When Earth Rumbles

Standing on the crunchy crust of mineral deposits in Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression, an improvised towel-turned-scarf wrapped around my face to avoid slaps of sulfur fumes and intensely hot desert air, I look around in befuddled amazement, asking myself how and when did this combination or Martian and lunar landscapes descend upon earth. The answer has been around for over a century, strongly rooted in German meteorologist Alfred Wegener's 1912 theory of the Continental Drift.

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Another Planet On Earth - Dallol In Danakil Depression

Toyota Rovers cruise over the vast desert plains, toasted under the searing sun and leave a slight plume of dust. There comes a point when the vehicles can't go any further, at a natural cul de sac composed of accumulated red-brown lava rock. We go on foot from here on, says our guide Aki. Climb these rocks carefully, and don't venture too far from the group, he cautions. Armed policemen lead and trail our group of fifteen, just in case some Eritrean guerrillas are lurking close by.

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Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

Coffee is said to have been first discovered in Ethiopia more than a thousand years ago. The tale goes that a goatherd named Kaldi saw his flock get hyper every time they chewed red berries from the Arabica coffee tree. He plucked a few berries and bought them to a group of nearby monks who were not happy to hear about stimulating effects of the berries and tossed them into fire, in punishment! The beans roasted and let out their divine aroma...and alas, the rest is history. 

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A Trip To Harar

Harar is an ancient city in the eastern part of Ethiopia, surrounded by a protective stone wall also known as Jugol. Five gates are situated at various points along the wall and back in the day, each of these gates is believed to have been shut at night to protect the inhabitants of this historic city. Sometime around the 16th century, Harar emerged as a major commercial center, with trade routes to other parts of Ethiopia and to the east, as far as India. The city continues to be a prominent center for Islamic learning, and with over 80 mosques and as many shrines, Harar is considered to be the fourth holiest city in Islam after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. Harar lost its monopoly on trade and commerce to the city of Dire Dawa, located 50 kms away after a rail link between Dire Dawa and Djibouti was setup in the early 20th century. With its ancient gates, bustling markets, narrow alleyways, colorful houses, coupled with the traditional Islamic attire worn by the women, Harar possesses a charm quite unparalleled. 

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Trekking Etra Ale - The Gateway To Hell

Erta Ale is an active lava lake located in the Danakil Depression region of the Afar province in north east Ethiopia. Erta Ale translates to "Smoking Mountain" or "Gateway to Hell" in the Afar language and these names are befitting in both letter and spirit. The Danakil Depression is one of the lowest and hottest places on Earth, with average annual temperatures ranging above 45 degrees Celsius. Lava lakes are just that - large pools of molten lava held in a crater and are extremely rare. There are only 6 in the world with Erta Ale being the longest-existing one. At an altitude of about 2100 feet above sea level, attaining summit involves a grueling 6-8 hour drive on solidified lava rock terrain followed by a 9 km hike on foot, which takes a little over 3 hours.

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Salt Mining In Danakil Depression

Salt Mining in Danakil Depression of the Afar province in Ethiopia has been a timeless trade. Once known as white gold, salt played a pivotal role in trade and commerce when salt bars, known as amole were used as a form of currency. To this day, salt continues to be the main source of livelihood of Afar people and almost the entire supply of salt in Ethiopia comes from the Afar province. Salt is mined and traded five days a week with Fridays and Sundays being days off. Fridays because almost all of the laborers and camel herders are Muslim Afar and they go to the mosques for jumma every Friday, while Christian Tigrayan camel owners attend mass on Sundays. 

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