Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Queen of Sheba

I had a couple of options to get from South Africa to Chad, but all of them involved passing through another country. In the past I used to go through Paris, but that meant flying straight over Chad to Paris and then halfway back. Other options included Cameroun and Kenia, but I have seen them before and was more interested in trying a new destination where I have never been before. This is why I had the privilege of spending one night in Addis Ababa. I was pleasantly surprized by the professional manner Air Ethiopia was handling the transfers. I even received my luggage in N'Djamena this afternoon after it stayed in transit while I stayed at the magnificent 5-star Intercontinental Hotel. I never knew much about Ethiopia, except for the distasteful jokes we made as kids about the famine in the country and then of course that His Emperial Haile Selassie hails from Ethiopia. My love for reggae provided me with that last bit of knowledge. I guess one night in Addis cannot really give a good indication of what a country and its people are like, but believe me first impressions definitely can add to your final opinion. 

From Wikipedia I learned some interesting facts about Ethiopia that I didn't know. The fact like it is the most populous landlocked country in the world, despite the fact that millions died in the 80's due to the famine. Today it has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. It is the place where the coffee bean originated and is the top coffee and honey producer in Africa. It was also one of the first Christian countries in the world, having officially adopted Christianity as the state religion in the 4th century already. What really surprized me was that Ethiopia has its own alphabet, and then some people still believe nothing has ever been invented in Africa. Lastly Ethiopia also seems to have very beautiful women (that comes from personal observation and not from Wikipedia). My first contact with Ethiopia left a good impression. But like a true scientist I believe that all findings should be reproducible while providing the same results. So next week when I travel via Addis again, I will be more certain if my first impression was fact or just coincidence.

So, as you could've guessed by now, I made it to N'Djamena in one piece. Luggage as well. What a difference it is to Ethiopia. The same reception your get from the other West African countries which I so frequently bitch about met me here. Although Chad is smack bang in the middle of Africa, it is also French-speaking like most of the West African countries and just as tourist UNfriendly. The attitude is just so different to what I've experienced last night. In Addis I felt as if I was welcome there, here I feel like I am intruding. Just the way things work at the airport, or let me rather say NOT WORK, the way people speak to you, or don't speak to you, the whole atmosphere and attitude is just so different. Why? What makes one country a pleasure to visit and another a "pleasure to avoid"? Is it the people, the history, the circumstances? I guess one can have a whole debate over that topic, but traveling from a country with the fastest growing economy to one of the poorest and most corrupt countries surely make you wonder if that might not be the reason. Are the countries unfriendly because they are poor, or are they poor because they are unfriendly? I guess when your country is also referred to as the "Dead Heart of Africa" it doesn't contribute much to your happiness and positive personality traits either.

The Queen of Sheba maybe...?
So, the natives are still restless in Kome, a small oilfield camp further south in Chad. This is where I will be heading tomorrow on a small charter plane. We've received special permission to travel and will hopefully be able to arrive and depart without problems. Departing is the main concern, I would like to be back in South Africa by the end of next week and don't want to jeopardize any chances of that happening. I am actually looking forward to the trip down further south, seeing places which not many people will ever have the privilege of seeing. Who knows, maybe I can find the beautiful Queen of Sheba there. Oh no I remember now, apparently she was from Ethiopia. Go figure!

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