Ethiopia is magic, pure and simple – it’s unlike any other country in Africa or, indeed, the world.
Addis Ababa is a wonderful mix of old and new, local and foreign. Here you can explore the jam-packed Merkato, a bustling mass of streets and stalls selling coffee, jewellery, produce and pretty much anything else you could want. At the city’s Ethnological Museum, the exhibits detailing Ethiopia’s history are compelling and informative, and you can even check out the bathroom that once belonged to Emperor Haile Selassie.
Getting out of Addis and into Ethiopia’s smaller cities is essential. Bahir Dar, on the shores of pelican-covered Lake Tana, is a laid-back town that boasts centuries-old monasteries decorated in exquisite, colourful detail. The tiny alleyways of Harar, a Unesco World Heritage Site, are home to crumbling ancient buildings with painted doorways that are very photogenic.
Gondar, the Camelot of Africa, is simply mind-blowing, with its array of stunning castles that look like something straight out of a Disney movie. And Lalibela, home to some of the world’s most fascinating Christian festivals, has its own magnificent churches that have been hewn right out of the rock; these are regularly visited by devotees wearing white robes and carrying brightly coloured umbrellas.
Take time while in Ethiopia to sample the country’s incredible food. Most meals are served on injera, a type of sour, fluffy bread that soaks up the juices of the flavourful meat and vegetable stews ladled on top. The coffee, too, is some of the best in the world, and you can get a top quality macchiato, made in espresso machines that have been around since the Italian occupation in the mid-20th century, in every small cafe in the country.