It’s a year since my last post on travel photography and, let’s face it, The Canaries, although off the coast of Africa, don’t really cut it as an exotic and mysterious subject. So, this year I ramped up my Intrepid-ness and plumped for Ethiopia, one of the four great powers of the ancient world (with Persia, China and Rome). Not only that, but I decided to go over Timket, the festival of Epiphany for the Ethiopian Orthodox church.

Although not religious, it was a powerful experience. As I wrote to a friend at the time:

“Only two days in and already have had my mind blown! It has been the festival of Timket (Ethiopian Epiphany). Yesterday saw   the procession(s) of the replica(s) Ark of the Covenant(s) from churches all over Addis to Jan Meda – we were there at the start of the celebrations, got carried along with the procession (literally – the crush was so great!), and followed the whole parade to Jan Meda, dodging red-carpet carriers (they roll up the one behind and race to the front – should do this for premieres!) and police horses (well, they probably weren’t police, all of them but….).

Today was the baptism and blessing (to commemorate the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist) from the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to everyone who came to Jan Meda. A Cardinal and loads of other interdenominational church representatives (Ethiopian church isn’t Catholic and is a rich mix of Judaism onwards) were there too plus priests, deacons and congregants from various churches, kids from Sunday schools, as well as ordinary people from all over the world. Talking of ordinary people, it was weird and nice to meet with other press photographers from everywhere – same conversations, it seems, the world over! We just recognise each other by kit and bearing from a mile off – first time I’ve encountered this out of the UK.
The Patriarch welcomed everyone from all over the globe and asked us to tell the world about the festival and Ethiopia – a more press-and-photography-friendly culture I have not experienced! Non-Ethiopians were very much in the minority so to be welcomed like this was amazing (not just by him, but by everyone I’ve met so far).
We were lucky enough (with a savvy local guide, tourist passes and a little extra leverage from my press pass!) to get into the inner compound. Felt undeservedly privileged to be there, with really close access to the Patriarch, literally feet away (press would never be allowed so close to the Pope, or even the Arch-Bish of Canterbury!) so was happy to help the people kept outside the compound by fetching and carrying holy water from the holy water pool for the people to take home to their friends and family who couldn’t be there! (Priests in golden robes were standing on the perimeter fence and spraying the faithful with the Holy Hosepipes!)
Although I’m not religious, it was hugely life-affirming – a wonderful thing to be part of. Not having been to a large music festival either, I’d imagine the feelings invoked by the two would be similar! However, what do I know! Anyway, felt uplifted, emotional, happy and fortunate. Hope the feeling stays with me!”
If you would like to see the photostory of Timket, follow this link to vimeo.
After Timket, the travels started in earnest: Bahir Dar (by Lake Tana), Lalibela, Axum, Gonder, Simien Mountains and back to Addis. Here’s a selection of my favourite photographs from these places (for fuller sets, go to www.janehobson.com )

Watching football for free, Bahir Dar.

On the road to Lalibela - two young girls

Two deacons at the cave church of Yemrehane Christos.

A girl and her siblings outside her home - Yemrehane Christos.

The stelae field, Axum.

Gondarene castles.

The highest lodge in Africa - unfortunately, I had altitude sickness!

The whole experience has whetted my appetite for more travel (and more travel photography) and I have four possible projects/stories to research to go back to various parts of Ethiopia, as well as other destinations to contemplate. Now just to work out how to fund them all!
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