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Hawzen, Ethiopia
Lat: 13°58'60.00"N Lon: 39°25'60.00"E
In today's Ethiopia, modern only just came along. For most of the 20th century Haile Selassie basically kept his nation sequestered from the world, denying it the progress of many of fellow African nations, let alone throughout the western world. Mine is not to question his motives. Many hail the man as a lion who resisted colonialism (my all-time favorite musician included, Bob Marley). And I can only report the results of my own travels, which are admittedly limited. But Ethiopia is now coming fast and will, I predict, be a big destination inside of the next decade, should the government and tourism industry there do all the right things. Therefore, I can’t help but wonder what they’d have accomplished without the ham-handed restrictions of a dictatorship. They have so much history that is relevant to most people in the world. I mean, for crying out loud, they have the Ark of the Covenant in a little church in Axum—or so they dubiously claim. One man with a Kalashnikov guards it! This alone should attract millions.

We’ll see about that. If I wrote everything I feel about Ethiopia, my impressions of the sweet, beautiful people, my profound experiences of its religious and historical centers, it would require reams of blog-pages. No fun for you. So, instead, I’ll restrict this entry to the mere mention of a fabulous inn in northern Ethiopia where we were treated very nicely--for not so much money. Then I’ll let you, dear reader, take it from there.

Gheralta Lodge is located outside the remote village of Hawzen in the Tigrai Province near the border with Eritrea. It is a beautiful, clean, sophisticated, all around remarkable establishment run by a lovely Italian gentleman named Silvio who will cook delicious food for you day and night. I can’t recommend the place highly enough. And, I repeat, the rates are reasonable.

What truly struck me about this place and the area where it is located was the stone. Stone has always been a huge part of life in these barren, un-vegetated lands and millennia ago skilled stone-carvers migrated down from Egypt to work their way through the Axumite Empire (100-940 AD). Their craftsmanship became an integral part of the Tigraian culture, still demonstrated today in the impressive stonework found throughout the countryside. One need only drive from Gheralta Lodge to downtown Hawzen to see dozens of unique, stone huts lining the road and dotting the landscape—and while they all suffer the general degradation of poverty, its simple to see that prodigious talents are on hand all across the land.

Indeed, where money was recently to be made, at the Gheralta Lodge, the stonework is truly top-notch. Just look at the walls of my to-die-for room--such intricate attention to detail. Any mason would be honored to sleep there. Me, I was just amazed.

Not far from the lodge is the mountain it is named for, and which my room stared out upon. Gheralta. Atop that great mountain and many others throughout the range to which it belongs are rock-carved churches dating back 500 years and more. But that’s another story altogether having to do with religious persecution and refuge—and too much history to tell.
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