Black Kite Tour

Ethiopia turned Emperor Menelik’s palace into a tourist attraction park

Dubbed as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s prestige project, Unity Park which is literally made from Ethiopia’s greatest monarch Menelik’s Palace is now open

Ethiopia Unity Park
Aerial view Unity Park in Emperor Menelik’s palace

Black Kite TOur
October 16, 2019

One of Ethiopia’s greatest emperors, Menelik II, 19th century palace is transformed into a park to be visited by local and foreign tourists. It is officially launched on Friday. Since the end of the 19th century., Ethiopian leaders including the late Meles Zenawi lived in the palace

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is said to have initiated the US $160 million (about 1.5 billion Ethiopian birrs) project and he has named it Unity Park.  The United Arab Emirates has reportedly provided financial support for it.

Widely criticized as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed vainglory project, it seems to be a demonstration of his government’s effort to reconcile Ethiopia’s past – which glorifies unity of the country – and the current politics of division along the ethnic line.

It captures the 19th and 20th century Ethiopia along with Ethiopia’s great emperors including Emperor Haileselassie who is featured in a life-size waxwork. It also features the post-1991 political works of Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in the form of sculptures in the garden representing nine ethnic-based regional states 

Unity Park _ Ethiopia _ Emperor Haileselassie
Wax work of Emperor Haileselassie on the throne

When Abiy assumed office in April of 2018 he introduced a buzz-word, medemer, which many within and outside of his government tends to see as “political thought.”  It could translate to translate to “addition.” The park is partly informed by that thought.

“Today marks the inauguration of ‘Unity Park’ which is a manifestation of the MEDEMER idea, inviting us to takes stock of our positive capital from the past (our historical and cultural assets) and build upon it for future generations. Unity Park symbolizes our ability to come together for a common goal and cross the finish line by, creating an exquisite lasting prints of our collective worth,” said a statement from the office of the prime minister which was shared on social media.

Leaders from member countries of IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) have attended the official inauguration ceremony.  Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Sudan’ prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, Somalian President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and Ugandan President Museveni have attended it.  Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde was also in the inauguration ceremony. 

It will be open to the public as of next week. The entrance fee is 200 Ethiopian birr which is about $US 6.7

Unity Park Ethiopia
Unity Park

The Ethiopian government has an economic motive in the project too. It is intended to boost the tourism sector. “Home-Grown Economic Reform” agenda which the government unveiled in September of this year emphasizes tourism as an important job creation means in the country.

Towards the end of this year the park will have a zoo featuring Ethiopian endemic animals.  

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Omo Valley – Mursi tribe

The village chief with the lip plate in their lip from the movie “Black Panther”? This is a key feature of the Mursi  women. The Mursi women wear clay or wooden plates in their lower lips or earlobes. This is part of their traditional rites of passages for educational and disciplinary purposes. The Mursi women start wearing these plates when they are around 15 to 16 years old, when the girl’s lower lip is cut by her mother. The opening of the wound is held open by a wooden plug until it heals.

It will be up to the individual Mursi young lady to decide how big to stretch the lip apart, by inserting progressively larger plates over the years. It was believed that the bigger the plate, the more desirable and prized it will be for the lady’s value  in marriage.

The Mursi tribe have a reputation for being one of the more aggressive African tribes (I can testify for it) and are famous for their stick fighting ceremony called the Mursi Donga Stick Fighting. The brutal stick fighting is a traditional fight that the Mursi men must follows to prove their masculinity and maturity. Definitely not a fun acting wrestling to watch!


The Mursi tribe people lived humbly in huts called Doris, that can accommodate several family members. The women in the tribe are responsible for building these simple homes. They rely heavily on cattle for meat and milk for their food intake. They also harvest maize, chick peas, and beans

The Mursi tribe are also known for their elaborate body and facial paining, using body art as an expression of their social hierarchical class in the tribe. The colours, patterns and designs are used to designate position, for ritual or to ward off sickness, or even can be used to attract the opposite gender. Different designs for different events. Each design has a different meaning/reasoning and evokes different emotions and feelings.

Posted by Habtamu Mideksa


Home  »  Festivals

Ethiopian Festival

Meskel (Finding of the True Cross)

Meskel Festival in addis ababa Meskel square

Meskel is celebrated by dancing, feasting and lighting a massive bonfire known in Ethiopian tradition as “Damera”. Meskel commemorates the finding of the True Cross in the fourth century when Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, discovered the True Cross on which Christ was crucified. The feast is celebrated in Ethiopia on September 17 Ethiopian calendar (September 27 Gregorian calendar), 6 months after the discovery of the True Cross. The celebration of Meskel signifies the presence of the True Cross at mountain of Gishen Mariam monastery and also symbolises the events carried out by Empress Helena.According to tradition, Empress Helena lit incense and prayed for assistance to guide her. The smoke drifted towards the direction of the buried cross. She dug and found three crosses; one of them was the True Cross used to crucify Jesus Christ. Empress Helena then gave a piece of the True Cross to all churches, including the Ethiopian Church. This piece was then brought to Ethiopia. According to the Ethiopian legend, when people get close to the piece of the True Cross it made them naked by its powerful light. Because of this, a decision was made to bury it at the mountain of Gishen Mariam monastery in Wollo region. The monastery of Gishen Mariam holds a volume of a book which records the story of the True Cross of Christ and how it was acquired.

Genna or Ethiopian Christmas

Christmas celebration in Lalibela Bete Giorgis

Christmas, which is celebrated on the 7th January, is called Ledet or Genna which comes from the word Gennana, meaning “imminent” and which expresses the coming of the Lord and the freeing of mankind from sin.

The celebration of Ethiopian Christmas is marked by various activities such as horse racing   and authentic folk dancing. At Lalibela, Genna is celebrated in very attractive ways due to the birth date of King Lalibela being on a similar day. In the rural areas a popular game which looks like European Hockey but is typically Ethiopian is conducted between two youth teams. The game is named after the festival and is called “Yegena Chewata”.

Christmas is more unique in rural areas than in the cities and it is celebrated seriously by a church service that goes on throughout the night, with people moving from one church to another. 

It is quietly shared and celebrated in groups of friends and family. Gift giving is a very small part of Christmas festivities in Ethiopia and only small gifts are exchanged among family and friends at home. The festive mood usually continues until the late hours of the evening. The joy of giving and sharing, extends beyond religious beliefs and spreads the spirit of peace on earth and goodwill to all mankind throughout the world.

Timket (Epiphany)

Image result for fasiledes bath epiphany celebration pic

Timket (Epiphany) is one of the greatest festival in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church calendar. It commemorates Christ’s Baptism by Saint John in the Jordan River. Timket is celebrated in Ethiopia on January 11 Ethiopian calendar (January 19 Gregorian calendar), two weeks after Ledet (Ethiopian Christmas), beginning on the Eve of Timket with colourful processions and ceremonies ending on the January 12 (January 20 Gregorian calendar). In Timket, Tella and Tej are brewed, special bread is baked called “Himbash” (in Tigrigna) “Ambasha” (in Amharic), and sheep are slaughtered to mark the three-day celebration.

Fichee-Chambalaalla, New Year festival of the Sidama people

Fichee-Chambalaalla is a New Year festival celebrated among the Sidama people. According to the oral tradition, Fichee commemorates a Sidama woman who visited her parents and relatives once a year after her marriage, bringing buurisame, a meal prepared from false banana, milk and butter, which was shared with neighbours. Fichee has since become a unifying symbol of the Sidama people. Each year, astrologers determine the correct date for the festival, which is then announced to the clans. Communal events take place throughout the festival, including traditional songs and dances. Every member participates irrespective of age, gender and social status. On the first day, children go from house to house to greet their neighbours, who serve them buurisame. During the festival, clan leaders advise the Sidama people to work hard, respect and support the elders, and abstain from cutting down indigenous trees, begging, indolence, false testimony and theft. The festival therefore enhances equity, good governance, social cohesion, peaceful co-existence and integration among Sidama clans and the diverse ethnic groups in Ethiopia. Parents transmit the tradition to their children orally and through participation in events during the celebration. Women in particular, transfer knowledge and skills associated with hairdressing and preparation of buurisame to their daughters and other girls in their respective villages

Irreecha: From Thanksgiving Ritual to Strong Symbol of Oromo Identity

Irreecha has become evident since recently that the Oromo across religious, political and geographical boundaries have converged together in celebrating an annual ritual/festival called. Historically, Irreecha has been understood and practiced within the context of the Oromo religion, Waaqeffannaa – a belief in one supernatural power called Waaqa(God). 
In Oromia, the core center of Irreecha celebration has been around Hora Arsadi in Bishoftu town, some 25kms to the south of Finfinne, the capital city. Annually, particularly during the Irreecha birraa (the Autumn Irreecha) in September or October, the Oromo from different parts of the country come together and celebrate the ritual. In the past few decades, Irreecha celebrations have been expanded both in content as well as geographical and demographic representations. This short commentary deals with such historical trajectories by contextualizing the changes within political discourses in Ethiopia vis-à-vis Oromo nationalism


Ashenda or Shadey is a festival celebrated starting from August 23 in the Ethiopian regions of Tigray and Northern Amhara. Ashenda marks the end of a two-week-long fast when adherents of the gather to honor the Virgin Mary. The name of the festival Ashenda comes from the name of a tall grass that the girls make in to a skirt and wear it around their waist as a decoration like seen in the picture. The young women and girls dress the best traditional dresses called tilfi which is a cotton dress decorated with amazing embroidery from the neck to toe in front of the dress. The girls also adorned themselves with array of beautiful jewelers

It is a holiday celebrated by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church followers every august 16 in Ethiopian calendar to commemorate the resurrection of Saint Mary. It is celebrated on the end of one of the most important fasting of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church the “filseta tsom” it lasted for 16 days .This holiday have both religious and cultural importance. Ashenda is a unique Tigrain and north Amharan traditional. This event is mostly for girls and young women, which they await very eagerly every year. The name of the festival “Ashenda” comes from the name of a tall grass that the girls make in to a skirt and ware it around their waist as a decoration. Ashenda is a unique northern traditional festival that young ladies and girls enjoy music and dance.

Kullubi, Feast of St Gabriel (December 28th) 

Image result for ethiopian church people pictures

St Gabriel is the Patron Saint who guards over homes and churches. There is a huge pilgrimage to St Gabriel’s Church on Kullubi Hill, which is about 70 kilometers west of Dire Dawa. Many pilgrims carry heavy burdens as penance; children are brought to be baptized; and offerings are made to be distributed to the poor.


Founded in 2001 by the most successful distance runner of all time, Haile Gebrselassie, the Great Ethiopian Run is ten kilometres of running revelry, looping through the streets of central Addis Ababa.

At the front the race could hardly be more competitive. Distance legends like Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba have competed in the event, and its winners consistently go on to have successful international careers. Indeed, the race is the number-one showcase for Ethiopia’s outstanding talent pool. No other street race in Africa offers a similar mix of competition and atmosphere and, in a country which idolizes its runners, this is where legends are born.

Behind the sizzlingly fast elites, join thousands of others to pit your training against the clock or to soak up the atmosphere of the music, the drinks stations, the friendliness and the city in the sunshine.

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