We saw many interesting things along the way, including the African Union:
When we arrived at the Imperial Palace, it was only a half hour before closing time. The Palace was the former home of Emperor Haile Selassie, and is now an ethnological museum on the campus of Addis Ababa University. A wonderful young student by the name of Markos gave us a great (if hurried) tour through as much of the museum as we could possibly have seen in 40 minutes or so. He was originally from Tigray, as was Yikealo, so the two of them hit it off right away. Markos made a big deal over Yikealo, tried to include him in the conversation whenever possible and jogged from room to room while holding our little guy's hand. Basically, he made a museum full of dusty artifacts as interesting as he could have for a 5 year old boy!
Markos and Yikealo
A model of a typical Ethiopian home, made of mud, grass and straw
grave markers for a family burial plot
A display on bee-hives, representing Ethiopia's abundant honey supply
A small model of an Ethiopian Orthodox church
A portrait and clothing of Haile Selassie's wife, Empress Menan Asfaw
wedding finery from the Gambella region
Emperor Haile Selassie's desk and chair
When we left the museum, we asked Tele to take us to any place that he suggested that we see. He chose the St. George Cathedral and Museum. We arrived about a half hour after the buildings closed, but Tele arranged a private tour for us with the Archdeacon...a very kind man named Mebratu. He spent an hour and a half with us, taking us inside the silent, shadowy church (we had to leave our shoes at the door), and performing parts of an Orthodox service for us. Unfortunately, my camera battery was nearly dead, so I was unable to video him chanting, dancing or playing instruments for us. The octagonal Cathedral was commissioned in 1896 by Emperor Menelik II, as a monument to the Ethiopian victory over the Italians at the Battle of Adwa. It was beautiful, and we learned quite a bit about some of the beliefs of the Ethiopian Orthodox church, which seems to be an odd mix of Catholicism and Judaism. The church traces its roots back to the Ethiopian eunuch baptized by Philip. According to their tradition, this man brought Chrisianity to Ethiopia in 34 AD, and it became the state religion in 330 AD. Their churches have a Holy of Holies with a replica of the ark of the covenant, and they believe that the actual, original ark of the covenant is in a church in Aksum. Their services are conducted in the ancient language of Ge'ez, which is no longer spoken by anyone other than the priests, leading to a very ritualistic religion that the people follow without understanding.
St. George Cathedral
People praying ouside the cathedral. The bell tower of the St. George Museum is in the background.
The cross atop the cathedral.
Sacred paintings, surrounding the holy of holies.
Paintings depicting events in Ethiopia's history
Archdeacon Mebratu was a wonderful story-teller, and he was also of Tigray heritage. He could not say enough about Yikealo: what an amazing, beautiful, intelligent, unique, ususual, blessed boy he is. After so many compliments, it became a little hard to know how to respond! The Ethiopian culture is a very affectionate one, and they are particularly demonstrative of this with small children.
Following our tour of the church, he took us to the St. George bell-tower, where we climbed a narrow, winding staircase to the huge bell at the top.
The view from the windows at the top looked out over the corrugated tin shacks of the city.
By the time that Mebratu finally took us through the museum, my camera was dead, so I have no pictures of that part of our tour. When we exited, he wanted to take us to a little shop next door and introduce Yikealo to a woman that he knew from Tigray. We bought a few small souvenirs, and as we walked back toward the gates to the cathedral grounds, Mebratu told us farewell. With tears in his eyes, he thanked us for coming. He said that there were no words to express what was in his heart, but that he was going to pray for Yikealo...that Y would grow up to be a great man of God. He hugged us, and then we were walking through the gate.
Back at the hotel, we ate a quick supper and put our exhausted child to bed. He had been SO good that day, but he was completely worn out. Then, because we apparently had not had enough of an emotional overload, David and I decided to look through the CD of photos of S with his mama that we had been given earlier that day.