2013 Ethiopia Total Solar Eclipse Overview
|Tuesday & Wednesday||October 22 & 23||Pre-Tour Hotel Nights in Addis Ababa|
|Day 1||Thursday||October 24||Addis Ababa, Ethiopia|
|Day 2||Friday||October 25||Dire Dawa – Harer – Hyena Man|
|Day 3||Saturday||October 26||Chat Market – Ethnological Museum|
|Day 4||Sunday||October 27||Bahir Dar – Lake Tana Monasteries|
|Day 5||Monday||October 28||Gonder Castles|
|Day 6||Tuesday||October 29||Lalibela’s Rock-hewn Churches|
|Day 7||Wednesday||October 30||Aksum – St. Mary of Zion – Ancient Stele Field|
|Day 8||Thursday||October 31||Addis Ababa – Awasa|
|Day 9||Friday||November 1||Awasa|
|Day 10||Saturday||November 2||Yabelo|
|Day 11||Sunday||November 3||Yabelo Centerline Eclipse Viewing|
|Day 12||Monday||November 4||Konso and Borena Tribes – Turmi|
|Day 13||Tuesday||November 5||Hamer and Benna Tribes – Jinka|
|Day 14||Wednesday||November 6||Mursi Tribe – Arba Minch|
|Day 15||Thursday||November 7||Addis Ababa|
|Day 16||Friday||November 8||Addis Ababa – Onward|
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
After your early morning arrival in Addis Ababa, you will clear customs and immigration, and be met by our representative and transferred by private motor coach to the Sheraton Addis, where luggage storage and breakfast are available. Next, enjoy a driving tour of the city, including a visit to the National Museum of Ethiopia and a stroll through the Merkato, East Africa’s largest open-air market. After returning to the hotel to check in, relax for the rest of the afternoon, have dinner on your own or with others in our group, and settle in for a good night’s sleep.
Overnight: Sheraton Addis
Dire Dawa – Harer – Hyena Man
After breakfast and checkout (leaving our large bags at the hotel), we transfer to Addis Ababa Airport for our flight east to Dire Dawa, Ethiopia’s second largest city (pop. 310,000). Here we visit the Ethio-Djibouti railway station, with its distinctive colonial architecture, as well as the spice market, where Oromo and Afar people in traditional dress come to buy, sell, and exchange news.
Next we drive 55 km (34 mi) to the walled city of Harer, the historic Muslim capital of Ethiopia. Here we explore battlements and gateways dating back to medieval times, then browse the bustling market favored by shoppers from the Amhara, Oromo, and Adere (Hareri) cultures. We also visit the home of 19th-century poet Arthur Rimbaud, who came here from his native France hoping to make his fortune as a trader after he’d abandoned writing.
At dusk we gather by an ancient city gate to see one of Harer’s most famous attractions: the “Hyena Man,” who beckons seemingly wild hyenas out of the darkness, calls them by name, and hand-feeds them animal bones. It’s an experience not soon forgotten!
Overnight: Heritage Plaza Hotel (or similar)
Aweday Chat Market – Ethnological Museum of Addis Ababa
After breakfast we drive back to Dire Dawa for the return flight to Addis. En route, we stop in Aweday to visit the region’s largest market for chat, a plant-based stimulant. Back in Addis, we enjoy lunch and then head to the Ethnological Museum, located on the scenic campus of Addis Ababa University, which houses fascinating collections of artifacts representing the country’s key tribal groups. Our expert guide provides an overview of Ethiopian history and culture, including the traditions of nomadic tribal groups who live today as their ancestors did thousands of years ago.
Overnight: Sheraton Addis
Bahir Dar – Lake Tana Monasteries
Your day begins with an early morning flight to Bahir Dar on the shores of Lake Tana, one of the major headwaters of the Blue Nile. Perhaps Ethiopia’s prettiest city, with stunning lake views from wide avenues lined with palm and jacaranda trees, Bahir Dar has been a regional trading center for centuries. Even today, traditional papyrus boats, or tankwa, can be seen transporting goods across the lake.
After dropping our bags at the hotel, we cruise across Lake Tana to visit two of the famed monasteries of the Zege Peninsula. While onboard our private boat, keep an eye out for local traders sailing their tankwas, as well as a wide variety of aquatic birds. After a short walk through a traditional village and a coffee farm, we reach the monastery of Ura Kidane Meret, home to an important collection of religious relics dating back to the 16th century. On the walls, colorful painted murals tell the stories of Ethiopian saints.
We then carry on to discover our second monastery, Azwa Maryam, set among pleasant gardens and overseen by an affable young priest. In the afternoon we explore Bahir Dar, stopping at Bezawit Palace for a scenic outlook. We also visit Weito village to meet the local Amhara people, makers of papyrus boats and handicrafts.
Overnight: Kuriftu Resort (or similar)
Setting out from Bahir Dar, we drive three hours along an asphalt roadway, passing through rural villages and across stunning mountain passes, until we catch our first glimpse of the remarkable castles of Gonder.
Often called Africa’s Camelot, Gonder retains much of its past glory as a center of imperial power. King Fasiledes named the city Ethiopia’s capital in 1636, and by the time of his death three decades later, Gonder’s wealth and beauty were renowned throughout the region. We spend the day exploring the castles of the Royal Enclosure, the bathing pools of Fasiledes (where ancient Timkat ceremonies are still performed), and the Debre Birhan Silassie Church, whose elaborate decor includes 80 ornate cherubs.
Overnight: Goha Hotel (or similar)
Lalibela’s Rock-Hewn Churches
We rise early for our short Ethiopian Airlines flight over craggy peaks and rust-colored canyons to Lalibela – a remote town situated high in the Lasta Mountains at more than 2,590 m (8,500 ft). In the afternoon we visit three clusters of remarkable rock-hewn churches in the nearby mountainsides. Carved out of massive red stone monoliths, the churches reach heights of more than 10 m (30 ft) and have intricately detailed interiors – though their precise origins remain clouded by legend. Exploring their quiet courtyards and connecting tunnels and passages feels like we’re journeying deep into Ethiopia’s past.
Overnight: Mountain View Hotel (or similar)
Aksum – St. Mary of Zion Complex – Ancient Stele Field
A morning flight brings us to Aksum, now a rustic frontier town in Ethiopia’s most northern region but once the country’s capital. According to legend, Aksum was home to the Queen of Sheba, and today many believe it is the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. As we explore this ancient place, we discover that its fascinating historical past is wrapped in a deeper sense of mystery around the events that may have unfolded here.
Our first stop is the complex at the church of St. Mary of Zion, which features an unexpected blend of ancient and modern architecture. While the oldest existing church was completed in 1665 by King Fasiledes (who also built Gonder), its foundations are likely from a temple build by King Ezana in the 4th century AD, or perhaps by King Kaleb two centuries later – making this the oldest Christian site in Africa. It is said that in the church’s hidden and guarded chapel lies the Ark of the Covenant. In stark contrast, the new St. Mary of Zion church is a modern circular structure built by Emperor Haile Selassie in the 1960s. Beneath the cathedral is a museum housing many of Ethiopia’s priceless relics.
The other highlight of our visit to Aksum is the mysterious Stele Park, with its small but impressive Archaeological Museum of Aksum. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Park contains more than 120 inscribed stone stele dating from the 4th century AD — some standing upright, others broken or partially buried. The tallest, at 25 meters, is the Obelisk of Aksum, which was shipped to Italy in 1937 on the orders of Benito Mussolini. It was subsequently returned by the Italian government and re-erected in 2008.
In the afternoon we visit the ruined palace of King Kaleb and King Gebre Meskel (6th century AD), and what some believe was the residence of the legendary Queen of Sheba (9th century BC). Beneath Kaleb’s palace, steep stone steps lead down to a series of underground galleries and chambers that some believe housed the imperial treasury. We can also explore the tombs of Kaleb and his son Gebre Meskel. Nearby is the Erana Stone — an important dedicatory stone from about 320 AD with an inscription in three languages: Sabaean, Greek and Ge’ez, the earliest written Ethiopian language.
Overnight: Yeha Hotel (or similar)
Addis Ababa – Awasa
After a morning flight back to Addis Ababa, we begin our six-hour journey, by 4X4 vehicle, through southern Ethiopia to the Rift Valley Lakes region. As we skirt the shores of lakes Shala, Abiata, and Langano, we’ll take in extraordinary views while spotting aquatic birds and other wildlife. Our destination is a beautiful resort on Lake Awasa, where we will enjoy the deluxe facilities for the next two nights.
Two nights: Haile Resort
Today is an easy day. Relax or join us for a visit to the local fish market and later for a boat cruise on calm Lake Awasa to spot hippos and water birds.
After a final breakfast at our lakeside resort, we set out on a journey of five to six hours (over asphalt roads) to Yabelo, our home base for viewing the eclipse. As we drive southward, there are plenty of stops to take photos, enjoy a local lunch, and visit the Sidama people, who grow enset – also called false banana – one of Ethiopia’s most important crops. After checking into our hotel, we gather for an eclipse weather briefing followed by a dinner featuring foods from the area.
Two nights: Yabelo Motel
Yabelo Centerline Eclipse Viewing
Viewing from Yabelo, Ethiopia:
|Start Partial Eclipse||16:15:25 EAT|
|Start of Total Eclipse||17:26:02 EAT|
|End of Total Eclipse||17:26:13 EAT|
|Approximate Sunset||18:07 EAT|
|End of Partial Eclipse||18:27:31 EAT|
|Duration of Totality: 11 seconds|
Because the solar eclipse does not begin until late afternoon, we pay a morning visit to a nearby village to learn more about the local way of life. After lunch, we depart for our carefully selected eclipse-viewing site.
What Will You See?
Imagine an eclipse in which Baily’s Beads – caused by sunlight peeking through valleys on the limb of the Moon – sweep from one side of the lunar disk to the other as day turns to brief night and quickly back to day again. Imagine the Moon’s black disk encircled by an intense ruby-red ring of light, with the pearly white solar atmosphere punctuated by extended red arcs of gas of equal brilliance. Imagine a landscape with a 360° horizon sunset glow — so close you can almost reach out and touch it. This is what awaits you in Ethiopia.
In this eclipse, more than any other, you’ll be aware of the geometry linking Earth, you, the Moon, and the Sun — all joined by a pencil-thin cone of black lunar shadow. At our site the lunar shadow is barely 10 km (6 mi) wide, approaches at a speed of 14,000 km/h (9,000 mph) – and you can see it coming. After totality, you’ll see the partially eclipsed Sun set behind a surreal landscape. This is an eclipse that will occupy the front pages of your scrapbook, making up in excellence what it lacks in duration.
WEATHER PROSPECTS FOR TOTAL ECLIPSE VIEWING
By eclipse meteorologist Jay Anderson
Exotic Ethiopia offers some of the best land-based prospects for viewing the 2013 total solar eclipse. The TravelQuest site lies outside the area of high cloudiness that covers equatorial Africa, and even though November falls within the “little rainy season,” daily precipitation statistics show that the wet weather doesn’t peak until the last days of the month.
At Moyale, on the Kenya-Ethiopia border, cloud cover for the month averages around 53%, while the estimated proportion of sunshine is close to 65%. Conditions at the eclipse viewing site, a short distance north of Moyale, are likely better, perhaps by as much as 10%. Daily measurements also suggest that cloud cover is sensitive to daytime heating. Cooling associated with the late afternoon time of the eclipse, and with the approach of the Moon’s shadow, will help to disperse much of the cloud that might be present.
Konso and Borena Tribes – Turmi
After an early breakfast, we set out from Yabelo on a full day’s drive, stopping to visit the nomadic Borena tribe, as well as Konso tribal villages. Our final destination is Turmi, the main community of the Hamer people who live in Ethiopia’s famed Omo Valley. Once settled into our picturesque lodge for the evening, we attend an Evangadi, a traditional dance performed by the Hamer.
Overnight: Buska Lodge
Hamer and Benna Tribes – Jinka
In the morning we head down the road on a four-hour journey to Jinka, stopping en route to visit the Dimeka market, traditional meeting place of the Hamer, Benna, and other tribes.
Overnight: Eco Omo lodge
Mursi Tribe – Arba Minch
Leaving Jinka early this morning, we head into Mago National Park to encounter the most famous tribe of the Omo Valley – the Mursi people, whose women are known for the ornamental clay plates they insert into their lower lips. In the afternoon we drive on, visiting a Konso village and concluding our long day’s adventure at Arba Minch, a scenic town set above two impressive Rift Valley lakes, Chamo and Abaya.
Overnight: Paradise Lodge
After an early breakfast, we drive north via Chencha, stopping to visit with the Dorze tribe and arriving back in Addis Ababa in time for dinner.
Overnight: Sheraton Addis
Addis Ababa – Onward
Following a late-morning checkout, enjoy an expert-guided tour of Addis Ababa –including a visit to Holy Trinity Cathedral, a beautiful baroque-style Orthodox church that is the burial site of Emperor Haile Selassie, as well as many Ethiopians who resisted the Italian occupation. In the evening, join us for a farewell dinner at one of the best traditional restaurants in Addis, where we sample cuisine from around the country while enjoying folkloric dances and the music of various Ethiopian peoples. After dinner, we transfer you to the airport for your evening flight onward.
Pre-Tour Hotel Nights in Addis Ababa
You can opt to arrive in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, a night or two early. On landing, you’ll be met by a TravelQuest representative at the airport and transferred to the Sheraton Addis followed by sightseeing and lunch prior to check-in. You’ll have time to relax and see a bit of the city before the main itinerary begins.
If you choose to arrive two nights ahead, TravelQuest has arranged a daylong excursion (with lunch) to the impressive Blue Nile Falls Gorge for your second day.
Nightly Per Person Cost: $550 USD based on double occupancy. Add $140 USD for single occupancy.
Pre-Tour Hotel Nights add-on(s) include: arrival transfer; 1 or 2 nights accommodation at the Sheraton Addis with breakfast daily; half-day sightseeing tour with lunch arrival day; Blue Nile Gorge excursion with lunch on second day (2-night option only).