By MONICA KAYOMBO
Zambia Daily Mail
Monica Kayombo (right) with Memory Chipango, a travel agent at Voyagers Travel and Tours pose for a photo at the African Union Building in Addis Abba.
PREPARATIONS for my second visit to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, after my first in 2010, started like any other, but little did I know what awaited me at my point of destination.
This is one trip where I was not privy to the programme until I reached Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia is a country with a population of over 90 million people, making it the second most populous nation in Africa after Nigeria.
Having defeated Italy in a war after five years of invasion, Ethiopian got independent on May 3, 1941.
About 85 percent of Ethiopians depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Amheric is the national language.
Addis Ababa, the city that I visited means “ new flower’’ and many tourists visit Addis as it is fondly called, for many reasons, ranging from leisure to business.
On May 6, which was my day of departure, I had to arrive early at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka to meet the trip co-ordinator Collette Stephenson for preliminaries.
It was an educational tour to Addis, courtesy of Ethiopian Airlines.
A workmate Chimwemwe Mwale dropped me off at the airport two hours before departure, and by 13:06 hours, we took off for Addis via Harare.
However, we spent more than an hour at Harare International Airport due to a technical fault.
Nevertheless, it was while on board the Ethiopian airliner that I started enjoying the famous Ethiopian tomoca coffee.
We touched down at Bole International Airport in Addis at 21:00 hours to a warm welcome from members of staff at the Zambian embassy in Ethiopian led by Dorcas Chileshe, the press attaché.
After almost one hour of waiting at the airport, my colleagues and I were issued with temporary visas after it emerged that there was something wrong with our initial visas.
I was in a 17-member delegation that included director for Civil Service Travel, Davies Muunga, Rita Mwanakombo from Premier Travel, Danford Walenga, a sales representative at Ethiopian Airlines in Lusaka, Memory Chipango from Voyers Travel and Tours, Davies Mainza, Ruth Kalobwe from Discovery Travel and consultants from travel agencies in the country.
Before dinner, we were introduced to our tour guide, Wondwosson Getaneh, a marketing officer at Ethiopian Airlines.
We spent the first night at the luxurious Friendship International hotel. A professional tour guide, Samrawiti Fekade joined us as we toured the Trinity Orthodox Church that was constructed by the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie. We also visited the African Union building and the National Museum.
Our last day in Ethiopia was going to be Saturday, May 10.
Before that on Wednesday, May 7, we prepared ourselves for a trip to Liesak Exotic Resort which is about 45 Kilometres south of Addis Ababa.
Though the trip was exciting, I was in deep pain from a toothache that developed after I left Lusaka.
With a swollen face, I visited some pharmacies in Addis Ababa, but could not get any medication due to a language barrier. I only got some relief from pain-killers until Thursday when I was taken to Ethiopian Airlines staff clinic.
All colleagues in the entourage, especially Violet Tembo from Muvi Tv did what they could to make me feel better.
After having lunch, which of course included the traditional staple food ‘’injera’’ also known as tef at the Liesak Exotic Resort, we were massaged and allowed to remain in the sauna for as long as we wished.
Those who were brave enough went on boat cruise for as many times as they wished, while enjoying a cocktail of intoxicating drinks.
Liesak Resort hotel is in Boshoftu area, right on the banks of Lake Babogaya.
During our dinner at the resort, we were entertained by a traditional dance troupe comprising energetic boys and girls.
As though that was not enough, the dance troupe treated us to western music, and of course they did not disappoint us.
On top of that, the disc jockey played Zambian music including the famous kopala tunes like Kanselele and some of JK’s music.
The following day, we went back to Addis Ababa for a meeting with Ethiopian Airlines officials who wanted our views on how they could improve their services.
We later had an opportunity to visit the National Museum under the guidance of a Ms Fekade.
At the museum, we had an opportunity to see various fossils and paintings. We were also told the story of King Solomon and Queen Sheba of the Bible and how the latter conceived Menelik, one of the forefathers of Emperor Haile Selassie.
We also visited the Trinity Orthodox Church which Haile Selassie started building in 1931 and was only completed in 1941, the year of Ethiopia’s independence.
Emperor Selassie, who ruled Ethiopia from November 2 1930 to September 12 1974, died on August 27, 1975, after an illness.
He is worshipped and perceived as a messianic figure by Rastafarians.
It is at the Trinity Orthodox Church where members of the Selassie family are buried, while outside the church are tombs of gallant fallen heroes.
Church services are usually conducted at the Trinity Orthodox Church and several Christians as well as non-Christians flock there to receive blessings from the priests who are there every 24 hours.
About 65 percent of Ethiopians are Christians of which the Orthodox Church claims the biggest share.
On the political front, what surprised me is that there is almost no opposition to the ruling party in Ethiopia. Out of 547 parliamentary seats, only one seat belongs to the opposition. The rest of the seats are held by the ruling People’s Revolution Democratic Party.
Otherwise it was a fan-filled trip as we took time to take pictures at the famous scenic spot in Addis Ababa which is 3,200 metres above sea level. This is a place where most Ethiopian athletes do their training.
We also took time to visit the historic African Union (AU) building, though amid tight security as usual.
After our tour, we went back to Friendship International hotel where we spent a night in anticipation of Friday special!
On Friday morning, we visited Ethiopian Airlines headquarters and mingled with senior management officials.
Later in the evening, we were taken for dinner at Yod Abbysinia Restaurant where we were given another treat by the cultural dance troupe to wrap up our tour of Ethiopia.
Despite the tooth-ache problem, I did not abandon my journalistic duties. Through it all, I decided to depend and trust in God.
Despite the security checks at almost every point we stopped, I will always have that nostalgia for Ethiopia and its people.