Ya baladi ya habob…jalabia wa TOUB

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The Sudanese national dress for women, referred to as a toub/thoub is a long piece of cloth (usually4.5 meters) that is wrapped around the body and looped over the head and tossed over the right shoulder. It is probably the single most defining symbol of Sudanese women in the past and today. Despite the country’s variety in cultural diversity the toub is adorned by women all across Sudan ( with slightly varying styles). Women in chad, Niger parts of Mali and Mauritania also wear similar garments. I always found it uncanny how although Sudan and Mauritania are on opposite sides of the continent they wear the toub in a very similar manner. A lot of the times you cannot distinguish a Sudanese woman from a Mauritanian one.  It also bears some similarity to the Indian sari, as in some styles the toub is tied around the waist and looped around like some Indian styles.

It is a dress that many Sudanese poets, singers and artists spent quiet a bit of time describing. The title of my blog post are lines from Mohamed Wardi’s (famous Sudanese singer) lyrics. It roughly translates to “My country the beloved…Jalabia (white long tunics worn by men) and Toub ( garments worn by women). Many songs, poems and visual art pieces describe or convey the way it is modest yet allows for women to retain some elements of femininity.  Like Mauritanians, Sudanese women are preferred to be “round” so that their curves are accentuated when wearing the toub. Skinner women are often encouraged to put on a bit more weight so the toub “sits well on them.”

I came across this Aljazeera English  piece(2:49) on this unique dress, how it has changed through time, and what it means to Sudanese women of all generations. Watch below:

Although it was adorned by all women several decades back, it is now mainly worn by  married women. Toubs make up an essential part of the Shailya (dowry) or gifts from the groom to his bride. Now a days toubs are what women are using to make statements. Growing up outside of Sudan, I only saw these toubs in special Sudanese events (weddings, Eid, etc) and women scrutinized the details and styles of each toub. Every so often new styles come out with very interesting names. It is essential that women precisely match the color of the skirt,shirt and accessories otherwise it is seen as somewhat taboo to wear mismatching colors. For those who run in elite circles it is taboo to be seen with the same toub twice.

During the 1950s the toub became a symbol of female empowerment. At a time where very few women were allowed to work outside the home, as the clip alludes, women marched in the streets with their toubs to demand they get equal working opportunities. Today the national work dress code for women in all public institutions is a white toub. Today women make up a significant portion of the work force and have risen to positions of prominence; a key indication is the number of women represented in the National Council of Ministers.

Many young women today opt not to wear the toub, particularly in universities, but it still remains very much part of the culture and many look forward to owning their own set of toubs. While many see their national dresses as somewhat restrictive and sadly backwards because they do not fit the Western ideal, I am happy to see that Sudanese women embrace their toubs and take pride in wearing them. Seeing a women in a foreign country walking down the street, or at an airport, etc wearing a toub puts a smile on my face and instantly elicits a feeling of comfort.

In the very limited literature and references that are found on this Sudanese garment, it is always stated that it migrated from India or influenced by the Roman toga. In all instances this literature assumes that this dress was borrowed from elsewhere. As I was digging in and trying to better understand my history, and life of the Nubians, I came across a surprising discovery. Nubian civilization is characterized by 3 stages; where each marked a transition in the civilization and relocation of the capital. This rich history is often forgotten/overlooked and many always assume that the Nubian civilization was a transition from pharaonic traditions, when in reality the first phases of this civilization predated the pharaohs by several centuries. During the second major phase of Nubian civilization (Meroitic Period), jewelery, frescos and paintings etched on pottery that were discovered depicting women of the Royal Court wearing transparent loose robes of linen that reached down to their ankles. These clothes had folds that were draped over the right shoulder and folded down the back. This description is very similar to modern-day Sudanese toubs. Also during this period, women were depicted as obese, as a sign of beauty (R. S. Bianchi, Daily Life of the Nubians (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004). For more info on Nubian civilization customs and dress. There is no doubt that designs and styles of the modern-day toub were influenced by the Indians and Romans as many sources suggest, but I am pleased to find this is garment was conceived by the Nubians and carried forward today by modern-day Sudanese and women across the Sahara to Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania. It is refreshing to see that as opposed to the common notion that it was brought to Africa, this is something that was 100% home-grown. Has anyone considered if  the Nubian garments influenced the Romans and various Indian civilizations?

The Sudani I.B.M. work philosophy

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I’m sure if I mentioned the word bureaucracy, everyone no matter of geographic location will have something to say. The Sudanese people are a gregarious bunch, well for the most part. I grew up often hearing the phrase “al Sudan beh nasah” (sudan is its people). Super friendly and to some extent somewhat nosy. Favorite pastime, includes drinking chai and lots of chatting…they love exchanging “shamarat” or gossip.

No conversation can ever start with the intended thought in mind. One must go through the lengthy salamat process, where one must inquire about all family members’ health, the weather, news and any sort of random banter one can think of. Hospitality is engrained in their blood, you can never pass by a group of people gathered to share a meal without being invited to join; even if you are a stranger.

So keeping this in mind, one can begin to get the sense of how government institutions function. Many idle bodies, reading newspapers, drinking chai and exchanging shamarat. There are people working, but like many office settings few carry the workload for many.

The Sudanese have perfected the I.B.M. philosophy. I’m sure that when anyone reads IBM, the image of the highly successful and efficient tech company that is famous for manufacturing some of the most reliable computers on the market. Sadly the Sudanese I.B.M. does not reflect any of the traits associated with this company.

A very simple example, you go to office X, to get some paperwork completed. You ask are assured that INSHALLAH you can come and pick up your completed paper the following day. So you come the next day, you sit down or wait by a window, go have some chai; if it is someone you know you must go through the lengthy salamat process and then….you come to inquire about your paperwork and you are told with a very sympathetic tone….they are not ready today, come BUKRA (tomorrow). So you leave disappointed, knowing that you have lost yet another day having to wait for paperwork. Having resigned yourself to loosing yet another day to getting this paperwork done, you set off to the same office on the third day. You wait, you drink some chai, you chat and then you finally get to ask about your documents….and you are met with yet another response in a sympathetic tone…. MA’ALESH (sorry).

So the Sudanese I.B.M. is a way of life. As much as I would like to knock my head against the wall sometimes, it’s the way things work. They move at glacial speeds but in a uniquely Sudanese way. So if you have any sort of paper work that needs some attention in a government office, then  brace yourself, and expect to loose a minimum of three days.

Sudanese words of wisdom (3)

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I have decided to try to get back to compiling Sudanese proverbs that I’ve come across. I find these sayings (that exist in every culture) fascinating and provide a small window into the society and how it thinks. They are  products of experience and necessity. Elaborate metaphors that draw upon daily life in Sudan, to cleverly convey a message without being too overt.

كرعيه في البحر و فاتح خشمه للمطر

Kira’eaho fi al-bah’ar wa fatih’ khashmoo ll-matar

His feet are in the sea and he opens his mouth for the raindrops 

This proverb seeks to convey someone’s greed. Although someone is by the water he still tries to capture every little raindrop. Sudanese often use the word sea to refer to the Nile River.

Between a rock and a hard place

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Sitting by the sidelines and watching the escalating exchange of fire between Northern and Southern Sudanese forces….and the international community’s response has been appalling in the days leading to S. Sudan’s independence. The selective reporting that pitted the “evil”, genocide-inducing National Congress Party of the north against the perpetual victims and valiant rebels-turned politicians of S. Sudan was at times too much to handle.  In no way am I making excuses for the governing northern regime, they have dug their grave so they must lie in it, but the uneven and blatantly bias rhetoric was splattered across most major international news outlets and echoed by foreign representatives across “Western” nations, made me seriously question their agendas and intentions. Sudanese Allied Forces’ (SAF) re-entry into the disputed area of Abyie a few weeks back created a media outcry, with UN agencies citing “war crimes”. These same sources failed to mention that this entry into Abyie was a direct retaliation to an attack on SAF by SPLA as they were withdrawing from the region with UN escorts. For news outlets, trying to capture an audience, even for a few seconds in digital world where we are constantly bombarded with blaring headlines from famine-stricken babies to the rampage of drug addicted superstars, the narrative of good vs evil set against the backdrop of war-torn nation is an a quick, eye grabbing fix. A fix that completely over-simplifies the context and reduces the struggles of either sides to good and bad, omitting key elements in between.

Let’s be very clear here in pointing out both sides north-(NCP) and South (SPLM) have blood on their hands and are far from innocent bystanders. Both have actively and systematically used deceitful tactics that have put their own citizens in harm’s way for the sake of their self-interest.  As the international media went on and on to highlight the atrocities of the governing northern, regime, they painted a very rosy picture of the new media darling and the president-elect of S. Sudan, Silva Kirr. At times I found myself feeling some sort of sympathy for the way the North was being portrayed. Its people were simply lumped under the actions of the government (NCP). In wide-sweeping assumptions across news feeds, the people of the North were portrayed as supporters and perpetrators along with the governing regime.  Silva Kirr was using some lessons he picked up and has begun systematically disfranchise the people of the South. There are several armed struggles that are waging war against Silva Kirr/SPLM. In the past S. Sudanese untied against a common enemy; an enemy that  fine-tuned the British mentality of divide and conquer to consolidate wealth and power and leave the vast majority of the population in the dust; now the S. Sudanese government is doing just that.  I can’t blame the British or any colonial power but ourselves. At the hands of autocratic leaders, the diversity and beauty of Sudan’s peoples, cultures and religions was lost in a war that sought to highlight their differences rather their centuries of co-habitation and integration.

Now it seems that history may repeat itself in this newly formed nation.

Although the plight of S. Sudan was always at the forefront, many regions of Sudan suffer from the same treatments. I cannot deny that there wasn’t a strong element of racism propagated by the northern regime that added to the complexity of S. Sudan’s problems. But looking to the east, west or even far north of Sudan, there are many who are fighting for development and improved access to basic services (schools, health,etc). In some parts of the country, where relatively high numbers of individuals immigrated early on, mainly to Gulf countries; they have provided the life-link that supported families and communities back home–not the government. So as some outsiders might see development in some regions and attribute it to government support, in reality it is the collective effort of communities and the remittances received from brethren abroad that has helped in providing schools, health clinics, electricity, etc.

As the both Bashir and Kirr gave speeches that struck conciliatory tones of peace and harmony, both have failed to hone the diversity of their land and peoples constructively. Sadly it is the people of Sudan and South Sudan who are left between a rock and a hard place. Struggling to cope while their leaders, seek to maintain their strong grip on power and wealth.

Fall of the Arab-African Giant

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Today marks the last day of Sudan as one nation as we know it
Tomorrow we will witness the birth of a new nation
One that will embark on a path to build new foundations 

With purest intentions, well wishes to all
With all new beginnings comes euphoria and joy
My farewell to you is bittersweet
I hope that you stand up to the daunting challenges ahead
Never shy away and be wary of decoys 

Today marks the fall of the Arab-African giant
The overwhelming mass that glued together an unlikely alliance
A land that melded African generosity with Arab hospitality
Now it stands divided
Scrambling to retain some semblance of reciprocity 

As with every new birth there is an overwhelming sense of rapture
A sense that can hopefully heal all that decades of war has fractured
Like any new born everyday will present a new set of teething pains
I hope to watch you as take your first steps towards your prime
With every baby step maturing into a nation
With time 

I share your joy yet feel so wounded
Like I’ve been robbed, conned or hounded
Our leaders have been inflicted with that contagious “African” disease
The one that blinds them to their own selfishness and greed
Leaders in North and South both share the same symptoms
Disregard for their people
And treating the nation(s) as their own personal sanctums 

It hurts to me repeat
“ana Sudani ana…lamana al wadi sawa” (I am Sudani I am, The valley has bounded us together)
For it serves as a constant reminder
How we could not resolve our internal issues
And let outsiders; jolt us around like disposable pieces of tissues 

We stand today on opposite sides of arbitrary boundaries
Drawn by drunken men, in a feverish congregation driven by gluttony
Today we fight over invisible borders that divide us further
Rather than taking command of the drawing boards
And listening to our ethnic tunes that severed as our umbilical cords 

With a heartfelt sweep I bid you farewell
Hoping that what’s in the hearts of the our collective people
Rise above the propaganda and deceit of our leaders
Rise above the ill-intentioned whispers of foreign speakers

Can you spare some sugar…

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Landing at Khartoum airport at 1:25 AM, I exited the flight door and made my way down the steps to catch the shuttle bus to the main terminal… I was greeted with a warm slap of hot air. That familiar smell of dust filled my nostrils as I made my way through immigration. In the few days I spent in Khartoum, running around tending to family related matters and squeezing in visits to extended families, I couldn’t ignore the sinking feeling that kept growing in my stomach.

A series of events kept wringing the knot in my stomach tighter….

As we exited the airport and made our way home, I noticed the increased presence of military patrolling the streets. Drivers slowly cruised by and some were occasionally waved to stop for further questioning by on-guard policemen. That sight immediately took me back to the fear that was instilled in Sudan during the late 80s early 90s when curfews were in place and movement around the city was severely restricted. My uncle noted that it’s just precaution, preparing for the worst… and I kept quiet.

A trip to the any local shop is depressing, the shelves are fully stocked but I’m not really sure how people can afford to buy anything. Taking a 20 Pound (SDG) note, that could easily have paid for a handful of shopping items, at the butcher’s it came as a great surprise that 3/4 a kilo of mutton is 18 Pounds… so much for trying to buy some veggies to make a decent meal. My sister naively asked how do people afford meat, my aunt somberly replied..”they don’t, they use stock cubes to remember the taste of meat.”

In an effort to replace some missing documents my mother made her way to various government bureaus to get her paperwork in order. As she exited one of the buildings 2 young men on a motorcycle took hold of her bag and tried to pull it off her shoulder. Luckily she managed to hold on tight and they could not get away with her belongings. She came home rattled by this incidence yet no one seemed fazed. The apathy in people’s demeanor disturbed me even more than the attempted robbery. Instead, I found hints of pity in people’s voices when discussing this matter, they felt what would you expect young, job-less men/boys to do but to revert to such acts. It seems that everyone will stoop to stealing. I grew up hearing the praises of Sudanese trustworthiness. How someone would go out of their way to return a lost bag or item…these days if it’s gone forget about it because someone is most likely trying to make a quick buck out of it. When it was safe to keep you drawers open at work or walk away from your belongings without hestitation…these days you have to think twice about that.

As we passed by Alghaba Street at night, the hollow stalls of numerous handicraft vendors stood empty. This juncture of this particular street is famous for street vendors, mainly from S. Sudan selling beautifully crafted artwork from ebony and bones. When I asked a question to no one in particular, what is going to happen to all these guys?…will they return to S. Sudan. I was met by a unexpectant response from the taxi driver. “Come July we’ll show them.”

To me, these incidences demonstrated the clear disintegration of a society and its social, economic and moral foundations. Meanwhile, high-end cafes were primarily packed with young, well to do college students. So far removed from reality. It seems that everyone in Khartoum seems to in some sort of valium-induced state of coherency. No one wants to see the clear signs upon then or maybe or maybe disregard for these changing times is a coping mechanism. As everyone struggles to put food on the table….nationalist propoganda is turning fellow countrymen against each other.

During my short stay, many didn’t have a clue to the extend of unrest taking place between the border regions. The exchange of unfriendly fire between North and South… no one even knew it was taking place. The country is slowly approaching its boiling point and most citizens are numb to the pain. Have they been burned far too many times to feel the sting this round? I worry and this recent trip has only added to my worries. Not only is it becoming increasingly harder to live day by day… the moral foundation that was engrained in  me, that I have always equated with Sudan is no longer there.

Around Addis: public transport

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I  have a love-hate relationship with the distinctive blue and white mini-van public transport taxis in Addis. They run along various predetermined routes….or at least they are supposed to. But like everyone trying to make a little more money, the drivers’ routes deviate from time to time. As a new arrival to Ethiopia, not knowing the city, the language or any other person to depend on, to occupy my time on weekends, I took these taxis around everywhere to get to major markets around town. My first visits to Merkato as well as Shiro Meda was through the use of string of these taxis. It was novel, cheap and I got to see more of the city. Through sign language and bits of English from taxi users, I got directions on where to get off and which taxis to take to certain places. One of my more memorable taxi stop conversations, with a lovely older lady was etiquette of taking these taxis. She began to give me words of advice when she realized I was not Ethiopian and new the city. She told me the most useful word I would need on these taxis is…’waraja’ (I took it to mean stop (here))”

But that love has certainly weaned off. As the occasional pedestrian and a fellow driver along the roads of Addis, these taxis are a true menace at times. Their snaking around lanes, abrupt stops and the tendency to cut you off are somewhat annoying. There is little regard for the common pedestrian. Although in defense of taxi drivers pedestrians here are something else (at times believing that they too have licence plates attached to their front and back).

As the taxis come to an abrupt stop you find a young boy/man shouting the names of the last stop. Their rapid and peculiar way of shouting out names of boroughs around the cities needs a trained ear. For a first timer, as I once was, it was difficult to distinguish what they were saying and where they were going.

Today in an effort to regulate taxis the government has imposed  predesignated routes and instructed all taxis to place signs over head. Unfortunately all the signs are in Amharic. From my Ethiopian friends, I gather that even those who can read them have had difficulty understanding the final destination as the written names don’t correspond to names of stops previously belted out.

 

Love them or hate them, these taxis are probably the preferred form of transport around Addis and the most abundant. Many times there aren’t enough and you find people piling up in hoards waiting for the a seat in any taxi headed in their desired direction. One thing is for sure, they definitely keep me as a driver on my toe…because you never know what to expect from them.

Black Jesus

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Some years back prior to moving to Ethiopia a family friend gave me a beautiful painting from Ethiopia with 3 chocolate coloured, almond-eyed women sitting around and making coffee. Their distinctive faces are typical of drawings and paintings that date back centuries in the Ethiopian Orthodox church. Although I do not frequent many churches, I did notice something rather odd, outside all major churches in Addis there are men or women selling large posters of a blue-eyed, blond-haired Mary holding a milk-coloured baby Jesus. I was caught a bit off-guard.

I then took a trip to Lalibella, which I blogged about last year. There among the 11 rock-hewn churches that we traversed, I saw only 2 main pictures depicting biblical figures as seen in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Instead around each and every altar there was this new image, a foreign image. I couldn’t really understand the significance or implications on the religion.

Last week I attended a lecture where this very same issue was brought up. From a religious point of view, I can’t even begin to delve into the matter because I know far too little. As an art from it is sad that such iconic images are disappearing from the view. I get the sense that some view this style of art as archaic vestiges of the Orthodox Church. Although the church popularized this artistic style, it is not only limited to the church but represents a style  that has been crafted, and refined in Ethiopia.

Again with so many matters that compel me to write a blog post, I have more questions than answers. It is understandable in this increasingly interconnected world that with many things including art, food, music there is a global sampling process taking place, but how is this process taking shape? why are some things so easily adopted and why are we so quick to let go of what we have?  Observing this shift in Ethiopian art, made me reflect on the fact that in Sudan we widely celebrate international artists, and at regional scale many Middle Eastern artists but are not so generous to our own home-grown talent. In terms of music there is wide appreciation but when it comes to visual arts, there is relatively little support or praise.

I ask my Ethiopian friends to shed some light on this issue with respect to the disappearance of black Jesus from church mantles across the country. As for fam and friends out there, we need to do a better job of promoting and supporting our local artists, because it is a shame that their unique and inspiring work is going about unnoticed and being overwhelmed by works in the international sphere.

 

 

 

 

” Dark like charcoal”

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A few days ago I watched a preview of a documentary titled ” Dark Girls”, which follows the stories of numerous African-American women and their struggle with dark skin. As I watched this short clip, their stories were all too familiar. These same stigmas dominate our culture in Sudan and I would venture to say even the horn of Africa. Speaking from experiences in Sudan and what I have come to find out in Ethiopia, the issue of skin colour has been indoctrinated into every little girl in both countries.

During my time in the US, I came to find that some African-American women looked at North/East African women with disdain. I took me a while to understand that looks had to do a lot with it. Skin complexion, long hair, high cheekbones. Little did they know that these very same way they viewed East African women, women from the horn applied the same stringent principles on themselves.

In Sudan, and I guess now I have to differentiate (Northern Sudan), a common catch phrase for a mother, auntie or female relative to blurt out is “why have you been spending so much time in the sun, you are dark like charcoal.” Growing up in a fairly open-minded family, despite their consciousness on many other serious issues, they were blind to the backward ways in which they view skin colour. I grew up very conscious of the fact that I am on the darker end of the spectrum when it comes to members of my family. My mother, also having darker skin tone than her siblings was endearingly referred to with pet names that if someone outside our family heard, would be taken a back. When in a gathering of women who are discussing any young girl, skin colour almost always trumps all other features that we define as beautiful. So it doesn’t really matter so long as you are light-skinned you are considered beautiful.

Beauty regiments that Sudanese girls follow are ludicrous. Skin bleaching creams are the norm, which an unfortunate thing to say. The prevalence of kidney disease among Sudanese women is astonishingly high…yet no one wants to correlate the excessive use of skin bleaching cream with this disease. The local industry is booming with “home-made” concoctions that god only knows what’s inside. In an effort to get that “perfect complexion” the length some go to is very worrying. Even those who cannot afford these expensive creams or mixtures frequent small shops all around the country called ” قدر ظروفك” which roughly translates to “weigh your circumstances”. These shops sell such goods in varying quantities depending on the money you have available, they will put a dollop of cream in foil or if you can afford it you can walk out with the entire tube or jar.

What’s sad is the implications of skin colour on the society, dark, blotchy skin is equated with diminished marriage prospects. So in the process, young women, plagued by this social stigma are willing to try any product in the quest to find that lighter, even skin tone. When their skin is damaged, which in most instances is the case after usage of these products, you often see ghost-like young girls parading around town with a layer of thick concealer or powder on their faces; often several shades lighter than their true tone. What’s slightly more amusing is that many of these girls walk around donning black gloves, in a country where 50 degrees celsius around some months is the norm. All in an effort to hide the fact that they have used these lightening creams only on their faces and the disparity between their hands and faces is shockingly visible.

So in watching the preview of this documentary and reflecting on the issue back home, why are many women in our community and across the globe applying such harsh standards on themselves? what is causing our society to think in this manner? I would definitely like to see the full documentary and see what conclusions it draws based on its numerous interviews. I do fear that they may still reflect upon many black women as self-hating individuals without actually looking at the root causes of why this stigma is so widespread. I do believe media has a very powerful role in this case. When one is bombarded with thousands of adverts, commercials and billboards with “beautiful” young light-skinned women, the average young lady starts to equate skin tone with success. Why is that she is seeing a light-skinned girl and not someone who looks like her? The multi-billion dollar beauty industry does an impeccable job of peddling products and keeps generating media to support the cause for women everywhere under-appreciating their beauty.

All in all, I really do believe that we need to start a serious dialogue about this issue. For all my Sudanese sisters who are so close to my heart and all the other women out there who are perpetuating this stigma. As a community, we need to start looking within as well and figuring out what we need to do to help dispel these notions.

Trying to squeeze a dollar out of a dime

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I started this post several weeks ago and never really got the chance to finish it off. I spent the better part of April in Bahir Dar on work related trip. My trip was not meant to be prolonged but as work progressed, I realized I will not have much time to spend with my sister who came to visit me in Ethiopia for 10 days. So trying to kill 2 birds with one stone, I told her and my cousin to book tickets to Bahir Dar and then we would travel to a Axum and Lalibella for their sake.

Our trip however was mired in confrontations with deceptive clerks, tour guides and shuttle servicemen. Initially, I brushed off these incidences as isolated events limited to a few individuals and it would be too brash of me to generalize. But as we moved from city to city, it seemed that these problems were everywhere. A few months back I wrote about our trip to Bale Mountains and how our guide, despite being nothing but a placeholder in the car,  had the audacity to school us on what his services entailed and that many “foreigners” have given him high praises. Again, I kept on trying to give many the benefit of the doubt but it really became increasingly frustrating when  trying to enjoy the city/attraction and having to deal with all these incidents. It really does put a damper on the trip.  These incidences ran the gambit from double charging for shuttle services, exuberant prices for tour guides, pressure to utilize unnecessary transport and inclusion of tariffs that already included in the agreed upon price.

As Ethiopia’s tourism industry begins to take shape it seems that everyone is trying to cash in, as a result there is a great deal of collusion, misinformation and to some extent out-right bullying to use services that are otherwise unnecessary. It becomes even more infuriating when you know the actual costs. I’m not one for confrontations but when at my wit’s end towards the end of the trip, we engaged in a very candid discussion with a local tour guide to get a better sense of why these mistrustful activities are taking place at a massive scale. He tried to equate these prices with attraction in Europe and try to defend how tourism is helping his local community. In reality only him and a handful of those working in the tourism industry in these respective towns are benefiting, the rest of the community is merely side acts for tourists to gauk at and take numerous pictures.

Ethiopia’s tourism industry is gaining traction but acts such as those I mentioned, where there is complete lack of transparency and accountability can seriously tarnish the image of Ethiopia as a tourist destination. As we traveled along we met several other travelers who shared similar frustrating experiences. What resonated from all their conversations is the lack of outlet to air out one’s grievances as a result, despite remembering the remarkable sites and the generosity of the community, most leave with a bitter after taste.