Learn about the magic of Ethiopian from the founder of Mayet Ethiopian Tours, Mahlet Mekonnen.
When you take someone on a tour of Ethiopia, how do you want them to feel about the country by the end?
Mahlet: I think it is very important that the visitors of my country understand, appreciate, and come to respect the fact that Ethiopia is the origin of mankind. So, I strive to make them feel that the trip is a return to their birthright and a spiritual journey connecting them to Africa.
What do your tours consist of; are there set locations you always visit or is it fully customizable?
Mahlet: Mayets Ethiopia Tours currently focuses on specific regions in Ethiopia as well as the capital city, Addis Ababa and neighboring cities.
- The Northern Region (i.e., Gondar, Lalibela, Bahirdar) which showcase the deeply rooted faith and majestic ancestry that pre-dates both Romanian and Greek civilizations.
- The North-Eastern Region (i.e., Afar) which has the Danakil Desert and is a part of the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia. As well as The Erta Ale Volcano which experiences periodic activity dating back to the early 1900s.
- The Southern Ethiopia which is inhabited by the unique Tribe of the Lower Omo Valley, a tribe that has a strong independent existence that is frozen in time void of any modernization.
- The Eastern Region (Harar and Dire Dawa) “old” cities that harbor rich historical lineage connecting various religions throughout the Arabian and African nations from the early 1600’s.
What makes Ethiopia a special place to travel to?
Mahlet: Ethiopia is a hidden gem with limitless cultural diversity, archaeological pedigree, and natural beauty. Our people share a strong family bond that we cannot help but share with all our visitors. Our culture demands honest humility and an open arms embrace to all visitors. Yet we remain proud of our continued practices that date back to biblical times.
What are three top places foreigners should go to when they come to Ethiopia?
1. Addis Ababa – Capital city
2. Northern Region
3. Southern Region
What’s something you’d encourage everyone to eat when they visit Ethiopia?
Mahlet: Everything! Twice! Lol!
For the adventurous meat eater that wants to get the authentic Ethiopian experience and eat like the locals, I encourage them to feast on the various raw meat dishes methodically sliced and seasoned to delicious perfection. The shy or more conservative can enjoy these meats slow roasted, fried and/or grilled without concern because the culture predominately encourages an organic clean grass feed livestock proudly absent of any generic modifications. Please try our nationally treasured dish, Doro Wat – a slow simmered stew consisting of chicken, boiled egg, and the local mixed spices, berbere.
For the vegan friendly foodie, we boast an endless assortment of dishes made from beans and fully organic vegetables.
Both Meat Eaters and Vegans alike can indulge in our staple side dish Injera, which is a highly nutritious type of flatbread that is made from Teff, a grain like ingredient found only in Ethiopia.
What sets Ethiopian culture apart from any other in Africa and across the globe?
Mahlet: Ethiopia is an ancient country with unique cultural heritage. The rich history and remarkable biodiversity are reflected in 12 UNESCO world heritage sites; more than any other country in Africa.
Our country is the only African nation that was never colonized and the only African nation that can boast centuries of spiritual tradition still practiced to this day. We are the living testament of the strength rooted in the history of all African cultures.
Ethiopia contains over 80 different ethnic groups unified by our freedoms and respected despite our differences. Though there are certain cultural traditions that represent a national identity, practices differ between regions and ethnicities but the fact that we continue to stand as one sets us apart from any other culture around the world.
Considering all that has been happening in Ethiopia in recent news, what would you say to someone who is hesitant about coming due to safety concerns?
Mahlet: It is fortunate that the world has come to understand that the majority of African nations are faced with an uphill battle to be fairly represented in the western media. I cannot help but be saddened that the continent as a whole has continued to be viewed through a lens of generalized corruption and/or poverty that has tarnished the overall progression. I am not implying that Ethiopia has not faced forms of political unrest in recent times, but the publication that the entire country is subjected to violence is false. Just like all countries, regardless of economical status, there are areas of the country that should be avoided. And we thoroughly research, on a ground level, the security of all destinations prior to any expedition to ensure the safety of our journey seekers.