The Castle of Emperor Yohannes 4 has a nice historical collection describing the period of the Emperors reign.
A one hour flight brings you from Addis to Mekelle, Ethiopia’s sixth largest city, and a pleasant place to start exploring the northern part of Ethiopia. Tigray distinguish itself through many things,and one is the language. Tigrinya is a very glottal, and even closer to the ancient Church language Geez than Amharic. Tigriyan women also dress and groom themselves beautifully; the women braid their hair into something that resembles a Chinese fan.
All these features are prominent in the street life of Mekelle. It is also a very clean city, the streets have pavements, and the area around the Catholic Church has streets clad with cobblestone. Tigray is a barren land, with plenty of stones and rocks, and Tigryians are skilled craftsmen with stone, making the architecture very distinct.
Having a cup of coffee in Mekelle also differs slightly from having one in Addis. There is an abudance of coffee shops, and almost all of them serve coffee in the traditional way, beans roasted over a furnello- a small charcoal stove, and coffee served in a traditional djebenna. When Tigrians drink coffee, they will always say “To’um bun”, ( meaning “nice” or “sweet” coffee) to the person who has made it. The answer will then be “ To’ umi hauchom”, meaning “May sweet things happen to you”.
A dominating feature in the city itself is the Monument of the Martyrs, commemorating the struggle against the Derg.
There are monuments of both ancient and recent Ethiopian history in Mekelle. A dominating feature in the city itself is the Monument of the Martyrs, commemorating the struggle against the Derg. The museum of the struggle tells the story of the Tigryian People’s Liberation Front from its beginning until they entered Addis Abeba on May 28th 1991, and has a large collection of footage from that time.
The Castle of Emperor Yohannes 4 also has a nice historical collection describing the period of the Emperors reign, including a uniquely carved wooden throne, aid to be the only one of its kind in Africa.
Another castle build in the 1890s, Abraha is now running as a hotel providing a marvellous view of the city.
Heading North of Mekelle, and passing through the town of Wukro, one enters an area of magnificent landscape, by some called “The Arizona of Ethiopia”. In the area around Gheralta and Hawzien, there are a number of rock-hewn churches, beautifully carved and of immense historical interest.
The area around Gheralta and Hawzien are by some called "The Arizona of Ethiopia"
But Hawzien also has more recent and dark memories. On June 22nd, 1989, a large number of people were in Hawzen because of a market-day. Planes from the Derg-air force bombed the area, which was under TPLF-control. A large number of people died, and makes Hawzien the “Guernica” of Ethiopia.
A few kilometres from the ruins of the bombed market-area, one can return to the pleasantness of the Tigryian Countryside, and explore its particularities. The farmers houses have a special feature, one can see house-dogs on top of almost every roof, where they vigilantly keep watch when strangers appear. The food in the Tigryian countryside and in Mekelle tastes excellent. Food in Tigray is not so spicy as in other parts of Ethiopia. The Tigryian “shiro-wot” is particularly famous, and the powder for this sauce is absolutely worth bringing home.
The Gheralta-area has an excellent lodge run by an Italian couple.