 years, putting together a rural Health Clinic in Burundi.

The biggest highlight was hanging out with Geladas, the friendliest simians anywhere.

Simien - Josh and Nadine-28

Simien - Josh and Nadine-26

Protected and not endangered, these grass eaters are comfortable with people coming close. A few of the curious babies reached out and almost touched us.

Simien - Rick baboons

Here are more of Josh and Nadine’s photos.

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I posted high resolution versions of those on my flickr.

my last Gondar photos

A former capital of Ethiopia for over a century, the population today is about 200,000.

Gondar map

A welcome change from polluted, dusty Addis, most everyone likes Gondar. It’s at high altitude in the highlands, warm in the day, cold at night.


The population is 83% Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, 16% Muslim.

The center of the widely sprawling town is this statue of warrior emperor Tewodros II (ruler from 1855 to 1868). Tourists are hassled a fair bit here but not much anywhere else in Gondar.


I was very happy at the L-Shape hotel. $16/night.


Yep. The shape of that hotel is perfectly rectangular. :-)

During the Second World War, Italian forces in Ethiopia made their last stand in Gondar November 1941. Addis Ababa had fallen to British forces 6 months before.

I was here to visit the Royal Enclosure, some of the best historical ruins in Africa.

Gondar is the jumping off point for the Simien trek, 3hrs further north.

There are surprisingly few bicycles in Ethiopia. Those who own one can bring them here, then RENT them to those who want to cycle around the parking lot.


Gondar is also a noted center of ecclesiastical learning of the Ethiopian Orthodox having 44 churches – for many years more than any other settlement in Ethiopia.



Most of the imagery shows Jesus and Mary whiter than me. A shame.


Pilgrims, the poor, homeless and dying hang about the Churches.


I wasn’t sure if this man was drunk, sleeping or dead.


Farewell Gondar.





more photos

Timkat in Ethiopia

Timkat (Amharic: “baptism”) (also spelled Timket, or Timqat) is the Ethiopian Orthodox celebration of Epiphany. …

Timket celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. This festival is best known for its ritual reenactment of baptism …

Fasilides' Bath in Gondar, Ethiopia

Fasilides’ Bath in Gondar, Ethiopia

It is celebrated in January, right after Christmas, two of their biggest festivals back-to-back. Fasilides’ Bath is one of the very best places to see it.

I visited the ruins in December. No water. It was pretty quiet.