post Across Ethiopia on a Bicycle

January 2nd, 2009

Filed under: Life Stroies — Admassu @ 01:39

3 times across Ethiopia on a standard Bicycle

Frankfurt, Germany

The Winter has finally taken control of the environment. The days are filled with a creepy cold weather. If we had at least snow, it would have improved this gloomy view with its light. But to have snow in Frankfurt in Winter is like winning in a lottery.

Here in Frankfurt, there is a place called Arat Kilo. Not a square like we know back in Addis. Arat Kilo is a very small kiosk in the center of the city and I can assume myself as a regular visitor of the kiosk for the last six months.

Arat Kilo Kiosk from inside

Looking at Arat Kilo kiosk from outside, one would most probably not imagine to go inside and sit there for hours. It is actually a small shop with two tiny rooms that are stuffed with two computers for surfing, a telephone booth for international calls,  three refrigerators for beverages, various shelves for cigarettes and other articles.  One can almost be astonished how much stuff can be filled in to such a small place.

Usually on weekends, among all these furnishings, about 8 to 10 regular Ethiopian customers like me (mostly men) find a place to sit, to have beer and to chat. One meets here interesting individuals from different social, intellect, and economical background  The atmosphere is like in a liquor grocery in Addis.

Sharing a dish in Arat Kilo

I could say that I learned here to see at the vast and interesting diversities and similarities of my fellow Ethiopians living in this city.

I met Tesfa in Arat Kilo two months ago. I was once speaking about my town Dilla in south Ethiopia where some of my relatives live. Tesfa told me that he has visited the town and spent there once two weeks. I was a bit amazed about that because I heard him speaking with other customers about many other towns in that same manner. So I asked him how did it come that he knew so many small towns and villages in Ethiopia. That is when he told me his story.


Tesfa has traveled  allover Ethiopia three times on a standard bicycle.

Each time, Tesfa started his bicycle journey  from Bahir Dar. That is where he originally came from. Ha rod then towards Addis Abeba where he had to go through various organizing processes of official and financial manners. His motto for his bicycle journey was “Peace for Children”.  For he was only armed with this motto, he was financially fully dependent on the generosity of his fellow citizens, who were obviously enthusiastic of his motivation and courage to undertake such a difficult mission alone.

Coverage of his journey on a newspaper

Tesfa told me how he used to attract attention in every destination of his journey. Usually, it was enough to visit a popular restaurant or a bar of a town. Then people start to gather around his unnaturally and heavily-loaded bicycle. The farther he came away from his starting point, the more the astonishment and the appreciation of the people. Very often the occasion ended up in an almost same manner: some of the spectators would offer him to pay his bills encouraging him to eat what ever and how much he wants to eat, and some would start on the spot to collect money for him. In case he has stayed in a certain town for few days, his popularity would spread around quickly and so also the the invitations and the donations.

Once Tesfa recalls witnessing from afar and along his route a large group of men and women marching on the street raising the national flag in front. He mistook this march for some kind of demonstration at first because those people were chanting and cheering loudly. Though he didn’t feel comfortable about the incident, he couldn’t change his direction because there was no alternative route. Heading towards the gathering was unavoidable. The assumed demonstration turned out to be a funeral march. It was just a tradition for that area that funerals are attended in a rather cheerful manner. Tesfa has joined the funeral march because the whole atmosphere touched him in a positively dignifying way. There where he grew up, funerals have quite the opposite atitude. In the mean time, what he has not noticed on this moment was that he has been equally attracting the attention of those marching people. Ever since he has joined the funeral procession, they have been wondering about this stranger and his oerloaded bicycle. After the funeral they have satisfied their eagerness after asking him as many questions as they could. To show him how they were honored that he joined them and their admiration about his exceptional journey, they have collected and gave him some money before cheerfully bidding him farewell.

Tesfa today. He still dreams of going on further bicycle journies.

Tesfa has learned to understand his country men and women and grew to respect and love their regions and traditions . Of course, he also has came across many difficult moments especially when he slept in wilderness all alone and when he has to stay awake afraid of being eaten by wild animals or being robbed by hostile thieves(that has occurred few times). But in spite of the danger, the positive side of his journey was overwhelming. He continuesly was inspired by his motto and motivated by the reaction of the population which led him to make his tour three times. Tesfa told me that he was the second person to travel Ethiopia on a bicycle but no one has done that three times before him.

If you meet Tesfa and tell him from which part of Ethiopia you came from, he will most probably tell you about every important detail about your home town.

Tesfa’s greatest wish is to travel around the world on a bicycle under the same motto. I am convinced, he will do that if he finds a proper sponsor. I wish him good luck in fulfilling this dream and encourage all interested groups and individuals out there to help him in any possible way.

Admassu M. K.
Lissan Magazine

1 Comment »

  1. Selam

    I am living in sweden and trying to get some gesho. Heard i could get it from arrat kilo shop in frankfurt. Do u have an email address to the shop?

    Comment by Kjell Lofstrom — 7. June 2010 @ 22:34

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