Tsunami of dazzling Ladies in Town
by Beza Kassahun
Have you noticed the tsunami of the dazzling ladies in town these days? Is it like an ordain for a mother lately to give birth to something not less than pretty? May be I am exaggerating it a bit more, fact be told am sure am not the only one having this observation. Somewhere out there at least there is that one person who shares my thoughts. Prior to writing this article; in need of juicy details I had the privilege to converse the issue with few residents of Addis, most of them of course men. More often than not in my view there is this somehow unrealistic conviction that women tend to be envious of one other. I myself am a woman, and I would rather not be biased and tend to take sides on this assumption; but as far as my knowledge goes and my life experience teaches me; there sure is a tendency of jealousy among women but that does not mean it works for all; and may be that is why I chose not to direct my research towards women.
From what I seem to discover from my research, year after year there have been a mounting number of fine-looking young ladies on the streets of Addis. The way they dress, act and talk have been changing gradually from what our parents refer as ‘the old days’. Sure beauty is skin deep and it lies on the eyes of the beholder, but may be in this scenario all things being equal what if most of the people out there share almost more or less the same perception of the matter at hand; which is the ladies these days are just spectacular.
In all honesty, what would I do “If I were a boy in this situation?” this question has been mingling in my head for a while now. The choice is too vast, the ratio of women exceeds men and the desperation as to whom am I going to date or who is going to date me grows accordingly. Not pushing the age much further former to tying the knot matters for the ladies more than it does for the guys. Her time is her beauty the years whereby she shines the most and the moment she calls her own.
Well amongst all these beauties left and right it is for the man to choose for his own even though the willingness to accept relies on women as well. That is when the bewilderment lies I hope. I still cannot give adequate reason as to why all of a sudden there are unexplainable beautiful ladies out there, but all I know is looks can be deceiving, and it all fades with time what really matters when it comes to marriage is what is inside of your spouse that keeps your marriage tied up for as long as you both shall live. And by no means am I sending out the notion that strikingly amazing women do not have an awesome personality. We all have our own flaws regardless of how we look on the outside, communication trespass the physical attraction and so does personality more than looks. Let’s just put our ducks in a raw and prioritize what is more important to life; your life! I am aware of the fact that am talking about something you might already know, your choice is your own, make sure it is the right one; no one lives your life much better than you do!
Below is a comment written by Abraham. This comment was given on the topic “Ethiopian Evil Eye Belief” by Niall Finneran. Because the comment from Abraham has given us a more deeper view of the topic, we felt obliged to present it as an extra add-on to the subject matter “Evil Eye”.
Hi, Thanks for your observation of the role of Evil Eye in the Ethiopian contemporary Culture.
However, I disagree with your central theme of generalization the culture throughout Africa in particular Ethiopian. Actually, the traditional notion of Evil Eye concept in Ethiopia is by far very different from the general Bantu based concept of witchcraft which exists in most part of Africa south of the Sahara. Actually, the concept evil eye does not exist in Africa south of the Sahara except in the Horn of Africa. The Ethiopian concept of Evil eye is similar to that of the Mediterranean and of the Fertile Crescent traditions of Mesopotamia and Judeo Christian traditions. In Ethiopian Highland similar to that of Southern Europe and North Africa the evil eye is the name for a sickness transmitted — usually without intention orempowered by evil spirit — by someone who is envious, jealous, or covetous or some one influenced by a demon (Satan). This also could be by anyone or from those people from specific social class or cast.
In general, Evil eye is also called the invidious eye and the envious eye. In Hebrew for example it is ayin ( it is also called & pronounced exactly the same way in Amharic language the national language of Ethiopia) or ha’ra (the evil eye) which in Yiddish. In mainland Italian it is mal occhio (the bad eye) and in Spanish mal ojo or el ojo (the bad eye or just the eye). In Sicily it is jettatore (the projection [from the eye]) and in Farsi it is bla band (the eye of evil). The evil eye belief is that a person — otherwise not malific in any way — can harm you, your children, your livestock, or your fruit trees, by looking at them with envy and praising them. The word “evil” is unfortunate in this context because it implies that someone has “cursed” the victim, but such is not the case. A better understanding of the term “evil eye” is gained if you know that the old British and Scottish word for it is “overlooking,” which implies merely that the gaze has remained too long upon the coveted object, person, or animal. In other words, the effect of the evil eye is misfortunate, but the person who harbours jealousy and gives the evil eye is not necessarily an evil person per se. This is often true in the Ethiopian context.
Evil eye belief is geographically spread out in a radiating ring from ancient Sumer, where it apparently got its start. It is mentioned the Torah (the Old Testament of the Bible) and its existence is acknowledged by modern Arabs, Jews, and Christians. The belief extends eastward to India, westward to Spain and Portugal, northward to Scandinavia and Britain, and southward into North Africa. Although many people of European descent think it is universal, in fact China has no evil eye belief — nor does Korea, Burma, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, Sumatra, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Japan, Australia (aborigine), New Zealand (aborigine), North America (native), South America (native), or any of Africa south of the Sahara except Ethiopia. It is generally referred to by scholars as a Semitic and Indo-European belief. The Westernmost pre-Columbian outpost of evil eye belief was along the Atlantic coast — Ireland, England, Scotland, Spain, Portugal, and France; the easternmost pre-Columbian outpost of evil eye belief was India.
The epicentre of currently active evil eye belief is in nations along the Mediterranean and Aegean shores, plus India and the South American countries most influenced by Spanish conquest and in the horn of Africa Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia. It is now a fairly widespread belief among indigenous people in Latin America. Colonialists also spread it to North America, Australia, and New Zealand.
In Ethiopia, similar to that of the Near East because the evil eye is a specific form of evil, the protective charms and spells that have developed around it are also quite specific in nature. In some countries, if a person feels moved to praise a child, fruit tree, or dairy animal, he or she follows the praise by spitting, under the mother’s or owner’s approving gaze, to remove the taint of the praise. That’s why in Ethiopia similar to that of the middle East ad Southern Europe often people when they admire a child they will spit toward the child and if the chid is sick and they suspect of Evil Eye (Buda) then they will ask the person they believe is responsible to spit towards the child. In other areas, praise of a child can be safely mediated by immediately touching the child, to “take off the eye.” If the praiser fails to follow these protocols, the mother may invoke religious aid by uttering a formulaic prayer to obviate the possibility of an evil eye incident, or she may speak ill of the child to counter the damage caused by the praise. In Ethiopia this is done by the religious leaders from the Church or Mosque which involves reading from the holly scripture followed by victim drinks three sips of holy water and then victim is bathed in holy water the priest performing religious rites.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church forbids its members to consult and make use of individuals who use magic rituals to get rid of the evil eye, does not recognize the wearing of amulets as a form of protection against the evil eye, though many members of the Orthodox Church wear these amulets which contain passages from the bible in conjunction with their crosses.
The Traditional Foods of the Central Ethiopian Highlands. Author: Ruth Selinus The Scandinavian Institute of African Studies
Ethiopia differs in many respects from the remainder of tropical Africa, both in natural scenery and in culture. The topography of the country varies from high mountains and great plateaus 2000 - 3000 metres above sea-level to grasslands, jungles and deserts. Various ethnic groups, predominantly Hamitic and Semitic, speaking different languages, populate this vast country.
Like people in other parts of the world, each tribe in Ethiopia has its own beliefs and attitudes relating to foods. Some of these are related to foods and diseases, others to qualities, such as hot and cold or light and heavy foods. Food may be graded as dangerous for certain individuals or in certain situations. If a child develops any kind of upset at the time when a supplementary food is being introduced, it is only natural that the illness should be attributed to that food, especially if it is a gastro-intestinal upset. Some foods are endowed with special prestige.
The following introduction is based on studies carried out as part of an applied nutrition program within the framework of the Children’s Nutrition Unit (now transformed into the Ethiopian Nutrition Institute. The studies were carried out in widely different parts of Ethiopia, and included the major ethnic groups (Amahara, Oromo & Tigre) and also took account of seasonal variations.
Plant origin Cereals. The most important cereals are tef, corn, sorghum, barley wheat and millet. Tef is native to Ethiopia and a number of varieties are available. The most common are white (nech), red (qeyy) and a mixture of these two (sergegna). The kind of tef most preferred is white tef. In order to get the bread as white as possible, upper-class families may wash the seeds several times.
Corn, sorghum, barley and wheat are grown at different altitudes and are used instead of or together with tef. Emmer Wheat (Triticum dicoccum) is a cereal recognized as a suitable food for children. Millet is used in part of the region, mainly for the local beer.
Legumes. The next group of importance is legumes, the most common being chickpeas, field peas, lentils and broad beans. The legumes are used in the sauce (wot) whole, split or as flour, but are sometimes toasted whole (golo) and eaten as a snack with coffee.
Vegetables. Onions (mainly red onions) are grown in large areas and used in huge quantities. Kale (yabesha gommen) is the next vegetable of importance. It is cheap and is available for most of the year. Pumpkins and green chickpeas are used when available. Cauliflower, cabbage, red beets, tomatoes, etc. are grown mainly for consumption by foreigners.
Tubers. Potato (Solanum tuberosum), sweet potatoes (Impomoea batatas) and in the Oromo communities Oromo potatoes (Coleus edulis) are used in the staple diet.
Spices. Spices play an important role in most countries in Asia and Africa, and Ethiopia is no exception. Some of the spices are grown in Ethiopia, either cultivated or wild, and others are imported, mainly from India. The most important spices are chili and bird’s-eye chili. These are used in the spice mixtures berberre and mitmitta.
Fruit. Fruit is not grown in large quantities in the central highlands. The most common fruits are lemons and bananas. Of less importance are pawpaw and orange.
Oilseeds are important cash crops. Niger flax, sunflowers and safflowers are grown in large areas. Most of the oilseeds are used for producing oil, and the oilseed cakes are exported for cattle feeding.
Foods of animal origin
Milk. The amount of milk per cow is small. Fresh milk is mainly given to small children. From milk is prepared sour milk, butter and low-fat sour-milkcheese (ayib).
Meat. The meat of the cow, sheep or goat is eaten in the staple diet. Wealthy families can afford to serve this kind of food often but the majority of the population are poor and can serve meat only on ceremonial occasions, such as religious feasts. For big feasts the cow’s meat is served raw immediately after the animal is killed. The raw meat is spiced with the spice mixture mitmitta or awaze.
Chicken are common, but the eggs are mainly kept for sale, and the chicken are killed for big feasts.
Fish. Tilapia and Nile perch are available in the lakes. Fish is of very little importance in the staple diet, because of the poor transportation system.
Preparation of grains
Tef. The grains are small (1000 grains weigh 0.3 - 0.4 g) and the foreign particles are removed by winnowing. The grains are contaminated with soil by the threshing procedure, and the large soil particles are picked out by hand.
Barley. The grains are soaked in hot water for 5 minutes, pounded in wooden mortars and left in the sun to dry. The husks are blown away. The grains are again pounded slightly, left to dry and the remaining husks are blown away. This procedure wastes about 15 % of the crop.
Emmer wheat. The grains are cleaned with the help of a sefied (straw plate) and foreign particles are removed by hand. After drying in the sun, the grains are pounded in wooden mortars and the husks are blown away. By this process about 25% of the initial weight is lost.
The grinding of grains can either be done between two stones in the home or in the local mill, which nowadays is more and more common. This milling process gives an extraction rate of about 90- 95%. Preparation of Enjera
Enjera is a thin, pancake-like, sour, leavened bread, which can be made of either tef, corn, sorghum, barley or a mixture of two or three of these, depending on which is the main crop in the area. Enjera has been prepared since at least 100 B.C. The way in which it is prepared differs according to the type of cereal, the altitude, and the temperature. Investigations were carried out in different areas, among some ethnic groups, as shown in the following table:
Tef enjera. The flour is mixed with water to form a dough and kneaded by hand. A leaven (ersho) is added. The leaven can be obtained in different ways, for example, a small amount of the previous enjera dough may be saved for the next dough or the bowl may be left uncleaned after the dough is made and the small quantity left will be sufficient for leavening. If no enjera leaven is available, one can use the local beer (tella).
The enjera is allowed to ferment for 1-5 days. Most often 3 days of fermentation are allowed, but, if time is scarce, the dough is fermented for only 1 or 2 days. The long-fermented enjera will give a better sourer taste and look nicer.
During the fermentation period a top layer consisting of mould and a yellow liquid appears. The custom is to remove this in order to get an enjera with a nice texture. Poor people cannot afford to throw this away. The liquid can also be used as a leaven.
A small part of the dough is added to boiling water and this mixture is stirred until it starts to boil again, after which the whole mixture (called absit) is added to the enjera dough. This gives the dough the right fermentation before baking starts. More water is added, if necessary. About 30 minutes afterwards the baking can start. The pH value of the dough is 4.0-5.0.
In the northern part of the country (at a higher altitude) the preparation of the enjera differs, in that the flour is toasted lightly on the mitad and the clay container with the dough is put in the warm ash or in the sunshine for a few hours, in order to start the fermentation process. The time for fermentation is 4-5 days.
At lower altitudes the toasted flour and water is made into a thick dough, which is left to ferment for 1-2 days. Hot water is then added to obtain a thin dough, which is ready for baking.
Barley enjera is made in the Tigre Begemder and Arussi Province. In Tigre the preparation does not differ much from the preparation of the tef enjera.
In Begemder Province, where an investigation was carried out among the Koumant ethnic group in the highlands 30 kilometres north of Gondar, the barley enjera is prepared in a somewhat different way. After grinding the barley, the rough part of the grain is mixed with water to form a thick dough, which is made into small balls stored in the husks of barley (for about 2 weeks) or until they are reddish inside (wokena). When making enjera, half of one wokena is added, in addition to the usual leaven. The dough is fermented for 4 days, boiling water is added and the dough is allowed to rise before baking.
Corn enjera in the Oromo communities in Shoa Province is made in a different way, as far as investigation shows. The corn is crushed between stones, and hot water is added to form a thick dough. This dough is fermented during the day and after that the dough is kneaded twice between stones, and water is added to obtain the desired consistence of the dough, which is then baked.
In the Arussi Province the corn flour is mixed with water and allowed to stand overnight. In the morning the dough is kneaded twice, the leaven and water are added until the dough takes on the right consistence and the dough is allowed to ferment for 1 day.
Baking. The enjera pan (mitad) is made of clay and has a diameter of 45-60 cm. The mitad is heated and cleaned with a piece of cloth. The pan is greased with kale and rape seeds. The dough is put on the pan in a circular shape, forming a thin cake, which is first baked without a cover for about 45-60 seconds. After that the cover is put on and the bread is baked on one side. The total baking time for one enjera is 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 minutes. The temperature in the middle of the enjera during the baking process was found to be 88-90 degrees C. The weight of one tef enjera is 350-450 g and of one corn enjera 400-500 g.
The bread is removed from the fire with the help of a straw plate and allowed to cool down. After the baking is finished, some rape seeds are put on the mitad until the next time for baking. Enjera can be kept for 3-4 days.
Nutritive value of enjera. Lysine is the first limiting amino acid in tef, as in all cereals. During the fermentation process some lysine is destroyed and a large percentage is dissolved in the yellow top layer, which is often thrown away. Therefore the nutritive value of the enjera is further decreased, as compared with that of the cereal. About 10% of the thiamine is destroyed during baking. The high iron content is mainly due to contamination from the iron-rich soil; the availability of this iron fraction is probably low. The increase in riboflavin during the fermentation process is about 5%. However, part of the riboflavin is dissolved in the top layer, which is thrown away.
Tef flour contains 180 mg of phytic phosphorus per 100 g on a dry basis and the enjera 20 mg/100 g on a dry basis. Owing to the fermentation process, the amount of phytic phosphorus decreased by 80%, which shows that there is a considerable destruction of phytic acid.
Kita is a bread made of whole-grain flour. It can either be leavened or unleavened. The leavened bread is fermented for a few hours. Kita is baked as a thick bread on the clay mitad at low heat and turned after being baked on one side.
Qey Wot and Allicha Wot
In those parts of Ethiopia where enjera is a staple food, it is seldom eaten separately. Occasionally it may be eaten as a snack with coffee in the morning, if nothing else is available. Very poor people may eat enjera with berberre for a meal. But most often enjera and sauce are eaten together. When one asks about the menu for a meal, the answer is often simply enjera, because it is understood that sauce will accompany the enjera. It may be a qeyy wot (most often called wot) or allicha wot (most often called allicha). The main ingredients for these sauces are legumes, meat, fish, chicken, vegetables or tubers. Onion, fat (oil or butter), salt and spices are also added. The spice mixture berberre is used in the qeyy wot and green pepper and tumeric in the allicha wot. The recipes and the preparation of the wot and allicha differ from place to place and between the different ethnic groups. Tradition, religion, economic and social situations play important roles.
The Ethiopians prefer to eat the wot or allicha with large quantities of fat (oil during the fasting days for the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians). A wot for a feast should have a top layer of fat. Wealthy people also prepare the wot or allicha with large amounts of protein-rich food, meat, chicken or legumes. A wot or allicha for poor people will be more watery with less fat (mainly oil) or no fat and smaller quantities of the protein-rich food. These families will also mainly serve dishes prepared with legumes, vegetables or tubers, as they cannot afford to buy meat or chicken.
Because of the poor transportation system, the consumtion of fish is low. Therefore the nutritive values of the dishes show great variations as between different groups in the Ethiopian community. The traditional food is served in a mesop, which is a kind of basket made of straw. The enjeras are placed on top of each other in the mesop, most often one per adult person. The sauce is placed in the centre of the enjera. During feasts several wot and allicha are served for the meal, for example, one type of wot with meat or chicken, one wot or allicha with legumes and one with vegetables. Sour-milk cheese (ayib) is sometimes served with the enjera. The guests and adult men eat first and after that the women and children. The thick part of the sauce is the best and most tasty and will therefore be taken first. The thin part of the wot has been soaked up by the enjera and this may be the only food for women and children. It is also said that:” A child should be hungry”. Small pieces of enjera are eaten at a time and with the help of these also the wot is consumed. When the guest has finished eating it is polite to put more pieces of enjera and wot (gorsha) into his mouth. Before eating, the hands are washed with water and in wealthy families soap is used. Most often the children carry the water around. The water is poured over the hands of each person and caught in a special bowl; it would be unclean to wash the hands in water that another person has used. The washing procedure is repeated after the meal.
The wot can be eaten either freshly prepared or served cool. This is especially the case in some areas where they eat the food left over from the previous day in the morning before starting the daily work.
The Ethiopian culture and tradition is built up around this traditional food pattern, enjera and wot, and there are many proverbs about it. One says that “Hand and fly-whisk, mouth and enjera go together” and another “The enjera I have, my lass, the wot I wait you to pass”.
Preparation of wot and allicha. The chopped onion and garlic are toasted at low heat until golden brown. Butter or oil is added and the onion is fried for about 5 minutes. The berberre, other spices, salt and a small amount of water are added and the mixture is cooked for about 15-20 minutes. The spice mixture berberre has the nicest taste after being cooked in a mixture containing fat. When chicken, meat, vegetables or potatoes are used, the raw pieces are added to the spicy sauce, together with water, and after that it is boiled until ready. Legumes are most often boiled in water and afterwards added to the spicy sauce. Pea flour (shiro) when used, is mixed with boiling water and added to the spice mixture. The allicha is prepared in the same way as geyy wot and the spices and salt are added to the onion and fat mixture. The green pepper is chopped after the seeds have been taken away and added to the spicy sauce. In the villages in the central Ethiopian highlands green pepper is not available during the entire year and the allicha is made without this spice. Fairly often the wot or allicha are over-cooked and part of the ascorbic acid and the thiamine is destroyed.
The wot for a real feast contains an ample supply of chicken and eggs (dorowot). Poor people save money so they can afford to buy chicken for breaking their fast after the long fasting period (fazika zom) during Lent. Many traditional rules are followed in the preparation of dorowot for this feast. The chicken must be cleaned very thoroughly and it is said to be a great shame to the housewife if a small barb is found in the wot. It is also said that, by tasting the wot, one can tell if the chicken has been cleaned satisfactorily. The chicken should always be cut into 12 pieces. Tejj (honey wine) sometimes replaces water in this wot. Eggs are hard-boiled and peeled, and small cuts are made in them and they are put into the sauce before serving, in order to acquire the spicy taste.
Fitfit is a mixture of enjera and sauce (wot or allicha). Fitfit can be served to the family but is commonly given to a child when it starts to eat the family diet. The wot or allicha may be of different types but should be somewhat thinner than the usual one. Fresh or dried enjera (yenjera dirqosh) can be used for fitfit.
Qolo (toasted cereals, legumes or sunflower seeds). Toasted foodstuffs are either eaten as a snack with coffee or (in one part of the country) served as the main meal. The cereals, legumes or sunflower seeds are toasted on the metal mitad (sometimes corn is boiled before being toasted). The toasted products are difficult to digest, especially for the children, and the nutritive value is reduced, because some of the amino acids lysine and thiamine are destroyed by the toasting process.
Nefro (boiled cereals and legumes). Different types of cereals and legumes are boiled in salty water and served as a snack or as a main meal.
Kinche is crushed grains (wheat, Emmer wheat), which are boiled in salted water and served hot, mostly for breakfast.
Gonfo (porridge). Gonfo is a traditional food in some of the Ethiopian ethnic groups. Porridge may be served as a main meal (breakfast) or on special occasions. Most often this food is given to the mother after childbirth, and also to guests for this celebration. It is also believed to give extra strength during sickness. The porridge is made of whole grain flour, wheat, barley, tef, corn or sorghum. Fairly often a mixture of two cereals is used and chickpeas flour may also be added. The porridge is prepared in the usual way and salt is added. Porridge is served in the pot or in a bowl and spiced butter and berberre are put in a hole in the middle of the porridge. The poor people cannot afford to buy this large amount of butter and will mix the butter and spice with the porridge. Porridge is most often served hot. “Porridge and love should be served hot, if cold, they will lose a lot”.
Shiro (pea flour). Pea flour is made at home from split peas. Sometimes the pea flour is mixed with salt and spices and is then readied for use in the wot or allicha. This type of mixture can also be bought in shops and in some of the local markets. Two types of shiro can be found, but, of course, the proportion of different spices shows great variations.
Meten shiro is used for shire wot. The pea flour is mixed with dried, ground garlic, ginger, chili, black cummin, bishop’s weed, Ethiopian cardemom and salt. About 20-30% of the total weight is spices and salt.
Nech shiro is used for shiro allicha. To the pea flour are added the spices, consisting of dried and ground garlic, ginger, maka lesha (a spice mixture) and salt. Fifteen to twenty per cent of the ready-made shiro consists of spices and salt.
Fenugreek (abish). Fenugreek is one of the oldest cultivated plants and has been grown in Egypt and India since ancient times. The early Egyptians recognized it as a health-giving plant and used it as a medicine, for food and in religious ceremonies. Harem women of the East ate the seeds to give themselves a pleasing plumpness. In India the young plants are used as a vegetable and the seeds as a spice. In Ethiopia fenugreek seeds are used extensively as a spice, a food and a medicine. The green part of the plant is apparently never used as a vegetable. It would be of great nutritive value, because of the content of calcium, iron, carotene and ascorbic acid in the leaves. The seeds are used with other spices in the wot or they can be used to flavour enjera. In infant-feeding it is common to give the infant the third or fourth decoction of the seeds. The seeds contain around 22% of protein and the decoction about O,5%.
Fenugreek can also be used to prepare a beverage which is frequently consumed during the fasting period. The flour is poured slowly over the surface of cold water and should not be stirred. The flour will be allowed to sink to the bottom of the bowl and remain undisturbed from the evening to the next morning, in order to remove the bitterness of the seeds. In the morning the water is slowly but completely poured away, the dough is beaten for about 5 minutes and sugar or honey and water are added at intervals. This drink is believed to be especially valuable during the long fasting period.
Milk and milk products
Fresh milk is kept especially for infants, but the main part is stored in gourds in the hut until it is sour. After that it is shaken and the butter fat is separated. The buttermilk (arera) can be used as a beverage or the lowfat sourmilk cheese (ayib) can be made from it.
Ayib is prepared from buttermilk by heating in a clay pot until it curds, when the whey (aqquat) is taken away. The sour-milk cheese can be kept for a considerably longer time than milk. The biological value of the protein is high and the amount is about 15%.
Butter is stored in small gourds in the home. Because of the unhygienic conditions the butter made at home is often dirty, contains a considerable amount of buttermilk and gets rancid quickly.
The unspiced butter is mainly given to small children; it is put into their mouths and noses in order to grease their intestines. Unspiced butter is also used by the Oromo women for greasing their bodies.
In Ethiopia, as in other African countries, butter is made into ghee, which can be stored in the hut for a long time. The type of ghee which is made in Ethiopia is always spiced. The most common spices are Ethiopian cardamom, garlic, black cummin, tumeric, fenugreek, sacred basil, rue, ginger, cloves, long pepper, black pepper and salt. All the spices, except lumeric and fenugreek, are pounded in the mortar and toasted on the metal mitad. Fenugreek seeds are toasted and the prepared spices are ground on the wofcho. Butter and the spice mixture are heated in the pot and stirred. When all the water has evaporated and the fat is clear and light brown in colour, the ground tumeric is added and the fat is sieved. The bottom part is heated again and sieved. This butter has a liquid consistence and smells of the spices used.
Spice Mixtures Berberre consists of a mixture of different spices, the main ingredient being chili (Capsicum frutescens). A number of varieties of chili, both wild and cultivated, are grown in the Ethiopian Highlands. In the local language (amharinja) the term berberre means both the pod (chili) and the spice mixture (see below). The green, unripe chili can be chopped and mixed with shallots, garlic and other condiments. The red chili is most common in use. As far as quality is concerned, the stage of maturity is of great importance. The best quality is the dark, red type. The pods are picked by hand and then dried in the sun on a fibre mat or on the ground, with the result that they are contaminated by the soil. The seeds are often dried separately. The dried chili can be kept for a long time in dry storage and the spice mixture is most often made for the monthly needs. The chili has high contents of carotene (vitamin-A precursor) and ascorbic acid, but the amounts are considerably decreased if the spice is dried and stored under poor conditions.
The pounded chili is mixed with garlic, ginger, fresh sacred basil and rue and is left in the sun to dry and afterwards milled. The spice mixture should be kept in an airtight container in the dark; if it is stored in the light, the carotene will be destroyed and the colour will change. Sometimes the spice mixture is mixed with a small quantity of water to form a paste.
Mitmitta is a spice mixture mainly used for raw meat. Bird’s-eye chili is dried with Ethiopian cardamom, black cummin, and bishop’s weed, and then mixed with salt and ground. This spice mixture should be stored in an airtight container in the dark. Mitmitta is better than the berberre mixture. In the Begemder Province a type of chili between chili and bird’s-eye chili, both in size and spiciness, is used.
Makalesha is a spice mixture made up of imported spices and can be bought in the local spice market or made at home. Black pepper, long pepper, cloves and cinnamon are heated slightly on the metal mitad in order to dry them and are then ground in the mortar. Makalesha is often used in wot and allicha, when the dark colour of the spice mixture does not interfere with the desired colour of the dish.
Awaze is a spice mixture which is mainly used for spicing raw meat. Most often this spice mixture is prepared before a big feast, and served as a dry spice or mixed with tejj (honey wine) or water.
Seeded pods of chili are pounded together with chopped ginger, garlic and red onion in the mortar. The other spices — Ethiopian cardamom, cloves, bishop’s weed and black cummin are heated on the iron mitad and mixed with the chili mixture and milled.
The beverage for weekdays is the local beer (tella) and for feasts honey wine (tejj). It is polite to serve the glass so full that it overflows, and also to serve a second glass as soon as the first is finished.
Tella is made of different cereals. Tef and corn are the most popular, but in some areas barley, millet or sorghum can be used. The way of preparing tella differs as between the ethnic groups and depends on tradition and the economic situation. The clay container (insera) is washed with grawa and water several times and after that smoked with wood from weyra, and/or tinjute for about 10 minutes, in order to get it as clean as possible. Germinated grains of barley, corn or wheat (bekel), bought in the local market or prepared at home, are dried and milled. For making bekel, the grains are moistened in water and the moist grains are placed between fresh leaves, left to germinate for 3 days and after that dried. Gesho (local hops), is available dried in the local market. The gesho is dried again in the sun for about 1/2 hour and after that pounded. The leaves are separated from the stems, which need a longer time to dry. The ground gesho leaves are placed in a clay container with water and left to ferment for 2-3 days. Some of the grains intended for tella preparation are toasted and milled, and then mixed with water and baked on the mitad. This kita, broken into small pieces, part of the milled bekel and the pounded gesho stems are added to the water mixture and allowed to ferment for 1-2 days. The rest of the flour is toasted on the mitad, sprinkled with water and toasted until dark brown. This mixture enkuro, the rest of the germinated grains (bekel), some gesho, and water are added to the container. The mixture is kept covered overnight, after which more water is added and the container is kept sealed for 5-7 days, when the beverage is ready. Tella can be kept for 10-12 days.
High-quality tella is made with a relatively small quantity of water.
Kerari. When the clear tella is used, fresh water is added and the mixture is again left to ferment. This beverage is weaker than the regular tella, and is most often used for family consumption, it is sometimes also given to the small children. The better quality is most often kept for guests.
Filtered tella is made in the same way (sometimes the flour is toasted very hard), but is more concentrated and the tella is filtered through a cotton cloth and kept in a closed container. This type of tella has a higher alcohol content and can be kept for 2-3 weeks.
Korefe is the name of the local beer made in Begemder Province among the Koumant ethnic group. Dehusked barley is left in water overnight, and after that toasted and milled. It is mixed with water, and dried gesho leaves and fermented in a clay container for 2-3 months. When the beverage is needed, a small quantity of the mixture is taken, more water is added and after a day’s fermentation the beverage is ready for consumption.
Shamit is the local beer made among the Gurage ethnic group. Tef, kita and germinated barley (bekel) are milled and mixed with water, and the mixture is sieved after 3-4 days’ fermentation. Dehusked barley is toasted on the mitad, milled and added to the mixture, and the beverage is ready to serve the next day, when Ethiopian cardamom, mitmitta, black cummin and bishop’s weed are added.
Tejj (honey wine) is a beverage mainly used for great feasts, such as weddings and the breaking of fasts. It is a prestige beverage, and more expensive than the local beer. The most appreciated honey is the Tigre type. The honey is mixed with water and kept covered for 3 days. The wax and foreign particles are removed by sieving, and the mixture is put in a clean clay container (insera). Gesho stems are heated on the mitad and added to the mixture, which is left to ferment in a closed container for 5-6 days.
Filtered tejj is made in much the same way, but the gesho stems are crushed several times in the hands. The tejj is filtered through a cotton cloth and put in a clean container and left to ferment. The tejj can be served fresh and is very sweet. The longer it is allowed to ferment, the more sugar will be used for the fermentation process, with an increase in the alcohol content as a result. The slightly sweet tejj looks nice and tastes good. One proverb says “Tejj has no spots and a poor man has no friends”. Tejj can be stored for 5-6 months if kept in sealed bottles.
Araqe is a distilled beverage. Ground gesho leaves and water are kept for 3-4 days and after that a kita made of tef or other cereals and germinated barley or wheat are added. The mixture is allowed to ferment for 5-6 days and then distilled. In the villages distillation is carried out with primitive equipments made of gourds and wood. The local beer tella can also be distilled to produce araqe. The araqe can be redistilled and will then have a higher alcohol content.
Stimulants Coffee is the beverage most used in parts of the Highlands. The coffee is bought in small quantities — often one Ethiopian coffee cup (50-75 cc) in the local market. The amount needed for one preparation is toasted hard on the mitad, and the beans are ground in a small mortar and put into boiling water. The time for boiling coffee varies from a few minutes to 10 minutes or more. It is a common practice of the Oromo ethnic group to put a small amount of salt in the coffee. Sugar is added to the coffee in large quantities by people who can afford to buy sugar. After the first serving to the guests and the husband, fresh water is added to the pot and the coffee is boiled again. This poor-quality coffee is served to the other members of the family, sometimes also to the children. In the villages it is common for the neighbouring women to visit each other, drink coffee and talk together. The coffee-drinking is the most important social function among the women in a village and is sometimes a kind of institution. Outsiders without good contacts with the women in the village should not disturb them in their houses during the coffee hour. With coffee is served a small snack, such as toasted cereals or legumes (qolo) or, if these are not available, a piece of enjera or kita. Fairly often the coffee cups and the coffee tray are borrowed from family to family and, if there is a shortage of cups, the most important people are served first and the others get the second serving.
Tea is not grown in Ethiopia but is imported in small quantities. Tea is boiled with large amounts of sugar and spices, such as rue or mint, and served with a fresh leaf of rue. Tea is a prestige beverage, because it is more expensive than coffee. In parts of the country coffee leaves are used in the same way as tea.
Chat (Catha edulis). Catha edulis is a shrub cultivated in Ethiopia. The leaves have been chewed as a narcotic by people in Arabia and eastern Africa for centuries. Most of the pharmacological activity of chat is due to the presence of D-nor-isoephedrine (cathine). During the rainy season, when chat is cheap, large quantities are used, but less during the dry season, when the price is increased. The Moslems usually start to chew chat in the morning, while they are meditating and praying. The fresh leaves are chewed until all the juice is extracted and large quantities of water are taken at the same time. After about 10 minutes the drug is swallowed. Chat is said to relieve hunger; after chewing chat, it is said that the men can work the whole day without food. Thus, chat interferes with the traditional habit of eating 2-3 meals per day, and may result in a lower nutritional standard for individuals and also for their families, because too much money may be spent on chat.
Food For Fasts Among The Ethiopian Orthodox Christians
According to the fasting rules for the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, the food on fasting days should not include any food of animal origin, with the exception of fish. The main ingredient in the wot or allicha must thus be of vegetable origin and the sauce must be based on legumes, potatoes, kale or pumpkin. As already indicated, fish is difficult to transport and easily goes bad and is therefore too expensive for most people.
The key wot or allicha wot prepared on fasting days are adaptations of regular dishes to the fasting rules. Special traditional fasting dishes, such as elbet and seljo, may be prepared.
Another common fasting dish is oilseed sauce, prepared in the same way as wot or allicha. To make this, oilseeds — niger, lax or safflower — are toasted, crushed and mixed with hot water. This mixture is spiced and served in the traditional way with enjera or mixed with the enjera as fit-fit. In part of the Ethiopian Highlands the wot made of flax seed is the staple food during the entire year.
Beverages made of flax, safflower or fenugreek are also used during fasting periods.
The international organizations are aware of the magnitude of the problem of malnutrition and are working on different lines. Everywhere experiences has shown that, in building up an applied nutrition programme, the food habits, traditions and taboos in the country should be taken into consideration. More knowledge of every detail of social organization and the significance of good habits is therefore an essential pre-requisite for guided change. This type of background information can be made good use of in practical development programmes.
There are two main forms of social situation that influenced my life while living in Aware. Aware, where I spent the main part of my teenager years before leaving Ethiopia. Aware was, visually seen, not a beautiful district of Addis. And it fortunately was also not the worst. The special thing about Aware is that it was located on unusual spot of the city where two contradictory and influential public establishments co-existed side by side. From Aware, if you walk about two kilometres heading right, you are in the middle of the three popular churches of Addis: Selassie, Gabriel and Beata. And if you walk about two kilometres from Aware heading left, you are in the mid of the popular night life district: Kazanchis.
Being a teenager in Aware was an obviously challenging matter, for example, in case one decides to head only to Kazanchis ignoring heading right towards the churches. On early Sunday mornings, it could be quite embarrassing to meet people you know when they march towards those churches filled with pure intentions wearing their pure white dresses and covered by their pure white gabbis while you, covered by the smell-cocktail of Kasanchis’ night life, head home with a killing hangover nearly blowing your head off. Me and my friends chose in those days to combine both directions and did the best we could by finding a way to feel at home in this hardly combinable state of lifestyle. If you are from Aware, you would understand what I mean….. but let save that for a another topic.
Mentioning heading right to the churches, my memory takes me back to the sacred ceremonies of Timket, Gena, Siklet and Fasika in Gabriel Church. The whole feeling behind these occasions could hardly be described with words. That is also the reason that I chose to take time to edit and share this small film.
Fasika on My Mind is a short virtual journey to Addis to take part in an Easter festivity. The film is dedicated to all fellow Ethiopians who happily celebrate this mystic day by giving their best even if they don’t have enough financial background. This film is also dedicated to those of us abroad who didn’t have the opportunity to celebrate with our families back home.
A lot of us haven’ t learned to speak out about who we are or what we want. Being still and reserved have traditionally been passed on to us as a virtuous act. As kids, we might still remember, we used to listen to the older men and women while they discuss or argue. We have listened to what they were saying without bringing up our opinion on the discussed matter even though we knew that these people were partially wrong in some points.
“Oh…” they would say admiring our suppressed silence. “….oh, how well mannered is this kid! One never hear him say anything!” That is how most of us grew up: Listening a lot and avoiding arguments and oral confrontations.
How is this behavior affecting our life when we are grown up? Of course, there are also the lucky ones among us who fortunately had liberal parents who allowed them to say what they think. But how about those of us who were not that lucky? Now, many of us are living somewhere away from our traditional and geographical boundaries. Do this traditional attitude influence our life when we are out there dealing with all odds of existence?
The answer (my answer) is definitely a huge “YES!”
I am a good listener. I avoid oral confrontations usually but I fortunately have also developed the habit of arguing when I should. That part of me has taken quite long time to develop but I am happy that it didn’t remain buried. And I want to keep also that listener part of me as a priceless gift of my tradition.
The other day, I was sitting with a group of Ethiopians in a cafe in Frankfurt. In the group was this elderly gentleman whom the others frequently called “General” and he did most of the talking. The old gentleman was wearing a huge shabby jacket which he didn’t bother to take off the whole time. I could see how the German winter was affecting his physical appearance.
I was wondering why the others were calling him General because, despite his well-mannered complexion, there was nothing about him that showed this highest military grad. But the topic discussed about was very interesting that I decided to ask about this matter later.
The General was reciting many military stories from the time of Haile Selassie. Some of his stories were so grasping that I thought all along that one should write a book or do a film about it. But for this old gentleman seemed this small audience of five to six men to be enough. How I wished to tell him to go out there and shout out his stories to the rest of the world because those were far more better stories than any of the Hollywood blockbusters. But I didn’t dare to interrupt his story and tell him what I was thinking.
The old gentleman whom they all called General has finished telling his stories. He went to his home saying that he was too tired an too old to deal with this cold weather outside. With genuine courtesy, we all stood up bidding him a good night. After he was gone, I asked the others why they were calling him General.
“It is not his nick name…” They said. “…he is a real general. A general who went through all the necessary academical and military procedures and was given the title officially.”
This is not the first time that I met landsmen or women who are living their life abroad in a silent anonymity. Keeping their amazing stories to themselves and looking sometimes for an anonymous opportunity like this one to share their experience to five or six listeners.
Iddirs are the dominant form of autonomous and voluntary indigenous associations in Ethiopia. Their roots lie in traditions of rural self-help which migrants adapted to the requirements of urbanisation from around the beginnings of the 20th century. As civil society actors, Iddirs have proved to be great survivors within a centralised and often suspicious state. They were courted by officials of the Empire, supplanted by the Dergue and are now acknowledged as the voice of civil society in development efforts. There are over 4,000 registered Iddirs in Addis Ababa alone.
Usual work of the organisation
The basic function of the Iddir is to help families bury their dead. It does this by providing tools and labour for digging graves; tents for the mourners; money to meet the burial costs; financial support for the needs of the family; and emotional support for the bereaved. To benefit from these services household representatives pay regular dues and take active part in the ceremonies.
Development problem and why the organisation focussed on it
As one of the poorest countries in Africa, successive governments have sought to engage the population in self-help activities. While this was originally motivated by the governments’ desire to shift the burden of service provision, it became essential from the 1960s onwards when Ethiopia’s donors began to press for the involvement of non-state actors in development. For Government, the Iddirs were the acceptable solution to this new donor requirement.
Description of the work undertaken by the organisation
International NGOs have harnessed the potential of Iddirs for literacy campaigns, formal education, micro-credit operations, slum rehabilitation, HIV/AIDS awareness and many others causes. ACORD, which specialises in Iddirs, has worked with 220 groups covering 10,200 households in Dire Dawa and Addis Ababa since 1999.
The broader scope of Iddir activity has made capacity building a necessity for leaders and members alike. ACORD therefore provides training in formal procedures, governance, financial transparency, project management and latterly, advocacy. The higher profile and ambitions of Iddirs have signalled the need for umbrella organisations. In 2000, the Tesfa Social Development Association (TSDA) was formed as a coalition of 26 Iddirs representing 4,000 households and a population of 29,000. TSDA’s original vision was to help Iddir members who had fallen behind with their dues. Its current activities include upgrading slum housing, assistance to elderly and orphans, sponsoring skill training and job creation, credit and savings, providing health services and kindergartens, and advocacy against harmful traditional practices.
Assessment on impact and success in addressing the problem
With a relatively enabling legal environment, Iddirs have enjoyed explosive growth in urban areas since the 1960s. This is a reflection of migrants’ needs for new forms of self organisation to address the multiple challenges of the new urban environments. Once based on ethnic affiliation or locality, there are now more than a dozen different types of Iddir, each with a different membership. Newer Iddirs are composed separately of women, youth, displaced peoples, squatters and mosques. Modern Iddirs have now found their way back to the rural areas from which their inspiration came, and no development activity is conceivable in modern Ethiopia without engaging the Iddirs as partners.
Notable lessons to be learnt from their experience
Iddirs used to face criticism that they attend to the dead rather than the living. The lesson of their success is, however, that social movements must have at their core an issue that is of burning, common interest to a population. In Ethiopia, that has proved to be burial.
Case Study: Demonization and the Practice of Exorcism in Ethiopian Churches by Amsalu Tadesse Geleta
Demonization and Exorcism
Demonization is found throughout Ethiopia, among many, if not most, of its peoples. Anthropological studies from the 1960’s and 1970’s indicate its existence among Oromo (in different regions), Amhara (Gondar, Menz), Qemant, Sidamo, Konso, Kafa, Gurage, Somali, and others.
A number of explanations have been suggested to account for these manifestations. Most of them give psychosocial explanations, which hold that socially induced depravity, low status, or feelings of inadequacy or inferiority produces psychological reactions in individuals, which become manifest in the odd, but socially acceptable, behaviors that accompany spirit possession.
Another explanation was that spirit possession point to the situations in which women who are socially disenfranchised, or men of “downtrodden categories,” or men with “frustrated status ambition”.
Group, or individual, deprivation is an explanation of spirit possession given by John Hamer between the Sidamo of Ethiopia. Jan Brøgger (1975:289) disagrees with this explanation for similar possession occurred among well-off men with high prestige. He rather prefers a different explanation. He calls it a social and psychological mechanism of social cohesion and preservation of the group through the release from frustrations and the redirection of hostilities.
Thus the discussion of spirit possession centers on the problem of the cause and of individual participation mainly and the discussion of classification to some extent. Lewis (1984:420) argues that spirit possession rests on an idea and belief that there are incorporeal beings in the universe, which are capable of, and interested in seizing the bodies of human beings and using them for their purposes. He affirms the manifestation and interaction of spirit with humans in various ways.
Exorcism, as means of relief to those suffering under an invading spirit, is practiced in various forms. There are many possible ways of classifying the spirits. I admit also the possibility of organizing them in different ways than that of mine.
1. Zar Spirit
The Zar cult refers to a group of spirits, and to a set of assumptions and practices relating to these spirits and their function. It is one of the spirit possession cults. Zar is the invisible supernatural power, absolutely capable of reading the future, capable of solving even international problems, a courageous hero in war and battle, an efficient doctor in time of illness (except for venereal disease), and most capable of causing destruction, plague and death if people do not pay respect to him. I begin with the presentation of the zar spirit as described by anthropologists and then look at it critically.
Atete is a fertility cult in honor of the spirit of motherhood in Oromo tradition. The cult is known as conversion zar among the Amharas of Ethiopia. There is a similarity of practices between Atete and Conversion Zar. The preparation is the same. The main difference is that the conversion zar is practiced among the Amharas whereas Atete is practiced among the Oromos. Atete is a non-violent female goddess mainly connected with fertility. Women who seek supernatural help to become pregnant and bear healthy children are the main adherents.
The clients of this cult are women. A girl will take over or be possessed by her mother’s ayana (spirit). Her ayana normally possesses or visits her once or twice a year. She spends her day preparing things that are needed for the ceremony. She has to prepare herself wearing special clothes (often of the opposite sex), putting on beads and ornaments, perfumes and carrying a whip, steel bar or an empty gun. Green grass (reed from river side) is spread on the floor as a sign of ceremony or anniversary. Different types of foods like porridge, butter, lemons, dadhi (honey wine, yellow in color), farso (home made beer), and coffee is prepared before the ceremony starts. There might be some more sacrifice prescribed by ayana on its previous possession. So chicken, sheep or goat of certain color is offered as a sacrifice and perfumes or different spices are presented as an offer. If the spirit is pleased by the offerings and the preparation it occupies her. People know that she is possessed when she starts yawning, stretching the whole body here and there, salivating, and becoming drowsy. Her body wavers, and she also cries, speaks as if she is in dream alone. She often falls down and covers her face with her dress.
She may jump and run away and climb trees, not coming down until people beg her. Others stand on glowing wood or eat embers. She may cut herself with a knife, or crush pieces of glass and eat them. She speaks in a strange voice, often using a language understood only by the zar themselves. She may sing a song reserved for the occasion, or dance a peculiar dance associated with a particular ceremony. She acts very differently from normal strength, voice, activity, etc. which signify that the spirit has possessed her.
This possession may last from a few hours to two or three days. The main function of the gathered spectators throughout the ceremony is to appease the ayana, sing songs, clap, dance and beat a drum, and beg the spirit not to hurt her.
1.2 Seer Zar
In contrast to Atete which is dominated by women, seer zar is man’s zar. The ritual expert is dressed in special clothes for the occasion. The seer summons his zar whom he has learned to control. As the zar takes possession of him, people begin to clap and sing the zar’s song. The zar doctor, or Qalicha, usually starts dancing and does extraordinary things. In case of some plea from his clients, he can respond to the thing they have lost or something that has been stolen. He is believed to know the right sacrifice to make things right in case of calamities, disease and death in the family or in the society in which the help is needed.
A common belief connected to seer zar is the ability of the seer to read the future or the expected answer to the given problem from the moora of the stomach of the lamb or sheep. From the pattern of the layer of moora the seer reads something about the person.
The possessed seer is not touching a corpse or entering a house where there is a dead body. He does not eat certain food that his zar is not interested in. He can not cross the fields where certain crops are sown.
References Aren, Gustav. Evangelical Pioneers in Ethiopia. Studia Missionalia XXXII, Stockholm: EFS forlaget, 1978.
Bartles, L. Oromo Religion. Myths and Rites of the Western Oromo of Ethiopia. Berlin: Reimer,
Brøgger, Jan. Belief and Experience among the Sidamo. A Case Study towards Anthropology of Knowledge. Oslo: Universtetsforlaget As., 1986.
Engelsviken, Tormod. “Exorcism and Healing in the Evangelical Churches of Ethiopia.”, In Journal of Mission Theology. Vol. 1-Fasc.I (1991):80-92.
Johnstone, patrick. Operation World: a day-to-day guide to praying for the world. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993.
Lewis, Herbert S. “Spirit Possession in Ethiopia: An Essay in Interpretation.” In Proceedings of the Seven International Conference of Ethiopian Studies. University of Lund, 26-29 April 1982. ed. Sven Rubenson. Uppsala: SIAS, 1984
Moreau, A. Scott. The World of Spirit: A Biblical Study in the African Context. Nairobi: Evangel Publishing House, 1990.
Sæverås, Olav. On Church-Mission Relations in Ethiopia 1944-1969. With special reference to the Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus and the Lutheran Missions. Studia Missionalia Upsaliensia XXVII, Drammen: Tangen-Trykk, 1974.
Torrey, E. Fuller. “The Zar Cult in Ethiopia.” Proceeding of the third International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa 1966. Addis Ababa: Haile Sillassie University.
Trimingham, J. Spencer. The Christian Church and Mission in Ethiopia. London: Founder’s Lodge, 1950.
Ethiopian evil eye belief and the magical symbolism of iron working by Niall Finneran
Whilst undertaking an archaeological survey in the area around the northern Ethiopian town of Aksum in late 1995 I spotted what appeared to be an obvious short cut on our map. Suggesting to my Ethiopian colleague that we could take this route, he dismissed me with the statement: “we cannot go through that village. They are all Buda there.” What, I asked, was the Buda? The answer came back that these people were variously mad, dangerous, strange, outcast and had the power of the evil eye; they would be liable to curse us. This was not the first time that I had come across such a belief; it was well known in the town itself that many of the artisans engaged in metalworking possessed the power of the evil eye, and walking past green pea fields, what I had mistaken to be simple scarecrows (pieces of rag and plastic tied to poles) actually turned out to be amulets protecting the crop from those with the power to blast it.
The more you look beneath the veneer of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the more apparent it becomes that Ethiopia is rich in folk belief and superstition. This contribution is the result of a number of years’ research and first-hand experience within Ethiopia of notions surrounding the evil eye–especially in relation to the power of the blacksmith or artisan. We will consider the dynamics of Ethiopian evil eye belief set against the widely recognised and rich magical symbolism associated with iron working in Africa; this symbolism and the magical powers that iron working artisans possess, it seems, may have a common and much more universal foundation. It is clear that there are globally a number of interlinked themes associated with the evil eye belief. The ability to cast the spell by the eye is usually associated with certain distinct groups of people, often based on gender or kinship links. In some cases the possessors of the evil eye may not actually know that they have the power to cause harm. In Ethiopia, for instance, it is low caste peoples who may transmit this power, in Iran it is kin-based, whereas in ancient Israel it was traditionally a spell associated solely with the priesthood. There is no doubt that the symbolism of the “look” carries connotations of envy (Gravel 1995, 7), or perhaps harks back to the Ten Commandments and the idea of “coveting” (Roberts 1976).
From an anthropological perspective, recent research has emphasised the roots of this belief in the breakdown of patron and client relationships; the downtrodden-frequently artisans–being envious of the wealth and possessions of their social superiors whom they serve. It is the social superiors who may create and perpetuate this myth of the evil eye, often, it is argued, as a means of social control (for example, Galt 1987), turning groups of artisans into untouchable pariahs. The actual spell itself, which may be no more than a covetous glance or a statement praising somebody or something, may have a number of unpleasant side effects. The following have been variously reported by my Ethiopian informants of being symptoms of being struck by an evil eye spell: wasting sickness, domestic accidents, infertility, plain bad luck, sick livestock and blighted crops. In common with elsewhere in the world, these spells may in many cases be combated by the use of counter-magic, such as invocations, exorcism, charms and amulets (Gravel 1995, 11).
Within Africa, even in highly urbanised and Christianised areas, there exists a wide variety of traditional belief systems that focus on casting and combating spells, essentially forms of black and white magic. Traditionally, these areas would be the domain of the “witch doctor” or seer, wizard, shaman, wise man/woman, whatever they may be called. As a rule, the evil eye belief described here comes broadly under the notion of witchcraft, itself–according to one of the greatest scholars of the subject–an organic and hereditary phenomenon, and one often based on envy of material or social standing (Evans-Pritchard 1937, 100). In many cases the ability to cast a malevolent spell is associated directly with artisans, especially those involved in metal working–this is a universal African theme. There are a number of reasons that may explain this implicit linkage between craft and magic and social attitudes towards craftspeople:
1. Such artisans are usually landless, a separate caste apart from the mainstream, and being peripatetic craftsmen are often seen as strangers and are regarded with distrust and often downright disdain. Because they possess little materially (cf. Gait 1987), they are regarded as being crippled by sheer envy of those that do, a key mechanism behind the evil eye and the idea of coveting.
2. This distrust is also linked to the fact that they make things. Artisans with special skills are in demand for goods of beauty. For the non-artisan cliques, these skills, it is often suggested, are the result of the artists selling their souls to devils, their gifts are diabolically inspired.
3. Following on from the above is the notion that the creation of a piece of artwork is part of an arcane and poorly understood manufacturing process that in some sense is redolent of magic. In many areas of the world–and this links in with the notion of specialist craft groups–we have this idea of an inside secret knowledge for the few and used by the few for financial gain.
Within highland Ethiopia–a predominantly Christian environment although with sizeable Muslim populations–guilds or castes of artisans (be they weavers, hide workers or metal workers) are often held to possess magical powers and are known in Amharic as Buda. The notion of the Buda is actually hard to define; it has been suggested that they are not simply bearers of the evil eye, but in terms of magical complexity and social standing are rather nearer to witches (Gravel 1995, 19). On the fringes of the mainly Christian highland plateau, there is plenty of evidence of similar types of belief. Amongst the Galla pastoralist (cattle-keeping) peoples of the highland flanks, the evil eye is known to afflict herds of cattle. As cattle (as with any pastoralist society) are key guarantors of wealth and social status, such evil spells should be countered swiftly. Galla Arussi peoples make counter-charms from large frames of wood and the stretched pudenda of ritually slaughtered cattle and place them at crossroads. The symbolism of the crossroads is important; throughout Africa (and indeed globally) the crossroads are seen as a liminal point, the marking of the zones of life and death (Cavendish 1984, 304; Finneran 2002, 178). Amongst the Sidamo peoples (Hamer 1966) and those of the eastern Bench (Petros 1994), the evil eye spell is marked by demonic possession of people rather than the harming of livestock; amongst the Dorze of the Gamo highlands any minor misfortune is attributed to the Ayfe Celo or the look of an eye. It is clear that among the large ethnically and linguistically diverse population of the Ethiopian highlands and their environs, there exists a number of subtle variations of a central belief in the evil eye.
It is among the highland Christian communities that much research has been conducted on the nature of evil eye belief. Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity embraces a number of idiosyncratic beliefs, not least in the adoption of customs that appear to have Judaic roots (such as dietary prohibitions). Traditional dualistic notions of good and evil are also a vital component of the daily Christian belief; the Zar, for instance, are spiteful malevolent spirits allied to the harmful and evil Saytan (ghouls), whilst the Abdar are generally benign protective nature spirits. It is in this realm of superstition, beneath a Christian veneer, that the belief of the evil eye still flourishes.
The mechanisms of this belief may be structured thus. The Buda–or possessor of the evil eye–may also be known as a Tayb, which means craftsman (Reminick 1976). Artisans generally own no land and as such are generally despised by the farming and peasant groups even though they are physically, culturally and linguistically indistinguishable from their neighbours; the sole tension is based on the economic group identity rather than any other factor (Haberland 1978). This is not a rural phenomenon brought about by ideas of economic envy and distrust; even in such a thriving and rapidly modernising metropolis as the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa certain specialist weaver groups are despised by urbanites solely because they engage in manual work (Burley 1978). So economic criteria rather than any other factors inform this snobbery, hate and distrust, and ultimately lead on in a more extreme form to the belief that such groups or castes possess the ability to cast malevolent spells via the evil eye.
Both trade/craft specialisation and the ability to cast a spell through the evil eye is inherited from the father, although ultimately from the devil himself (Reminick 1974). The motivation behind casting the evil eye is seen as pure envy on the part of the Buda. The most important times for evil eye attack include: meal times, illness, pregnancy, cattle-growing and crop raising (Vecchiato 1994). It is interesting that periods associated with fecundity and multiplication should be so dangerous; it may be possible that the body is somehow weakened because most of the energy is being diverted into the promotion of growth both in the fields and in the womb, and is thus especially vulnerable to attack.
When attacked–this may be accomplished by a sly gaze, or in certain cases under the guise of a despised hyena (known as dirty, evil scavengers)–bodily weakness usually follows, often allied to misfortune. In some cases the mere threat of death is sufficient (Aspen 1994); this notion accords with the idea of the Maori curse, hex or Tapu, or other cases where people have been literally scared to death almost by suggestion. In medical parlance such a condition is known as vagal inhibition and is characterised by the sudden stopping of the heart mediated by the nervous system, often leading to death. The subject believes that death is inevitable and moreover believes implicitly in the efficacy of the sorcerer. In this case the subject of the spell literally worries himself or herself to death. Conversely the Buda often possess a perverse power to instil life In the dead–rather like creating zombies–for necromancy is also a key part of the Buda’s magical arsenal.
To counter the spell there are many avenues of approach. In Africa as a whole, for Instance, tradition dictates that the evil eye may be warded off by making certain hand signs, avoiding eye contact and the wearing of amulets. To some extent, this also holds true with the Ethiopian customs of counter magic, but here we find a greater reliance upon the power of the church and this power is mediated by a very strange and special figure. Within the hierarchy of the Ethiopian Church, a special role is played by the deacon, or Dabtara. These young men are not merely neophytes of the church with special responsibility for leading chants at services, but are viewed as quasi-magicians in their own right. Dabtaras are itinerant figures, often misconceived as being strange or mad, who make a living–apart from ecclesiastical activities–by providing charms and white magic (Young 1975). When a case of the Buda is reported the Dabtara will offer prayers and amulets, often fashioned from silver, a metal frequently used to counteract evil (Reminick 1975). A quite intricate and complex set of anti-magic invocations and exorcisms (Abinet) are used to cure the afflicted (Vecchiato 1993) and a variety of charms and amulets all play their part. It is commonly stressed, however, that prevention is better than cure: apart from carrying amulets and using invocations, fields are protected using scarecrows and the young will have their head shaved (headlice are thought to be the doing of the Buda).
The Ethiopian conception of the evil eye embodies a number of different layers of meaning, many similar to the evil eye traditions globally, but to understand and contextualise the Ethiopian meanings, we need to consider more deeply the African framework of craft specialisation and its linked symbolism. It has been stressed that the idea of magical creation underpins the perception of artisans in Ethiopia and in the wider African context. In many cases these skills have been acquired originally from an elemental source of evil via the paternal lineage, rather like a Faustian pact. It is with the process of metal working that we find the heaviest symbolic meanings; traditionally iron itself is regarded as being a material derived from the heavens; early iron workers often used iron ore derived from meteorites, hence this analogy (Cavendish 1984, 24), and mastery over this process of transformation–almost alchemical–from ore to finished product, is akin to a magical operation.
In Togo, west Africa, amongst the Bassar, the furnace is prepared with great ceremony including the giving of libations. The actual wall of the furnace incorporates plants and animal matter and these living elements are gathered by the smith whilst naked (Collett 1993). There are a number of obvious symbolic overtones here; offerings to confirm a successful outcome, the fixing of organic elements within the furnace to breathe life into it and transform it into a living structure, and nakedness as part of the preparation–akin to the Graeco-Roman magical operation–where removing clothes unimpedes and maximises the flow of energy from the body and concentrates its magical power (for example, Cavendish 1984, 235). The sexual reproductive element is highly important too. The Fipa of Tanzania decorate the actual furnace in the manner of a human bride in order to become “marriageable,” and the smelter dons red clay in the role of a Fipa bridegroom (Barndon 1996). In this sense the smelter is engaging in a magical union or marriage with the furnace to symbolically produce offspring; around Lake Victoria iron workers have embroidered the process with a rich wealth of sexual taboos and abstain from all sexual contact until the smelt is completed (Schmidt 1996).
The possession of the evil eye amongst specialised craft groups can be seen as an outgrowth of the layering of symbol upon the process of creation of an artefact. In order to guarantee an aura of exclusivity, and emphasise the magical and reproductive process of smelting, the artisans invest the process with strange rites, taboos and spells in an effort to exclude the outsider and maintain a mystical air to the proceedings. Through this ritual and symbolism the artisans happily emphasise their difference from the rest of society, building up this corpus of forbidden knowledge into the rules and codifications of a loose caste group or guild. These are the social have-nots creating a new identity for themselves and a new socio-economic worth, and mainstream society, seeing this wall of exclusivity and secrecy maintained, invests these groups with an identification of distrust and isolation. These artisan groups alienate themselves, and allied to the idea that they possess a magical control over the process of making an artefact, this produces within mainstream society a sense of both fear and loathing. In Ethiopia these artisans are true outsiders, and because they are not understood and accepted into the norms of society, they are despised and feared. So there we have the core paradox; these artisans are creators and destroyers in equal measure.
In the pilgrim-driven markets of the town of Aksum gold and silver crosses sell well. The craftsmen who make them earn a good enough living and it would now be rare indeed to hear them spoken of with disdain, yet there still is a remarkable underlying tension and it is hard to define. To return to my young Ethiopian colleague at the beginning of this piece, an aficionado of American R&B music, wearing a Michael Jackson T-shirt, au fait with the comings and goings of the world through television and books, easily speaking three languages and desiring to emigrate, tries to tear himself away from his deep-seated folk belief; yet, for all his pragmatism and recent first-hand experience in a bloody civil war, he cannot find it in himself to walk through that small village and confront demons that his forefathers confronted before Aksum became Christian almost two thousand years ago.
This paper is based on research carried out in Ethiopia between 1995 and 1997, and in 2001. I am grateful to the Society of Antiquaries of London, British Institute in Eastern Africa and SOAS for funding. I also wish to record my gratitude to my Ethiopian friends who helped out: Solomon Berhane, Yemane Fitsumberhan and Said Mustafa. The author additionally wishes to acknowledge the financial assistance of the British Academy’s Post-Doctoral Fellowship scheme.
Oh Addis! Things about Addis that remain glued to my mind; small enjoyable things; no-spectacular but yet things of great impulse that permanently pop-up in my memory.
Whenever I accompanied someone to the airport and this someone asks me if I wish something from back home, I usually would say “Bring me yetewat tseahy if you can.” Then this someone would go “Of course I can’t, are you joking?” Actually I am not joking when I say those things. It sounds crazy but I really want Yetewat Tsehay packed in a huge suitcase so that I can enjoy it for at least a month: specially for those grey winter days of Germany.
Any ways, no body has done that favor for me. So I waited till my turn comes to be accompanied to the airport. “Berebere amtalign“, “Belech chat kech kalerek izih ketema zir indatil“, “Original doro kene-inkulalu benatih…” Surprisingly, there was no demand for the Yetewat Tsehay. Well, I thought, I will have it all for my self, ha!
Addis airport filled with yetewat tsehay.
I paid 660 Euro for four weeks ticket to Ethiopia from Frankfurt. May be the ticket is so expensive by the Ethiopian Airlines because the plane arrives early morning. In Addis one can start enjoying yetewat tsehay right at the airport. With that assumption in mind, I thought the price is actually acceptable; acceptable from my own point of view.
We met Bedilu (a very good old friend) at a coffee bar not far from the new church in Bole. I was still adjusting my self to the city ambiance of Addis. And I had quite a hard time to move alongside the speed of the daily life around me. Have I become too slow or is this city already too fast to cop with? I have asked and asked my self afraid to admit that I was missing here something important. And this something is just leaving me behind without giving me time to catch up.
Then I preferred thinking about the small enjoyable things.
Bedilu was having machiato. He invited us insisting we should also try one. So we all ordered machiato. You know these days in Addis all machiato makers do crazy creative things to it, so creative that one can easily feel guilty to drink it and destroy the art. I told Bedilu about it. Bedilu just laughed and promised to take me the next day to a place where they do even crazier stuff with the machiato. “Crazier…” I thought “…no way!”
We spent the rest of our first day in Addis by site seeing and visiting some more places. We had a great lunch. As I saw the bill, I thought, how do people manage to pay that much? Addis is not only fast but also too expensive. Watching the standard population on the street and thinking about what we just paid for a single lunch left me with some uneasy feeling.
Busy, busy, busy Addis (photo: admassu)
May be that is the way slow guests like me who just arrived from bahir mado think. Most of my fellow landsmen and women in Ethiopia are too busy to see their daily life the way I think. Every one seem to be alert in Addis. One has to keep on moving in order to exist. Bars are filled with women and men who are busy with their mobile phone answering and making calls. It is as if these people has switched their offices in to their mobile phones. If you meet an old friend like Bedilu for some hours, half of that time goes for making and recieving calls.
I couldn’t cop with this speed. So I kept on concentrating on those small enjoyable things; no-spectacular but yet things that remain in memory. Like machiato and yetewat tsehay…
The art of machiato (photo: admassu)
As promised, Bedillu took us to the place where he said they make more crazier things with the machiato. Not a standard bar but a gas station somewhere on the Bole road. The small café doesn’t look so special. A small room with uncomfrtable chairs and tables. But it is filled with customers who seem to afford to go some where else and have expensive breakfast. Most of them were busy with their mobile phones. The atmosphere in the room was too mysterious for a slow guy from bahir mado like me.
So I concentrated again on small enjoyable things. Bedilu hasn’t exaggerated. It was the best machiato I ever had. Yetewat Tsehay out of the window made it even more delicious. I couldn’t help having three of it feeling each time guilty for destroying the creative work.
Tel. 002511 1 - 515 59 03, Bole Road, next to Bole Printing Press
Known for: Hannid, Kebabs Al Baraka, open 7 days a week
Tel. 002511 1 - 551 21 43, On the road between Olympia and Bambis, opposite Greek School
Known for: Al Mendi meat, open 7 days a week
Tel. 00251 911 - 20 00 72, Near Master Printing Press Amist Kilo
Known for: Fine home cooking, dinner only, Closed: Mondays, Tuesdays, and Sundays
Tel. 002511 1 - 661 41 09, Off Bole Road, near the Japanese Embassy’s Residence
Known for: Grilled meat, houmus, taboulleh, open7 days a week
Tel. 002511 1 - 111 35 72, Piazza, behind Nazareth School
Known for: Sheshkebab and Mante Soup, Closed: Sundays
China Bar and Restaurant
Tel. 002511 1 - 551 37 72, Next to Ghion Hotel
Known for: One of the oldest restaurants in Addis, open 7 days a week
Tel. 551 23 11, On Bole Road, next to Oromia Bureau
Known for: Korean dishes, open 7 days a week
Tel. 002511 1 - 465 52 90, On Debre Zeit Road, next to Omedad Building
Known for: Exeptional variety of Chinese dishes, open 7 days a week
Addis Ababa Golf Club
Tel. 002511 1 - 320 18 92, Old Airport in front of Swiss Embassy
Known for: BBQ at weekends, open 7 days a week
Amsterdam Bar & Restaurant
Tel. 002511 1 - 661 34 93, Next to Bole Mini
Known for: Roast Beef, open 7 days a week
Tel. 002511 1 - 663 48 41/ 661 58 15, On Bole Road, next to Harar Mesob Restaurant
Known for: Brick Oven Pizza and Hot Rock BBQ, open 7 days a week
Tel. 002511 1 - 155 09 34/ 155 99 73, Amist Kilo in front of the National Museum
Known for: Pizza, ice cream, Closed: Mondays
Breezes (Sheraton Addis)
Tel. 002511 1 - 517 17 17 Ext.6998/6103
Known for: BBQ on Sundays, open 7 days a week
Tel. 002511 1 - 552 84 13, In front of Ibex Hotel
Known for: Mexican Food and Warm Chocolate Cake with ice cream, open 7 days a week
Tel. 002511 1 - 551 84 00 Ext.953, Beside the pool
Known for: Salads and Hamburgers, open 7 days a week
Hamlet Steak House
Tel. 002511 1 - 465 40 24, Meskel Flower Street
Known for: Steak, open 7 days a week
Tel. 002511 1 - 551 84 00 Ext.986, In the Garden Wing of the hotel
Known for: unique menu that continuously changes, Closed: Sundays
Kaffa House (Hilton)
Tel. 002511 1 - 551 84 00 Ext.962, In the main lobby of the Hilton
Known for: Seafood every Friday, open 7 days a week
Les Arcades (Sheraton Addis)
Tel. 002511 1 - 517 17 17 Ext.6604
Known for: Gourmet menu, Closed: Sundays
Rodeo Bar and Restaurant
Tel. 002511 1 - 551 02 94, On Bole Road, next to DStv.
Known for: BBQ on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, open 7 days a week
Summerfields (Sheraton Addis)
Tel. 002511 1 - 517 17 17 Ext. 6089
Known for: Hamburgers, Buffet and Ice-Cream, open 7 days a week
Tel. 002511 1 - 551 63 59, Next to 7th Day Adventist Church
Known for: Fondue & Irish Coffee in bar, open 7 days a week
Tel. 002511 1 - 662 73 40/50, Up the hill from Meganagna Roundabout, Asmara Road
Known for: Pasta, Closed: Monday
Tel. 002511 1 - 551 83 58, Bole Road, next to Sabit Bld.
Known for: Kwanta Ferfer and Bozena Shiro, open 7 days a week
Tel. 002511 1 - 465 32 99/091-122 21 05, Inside Villa Verdi
Known for : Agelgel (combination of different Ethiopian dishes), open 7 days a week
Tel. 002511 1 - 552 97 46, Behind the main Post Office
Known for: Melasse Tibs and live music on weekend nights, open 7 days a week
Enesra Traditional Bar & Restaurant
Tel. 00251 911 - 65 3611, On Mickey Leland Road, Opposite Nyala Insurance
Known for: Special Tibs, open 7 days a week
Fasika National Restaurant
Tel. 002511 1 - 550 99 12/ 551 41 93, Off Bole Road, in front of Sunshine Building
Known for: Enfele and live music, Closed: Mondays
Tel. 002511 1 - 663 25 45, Opposite Silver Bullet
Known for: Bozena Shiro & Kitfo, open 7 days a week
Shangri La Restaurant & Bar
Tel. 00251 911 - 22 34 89, Mickey Leyland Road, adjacent to the European Commission
Known for: Ethiopian dishes, including Tej and raw meat, open 7 days a week
Yod Abyssinia Culture
Tel. 002511 1 - 661 21 76, Next to Desalegn Hotel
Known for: Ethiopian dishes, including Tej and raw meat, open 7 days a week
Tel. 00251 911 - 67 52 40, Tebaber Berta Business Centre, 3rd floor
On the Ethio-China Friendship Road (Wollo Sefer)
Known for: Exquisite delicacies of Chef Gerard from France, open 7 days a week 6 pm – 11 pm
Tel. 002511 1 - 661 10 49, Near to Rwanda Embassy Opposite Bole Clinic
Known for: South Indian, North Indian cuisine & Indian sweets, open 7 days a week
Jewel of India
Tel. 002511 1 - 551 31 54, Off Bole Road from Olympia, towards Meskel Flower Hotel,
Known for: Tandooris, Tikkas, open 7 days a week
Tel. 002511 1 - 551 89 76/ 551 65 79, Next to City Café
Known for: Tandoori Chicken and fresh Naans, open 7 days a week
Tel. 002511 1 - 517 17 17 Ext.3633
Known for: Live cooking, delicate flavours and express lunch menu, open 7 days a week
Tel. 002511 1 - 371 32 57, In Mekanisa, in front of Midroc Head Office
Known for: Antipasto, Nile Perch and Gorgonzola Cheese Sauce, open 7 days a week
Tel. 002511 1 - 157 17 57/ 156 35 80, Off Piazza Arada Road, in front of Mohmoud Music Shop
Known for: Pastas, Grilled Fish, Chicken and Salads, Closed: Sundays
Tel. 002511 1 - 465 38 09/ 465 53 89, On Debre Zeit Road, before Concorde Hotel
Known for: Fresh Pasta & Pizza, Closed: Tuesdays
Tel. 002511 1 - 662 55 87, Off Bole Road, the street in front of Brass Clinic
Known for: Pastas & Ravioli, Closed: Sundays
Tel. 002511 1 - 551 84 00 Ext.962, Through the Kaffa House
Known for: Antipasto and Pizzas, open 7 days a week
Tel 002511 1 - 515 65 53, Off Bole Road
Known for: Pizza, open 7 days a week
Stagioni (Sheraton Addis)
Tel. 002511 1 - 517 17 17 Ext. 6097
Known for: Regional menus, open 7 days a week
Cafes/ Pastry Shops
City Café & Pastry
Tel. 002511 1 - 515 18 07, On Bole Road, next to Mega House
Known for: Millefogli, Black Forest and Ice cream, open 7 days a week
Tel. 002511 1 - 157 14 90 , Off Churchill Road, next to the Italien Library across from Mega Book Store
Known for: Millefogli and Cream Puffs, open 7 days a week
On Bole Road Medhanialem Road near Atlas Hotel
Known for: Cinamon Danish, open 7 days a week
Il Penguino Gelateria
Tel. 550 52 98, Off Bole Road at Olympia towards Haile Gebre Selassie Avenue
Known for: Sundae Ice cream, Closed: Wednesdays
Tel. 002511 1 - 663 84 55/ 663 84 56, In front of Bole Medhanialem
Known for: Carmel Macchiato, open 7 days a week
Tel. 002511 1 - 552 88 20/ 515 61 74, Off Bole Road, at Olympia
Known for: Croissants & Breads, open 7 days a week
Tel. 002511 1 - 662 01 97, On Bole Road, next to Satellite Restaurant
Known for: Melewah (Yemeni pastry), open 7 days a week
Tel. 002511 1 - 551 88 08, On Bole Road opposite Mega House
Known for: Italian Pastry and Fruit Cake, open 7 days a week
Tel. 002511 1 - 618 80 00, On Bole Road, next to Fantu
Known for: Croissants, 7 days a week
Tel. 002511 1 - 517 17 17 Ext.3633
Known for: A wide selection of breads, open 7 days a week
Tel. 002511 1 - 111 24 98, Off Churchill Road, on the same road as Book World
Known for: Many varieties of coffee, open 7 days a week
In front of Estifanos Church, corner of Meskel Square
Known for: Mini-pizzas, open 7 days a week
List of Night Clubs ———————-
Tel. 00251 911 - 20 85 49, At Wolo Sefir, inside Berta Builing, 2nd floor
Known for: the World of Cocktail Drinks, open 7 days a week
The Mask Pub
Tel. 002511 1 - 663 11 02, Bole Road behind Palestinian Embassy
Known for: Snacks, Décor, open 7 days a week
Tel. 002511 1 - 551 98 87, Off Bole Road, behind Exhibition Centre
Known for: Bozena Shiro and Grill, Dancing, open 7 days a week
Savanna Safari Pub & Grill
Tel. 00251 911 - 21 06 10, Bole Road, close to airport
Known for: Snacks and Dancing, Jazz on Wednesdays, open 7 days a week
If you know more, don’t hesitate to update us.Thank you. (The Lissan Team)
Talla is an Ethiopian home-brewed beer which differs from the others in some respects. First it is brewed with barley or wheat, hops, or spices. Secondly, it has a smoky flavour due to the addition of bread darkened by baking and use of a fermentation vessel which has been smoked by inversion over smoldering wood. Talla is not processed under government regulations hence the alcohol content varies but is usually around 2% to 4%. Filtered tella has a higher alcohol content ranging from 5% to 6%.
Tej (indigenous honey wine) is a home-processed, but also commercially available honey wine. It is prepared from honey, water and leaves of Gesho. Sometimes, widely for commercial purposes, mixture of honey and sugar could be used for its preparation. In cases where sugar is used as part of the substrate, natural food colouring is added so that the beverage attains a yellow colour similar to that made from honey. Good quality tej is yellow, sweet, effervescent and cloudy due to the content of yeasts. A study found that the mean alcohol content of tej was between 6.98% and 10.9%.8 Another study found that the average alcohol content of tej was 6.07%.
Korefe is the name of the local beer made in Begemder Province among the Koumant ethnic group. Dehusked barley is left in water overnight, and after that toasted and milled. It is mixed with water and dried gesho leaves, and fermented in a clay container for two to three months. When the beverage is needed, a small quantity of the mixture is taken, more water is added and after a day’s fermentation the beverage is ready for consumption. Shamit is the local beer made among the Gurage ethnic group. Tef, kita and germinated barley (bekel) are milled and mixed with water, and the mixture is sieved after three to four days of fermentation. Dehusked barley is toasted on the mitad, milled and added to the mixture, and the beverage is ready to serve the next day, when Ethiopian cardamom, mitmitta, black cummin and bishop’s weed are added.
Araki is a distilled beverage. Ground gesho leaves and water are kept for three to four days and after that a kita made of teff or other cereals and germinated barley or wheat are added. The mixture is allowed to ferment for five to six days and then distilled. In the villages distillation is carried out with primitive equipment made of gourds and wood. The local beer tella can also be distilled to produce araqe. The araki can be redistilled and will then have a higher alcohol content. The average alcohol content of dagim araki is around 45%. The term dagim in Amharic refers to ‘second time’ and indicates that it is distilled a second time. Araki is brewed in rural and semi-urban areas and is used more commonly by farmers and semi-urban dwellers than by people who live in the cities. In cities, those who drink araki are predominantly lower class people or those who have become dependent upon alcohol and cannot afford to buy industrially produced alcohol. Since the government has no control over production of locally brewed alcoholic drinks, it is difficult to estimate the amount of alcohol production and consumption in Ethiopia.
Other alcoholic beverages to be found are borde (local beer) and katikala (a homemade distilled drink from maize or millet).
The wife of a star athlete here had the city buzzing for a few days some years back. The highlight of the couple’s marriage ceremony was marked by and was intent on breaking country record in the length of the bride’s wedding dress. If that was the bride’s childhood dream and that, she had at last been able to realize her fantasy, then good for her. However, you could easily sense it that the news had left a great number of people wondering if matrimonial ceremonies had anything to do with breaking records.
photo: admassu m. k.
More and more such ceremonies in many urban cities, much more in Addis, of course, are becoming exotic, more expensive (make that prohibitively expensive), and devoid of any enduring theme; traditional or otherwise. Cocktails receptions, which cost less, are running out of style. Full-fledged dinner parties are increasingly the “in-thing” now. Cocktail parties are being shunted now because they might send the wrong signal against people’s financial solvency. So the current common wisdom is, if you have to marry and have the dough, even better, if you have plenty of it, flaunt it. And you begin doing that by first booking at the Sheraton and all other considerations be dammed, including plain, old modesty.
Wedding dinner parties at the Sheraton hotel are a unique experience in and of themselves, especially if it happens to be your first time at the place, even though repeat visitors won’t mind finding themselves there more often. You see yourself live on a huge screen( a first in your life) as well as other people you considered you had lost to emigration. The food is great (Michelin status), the dessert out of the world. The chinaware is fit for royalty. The service is five-star. Of course, it has to be that good because the couples that have to pay have do so through their noses. You can imagine the bill that comes at the end of a lavish meal for hundreds of people when routinely a cup of tea costs around 20 Birr.
It is O.k. if couples get a kick out of paying a couple of hundred thousands; after all, it might be once in a lifetime experience, hopefully. It is their money, besides. Nobody begrudges them any pleasure they can squeeze out of that. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, one has this strange feeling nagging you. Is all the pomp and ceremony truly essential?
The story is told about an Ethiopian residing in North America visiting here and who as it happened was invited to a wedding dinner party, where else but at the Sheraton. This person happened to be also an active member of a fund raising group for various Ethiopia cause in the host country. It is not impossible that the guy was positively impressed at the level of sophistication wedding parties here have reached. After all, not everyone in America have their weddings in five-star hotels. More tellingly, however, the guy was disgusted by the extravagance of it all. If Ethiopians can afford so much partying, why beg money abroad on their behalf?
Maybe it isn’t as simple as that. It could be that many of the lavish nuptials that one finds taking place at Sheraton or at the Hilton have the expenses paid from abroad. Most couples that come to the country to tie the knot do so at these places. That is fine as long as the comfort level for those people demands that weddings take place at top-notch hotels.
Times change. It is very different from the near past when you typical wedding celebration cost just a couple or so thousands and was a neighborhood affair. It is ironic that as our weddings are becoming more hybrid, second editions of both cultures, more of financial burdens, and even more stiflingly formal, when many far more affluent societies are going the opposite direction. In those countries, simpler marriage ceremonies are gaining popularity. Some of the marriage festivities have even social messages to transmit. One such category discussed by a news magazine recently was what it called “Green Weddings.” Such a weeding is premised on the belief that wedding ceremonies don’t have to be wasteful affairs: Invitations use a “tree-free” recycled stationary, incorporating dried flowers or bits of fabric. Flowers consist of less costly blooms from backyards. Venues are chosen based on their being convenient to most invitees. Food and drink is simple. Locally available and seasonal.
THINK Africa. Now think cocktails. Now admit you just pulled a muscle. “It’s kind of a clean map,” said Marcus Samuelsson, the chef best known for his work at Aquavit in New York. Mr. Samuelsson’s latest venture is Merkato 55, a pan-African restaurant and lounge that opened this month on Gansevoort Street in the meatpacking district of Manhattan.
Photo: Joe Fornabaio for The New York Times
EXOTIC TASTES The Kinka is more brooding and mysterious than your typical meatpacking district fruit punch.
It’s an exultant, theatrical spot — the big-lot antithesis to what Mr. Samuelsson, who was born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, calls the “mom and pop places” that have been the primary loci of African food in New York.
The feeling of the restaurant, which sprawls across two levels and is festooned with silk-screen prints and basket lamps and acres of raw wood and clay, might be glibly likened to Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, if Mr. Samuelsson, and his menu, weren’t so earnest. But can earnestness like his survive in the meatpacking district?
A proven survival component in the area is booze. Mr. Samuelsson is betting on rum, which he said was the liquor that’s “always at the center of the African diaspora.”
There’s a slew of infused rums that are served on their own (neat) in the same way Mr. Samuelsson features infused aquavits at Aquavit: date-infused, curry leaf-infused, lemon grass-infused.
Rum also rules the cocktail menu, which was developed with Junior Merino, a beverage consultant and former bartender at the Modern.
The Takada, for instance, corrals all of Mr. Samuelsson’s influences, combining rum with aquavit and ginger beer along with pink grapefruit juice and litchi purée, while the Yabara pairs rum with a more Eastern mélange of Lillet Rouge, hibiscus, mango tea and lime.
The drink names are derived from African dances. This works spectacularly well with the Ding Ding, a mixture of rosemary-infused cachaça (rum’s burlier cousin), aguardiente, ginger beer and lime, but less so with the Larakaraka (tequila, elderflower liqueur, pineapple juice, ginger liqueur, lime), which I overheard one patron despair of trying to pronounce and instead blurt out, “Hakuna matata,” the signature phrase from “The Lion King.” The Swahili phrase can be translated to mean “no worries.” Proving the point, the correct drink arrived anyway.
I took a shine to the Kinka: easy to order, easier to drink. In the Kinka, Bacardi Gold rum meets Averna, a rootsy, herbal Italian amaro, with tamarind concentrate adding some earthy, exotic sweetness and blood orange purée and lemon juice adding citric tang.
It’s a suave mixture, way more brooding and mysterious than your typical meatpacking district fruit punch, and a boon companion to Mr. Samuelsson’s spiced cuisine. Is it actually African? An academic drinker might say no.
Another drinker, however, might smile and say merely, “Hakuna matata.”
Kinka Adapted From Merkato 55
1 ½ ounces Bacardi Gold rum
½ ounce Averna liqueur
1 ounce tamarind concentrate *
1 ounce freshly squeezed blood orange juice
½ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Shake ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into ice-filled rocks glass.
I was surprised to see a dog in my mother’s yard as I visited her last time. A female dog heavy with young. First I thought that the dog must be from near by village. It is usual that dogs take rest or look for food in other villages when they get tired of roaming around going long distances from their own village. But after seeing the dog moving in the yard and in my mother’s house feeling at home I couldn’t help asking about it. My mother told me that my small nephew found the dog on the road and brought it home and that it was few days old. Amazed by the story I felt somehow sad at the same time because it reminded me that over three years have gone by since my last visit.
My mother lives around ten minutes walk away from the town Yirga Cheffe in south Ethiopia. She must be around 70 years old. She doesn’t know her genuine age. She always starts to tell a certain story that happened as she was born when ever she is asked how old she is.
///Yirga Cheffe is known for it’s spicy organic coffee world-wide. Many coffee producing western companies boast about their development projects in this area. Looking at this poor town proves the opposite. (photo: admassu m. k.)///
Beside that dog my mother’s yard was also filled with hens, roosters and so many fledglings. Though my mother had no prepared facility for those animals. As a result of that every body in the family and all the animals gather in her house when the night comes. Apart from my self everybody and every animal used to spend their night sound asleep. It was hard for me to get used to that crow habit of the roosters three times a night; each crow session takes 5 to ten minutes. It was such a horror experience for me and I end up cursing those feathered creatures each time they tore me away from my deep sleep.
The other reality about keeping animals in my mother’s area is the immense death rate of the fledglings. In the first days of my arrival there were around 20 fledglings in the compound following their mother hens and making those tiny sounds the whole day. After like two weeks they were all gone. You see first one of them doing a weird gasping gesture stretching its neck consistently. I asked my mother if there was anything there to help that poor thing. My mother told me that if the chicks start doing that stretching thing it is already too late. After a while almost all the chicks were doing that gasping movement. I usually went in to the coffee forest or to Yiraga Cheffe just to avoid this tragic scene.
After two weeks and after all the fledgling were dead the dog gave birth and 6 puppies were the new family members in my mother’s yard. That is when weird situation started to take place. My mother has prepared a place for the dog and it’s puppies in one corner of her kitchen out side. The first time the dog left her kids after a long and tiresome birth giving procedure those mother hens, still yearning after their dead fledglings, took over the dog’s place. As the dog came back after taking some stretching walk and after chasing some horrified hens of the neighborhood it was confronted with a strange turnout of the situation at home. The hens has adopted the puppies and they were quite aggressive and started attacking that poor dog whenever it appears to feed the puppies.
///Adopted puppies (photo: admassu m. k.)///
Our help was essential to keep those puppies from starving. Every one in the family was busy then; busy taking out those aggressive and fiercely attacking hens out of the kitchen and help the frightened-to-death dog to feed the puppies. We stood guard till we were sure that the puppies were full and we left the battlefield. After that we were too exhausted to stop the hens from chasing the dog away and took over the place again.
///Sharing the responsibility. (photo: admassu m. k.)///
I heard a woman who visited my mother saying that it is a sign for the soon arriving end of the world. She didn’t stay long as usual. She excused her self for not remaining longer and fled out of the compound murmuring some prayers and looking in to the blue sky searching for her God and his mercy.