It may have been a short trip, but a lot was covered during the Ethiopian Airlines Canada, Canadian FAM tour in February. It was an incredible six days of non-stop travel to Ethiopia with a group of travel industry professionals and Canadian travel journalists touring the most exquisite places in Ethiopia.
With a direct flight from Toronto to Addis Ababa, the FAM tour arrived early in the morning eager to embark on a city tour organized by Ethiopian Holidays through Celebrity Tours. The most, friendliest, likeable tour guide Cheney, graciously greeted the group. He made the trip memorable with his great sense of humor and fabulous insights on the tour. He shared every historical fact to the group and fast became the go to point person throughout the trip. As the group learned more about Ethiopia Cheney learned a lot about Canadians through many stories and many jokes.
Day One: Started out in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital and the country’s commercial and cultural hub. The group visited the National Museum which showcased exhibits of Ethiopian art, crafts and prehistoric fossils, including replicas of the famous early hominid “Lucy”. In the first 24-hours a lot was packed in for the group, which also included witnessing services at Holy Trinity Cathedral and visiting the burial place of the 20th-century emperor Haile Selassie.
Day Two: Early morning flight to Bahir Dar where the group cruised along Lake Tana where many were amazed seeing hippopotamus in the lake. It was several moments of silence trying to get that perfect photo shot as the hippopotamuses submerged under water only coming up for air for a break moment, as if they knew how eager the group was to take their photo. It was like a “paparazzi” frenzy and moments of delight when someone in the group managed to get that perfect shot. The short boat ride on Lake Tana led the group to visit a 14th century island monasteries, Azwa Maryam. The walk up to the monastery many locals showcased several handmade crafts and art. The backdrop of the Blue Nile Falls was amongst the favourite for the group who enjoyed taking many photos and selfies.
Day Three: A four-hour drive to the “Camelot of Africa” Gondar. Gondar is located in the northern part of Ethiopia and it’s known for the walled Fasil Ghebbi fortress and palace compound. The 17th-century castle of Emperor Fasilides combines Portuguese, India and local architectural styles.
Day Four: Ready to go for day four, flying with Ethiopian Airlines domestic flights, the group explored the Axum’s tall carved obelisks and the relics of the ancient Kingdom of Aksum. Walking around Axum visiting St Mary of Zion Christian church which is believed to house the biblical Ark of the Covenant.
Day Five: This seemed to be a favourite amongst many in the group visiting Lalibela. The weather was perfect during the entire tour but this day not a cloud in the sky as temperatures sat at a comfortable 27C. Lalibela is located in the mountainous region in the heart of Ethiopia, therefore the bus ride was like no other. As the driver carefully edged his way up the steep hills the group was distracted as they were admiring the breathtaking landscape, the perfect panoramic view. A friendly greeting by staff of at Zaguye Hotel made the Canadians feel right at home upon arrival in Lalibela. Within moments the group was ready to go and explored several monolithic cave churches built around the 12-century and what is called “New Jerusalem” of Ethiopia. Before ending the day in Lalibela the tour was not complete without visiting what has been referred to as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” St.George Church. St. George Church a rock-hewn church is carved out in the shape of a cross and also the best-known churches in Lalibela.
The group made the best of the next few hours while in Lalibela exploring more of the area independently, meeting with local artists, purchasing a few handmade crafts, to even being welcomed into a home to join in the festivities and dancing at a wedding celebration. However, it was one last tour for a few group members who woke up extra early the next morning to do a walking tour visiting a few more churches in Lalibela. It was an opportunity to witness the pilgrimage of worshippers during the first day of the 55-day fasting observed by many Christian Orthodox parishioners.
Day Six: The final day was back to Addis Ababa with a tour at Ethiopian Airlines headquarters visiting the facility and meeting few Ethiopian Airlines staff along with Ethiopian Airlines Canada Country Manager Birhan Abate. It was also a quick visit to a local Ethiopian restaurant where the group enjoyed some more delicious Ethiopian cuisine while listening to a live band performance and watched a colourful display of cultural Ethiopian dancers performing during dinner.
Sharing photos and many laughs during the six-day adventure, the group reminisced on many highlights of the trip while in the VIP Lounge at the airport in Addis Ababa. It was a time to relax and unwind, charge up the phones before boarding Ethiopian Airlines Cloud Nine business class.
To view photos from the Canadian FAM trip visit Ethiopian Airlines Canada Facebook page: Click here
We are also sharing more memorable moments and photos from a few group members from the Canadian FAM trip.