Salambo discovering Ethiopia
Ethiopian Orthodox Easter which falls the same day as Western Easter this year, is one of the biggest celebrations in the festive calendar. All over the country, people are preparing for the commemoration of Christ’s death and resurrection which will translate into a large feast during which they will break their long fasting period. At midnight on the eve of Easter, they will slaughter a chicken to prepare Dolo Wat, the traditional meal of chicken and eggs in a spicy sauce they eat on Easter Sunday. Practicing Orthodox have been fasting strictly for the past 56 days, easting no animal product whatsoever, including butter, milk or cheese.
The streets of Addis are suddenly very busy as people are preparing for the big day. The goat and sheep market nearby the slaughterhouse in the Kera district is fully replenished; chicken are being sold alive from vans by the side of the road and shops are stocked up with milk, cheese and butter. Yesterday, I was shocked to see my local supermarket so well supplied, I don’t think I have ever seen its shelves so full. The atmosphere is getting festive with women wearing traditional clothes and the netala, the Ethopian white cotton head scarf they wear to go to church. On Palm Sunday last week, men were wearing a band made of palm leaves around their head. In the church of St Gabriel opposite the supermarket I went to yesterday (Good Friday), people were kneeling and bowing in prayers to the chanting of the priest. We expect to hear Orthodox chanting all night tonight as people gather to the church for the Paschal Vigil.
The Orthodox faith and culture is stil very dominant in Ethiopia, particularly in the North, where people practice their faith intensely and strictly respect their religious calendar. In the Lowlands however, towards the East and the South of the country, a substantial part of the population is Muslim. I have only lived here for about three years but in that short time, I have noticed more Muslim women in the street wearing the full black dress and entirely covering up their face. Many Ethiopian people tell me that it wasn’t the case before, Muslim women in the city were rarely wearing even a head scarf except maybe on Friday and religious days. I have also noticed that every time a mosque is being built, an orthodox church is also being erected in the vicinity. At the main mosque in the Arada district in the centre of town, the street is closed on Friday to allow more people to pray on the pavement and road just outside the mosque, indicating that the mosque may be getting too small for the number of Faithfuls. I was told that Orthodox and Muslims have been living side by side peacefully in Ethiopia, however, I sense that some form of competition is going on in that respect, but that’s my personal perception and not necessarily an indication of the state of the matter in the country.