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Pole to Pole

Day 83: Addis Ababa

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleThe most extraordinary part of the service is the music, which is played on three big barrel-shaped drums (kebros), accompanied by sistras, which are small wooden-handled instruments on which a line of silver discs is shaken to produce a sound not unlike that of a castanet or tambourine. The three drummers and twenty other musicians slowly build up a rhythmic counterpoint to the increasingly fast and strident chanting of the priest, and as they do so they begin a swinging forward movement with steps to left and right. It is a hypnotic routine and presumably intended to play worshippers and participants into some heightened state. We leave after nearly three hours of the service. The charismatic and indefatigable chief priest is in full flood at an open balcony as the rain drips past him off the roof and onto the patient crowd below.

If all goes well I am to travel into southern Ethiopia with an Oxfam team, and this afternoon I go out to meet them at the home of Belai Berhe, who has worked with Oxfam since it began operating in Ethiopia seventeen years ago. He has a comfortable, sparsely furnished house on the outskirts of the city, and while I talk with him and Kiros, a water and wells specialist, Neggar, who designed the new village wells, and Nick Rosevear, the only Englishman of the group, Belai's wife performs the coffee ceremony. It's not a ceremony in the sense that it is done on rare and special occasions, in fact it happens several times a day in nearly every household in the country. The Ethiopians adore coffee and grow some of the best in the world.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 83
  • Country/sea: Ethiopia
  • Place: Addis Ababa
  • Book page no: 184

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