I remember reading something in this book Matt loaned me, stating that Ethiopia is one of the few coffee exporting countries that actually consumes a large amount of its product. This makes sense, as according to legend coffee was discovered here in the North by a Goatherd one day, as his flock grew excited by chewing on the plant. So far the coffee here has been excellent, but mostly one sees that it’s part of a more important social function, roasting the beans, having your guests smell the freshly roasted smoke, then the 3 small cups of black coffee with a little sugar, and of course conversation.
On Lake Tana yesterday the monastaries are surrounded by coffee plants with red coffee berries and hops bushes, which is used to brew honey wine. The monastaries were established around the 16th century, Christian Orthodox, mosty made of mud and straw with elaborate paintings on the circular interior walls of biblical scenes. Mary is revered here, as well as many othere Ethiopian specific Saints. In the center of each monastery is a copy of the Ark of the Covenant which only a few high order priests view.
Wednesday and Friday are Orthodox vegetarian fasting days. There is very little cheese or milk available here. All other meals consist of beef, lamb, or goat. Chicken is rather rangey. A fairly impressive collection of Ethiopian beer is available considering the country’s modest resources, mostly lighter lagers.
Hopefully I’ll have a chance to write as we travel further north to the Axumite ruins and larger constructions of Christian antiquity. So far splendid.