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Denver Sister Cities International Axum Committee “2017 Tour Ethiopia”

SPEARHEADED BY David Landes (Debre Berhan 1968–70) and Chuck Kreiman (Asella 1968–70), and with the support of Gloria Curtis (Asmara 1963-65)  and Janet Lee (Emdeber 1974–76), Denver/Axum Sister Cities International is sponsoring a tour within Ethiopia from September 25 to October 9, 2017.  DSCI has extended an invitation to Aurora/Adama Sister Cities International and Corvallis, OR/Gondar Sister Cities Association to participate in what surely will prove to be a great adventure.

  • Travelers from throughout the U.S. will arrive in Addis Ababa and spend two days in the city.
  • The group will then fly north to tour the “historic circuit” of Ethiopia for five days.
  • Next the travelers have the choice of traveling to Gondar or to Adama to spend five days in the region of their choice .
  • Finally, the entire group will reunite in Addis Ababa for a city tour, shopping, rest and relaxation for three days.

The Itinerary follows.

For more information contact:

David Landes, 720-238-0901
Chuck Kreiman, 303-770-2827

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Itinerary for All on Tour

Monday — Sept. 25: Arrive Addis Ababa at the latest.
In’quan dehna metah and “Welcome to Ethiopia.”

david-ethiopia-final-2Tuesday — Sept. 26: Ethiopia celebrates the Festival of Meskel, which commemorates the finding of the True Cross in the Fourth Century. Addis Ababa marks the holiday with a colorful parade of floats, music, and religious pageantry that culminates in the lighting of a huge bonfire, and we will take in all the festivities from a special VIP viewing stand in Meskel Square. This will be an unforgettable day!

Wednesday — Sept. 27:

  • Fly to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lalibela, perhaps the most memorable stop on Ethiopia’s historical circuit. Here, 11 unique rock-hewn churches were carved into the rugged mountainsides.
  • Enjoy an afternoon excursion to the first group of the 11 rock churches.

Thursday — Sept. 28:

  • A Mule trip through the countryside to the ancient Asheton Maryam Monastery at an elevation of 4,000m (13,000ft), with return by car.
  • In the afternoon, visit the second group of the 11 rock churches in Lalibela.

Friday — Sept. 29:

Fly to Axum, the epicenter of Ethiopian Christianity. Afternoon visit to the Obelisk Park. The seven granite stelae, the tallest rising to 108 ft., mark the royal cemetery where the tombs of kings are still being excavated. The stelae imitate multi-storied palaces and are decorated with carved doors, windows and beams.

  • Visit the excavations and explore the tombs.

Saturday — Sept. 30:

  • Visit Yeha, the 2,500 year-old ruins of a Sabaean city. The 40 ft. high stone temple, which now encloses a church, is inscribed with Sabaean inscriptions and reliefs of ibexes. Judaic relics and historical artifacts are housed here.
  • Drive back to Axum via Adwa, site of King Menelik II’s 1896 victory over the Italians that preserved Ethiopia from colonial occupation.

Sunday — Oct. 1:

  • Morning tour includes Axum’s museum, widely rated as Ethiopia’s best; the outside of the chapel where the Ark of the Covenant is said to have been housed for some 3,000 years; and the 17th century Maryam Tsion Cathedral (unfortunately closed to women), the holiest church in Ethiopia.
  • Sister City visits this afternoon for the Denver-Axum committee members.
  • For our other tour participants, why not spend the afternoon at leisure visiting some of the local shops for exquisite locally made clothing, jewelry, and handicrafts.
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OPTION 1 — Adama Sister Cities itinerary

Monday — Oct. 2: Morning flight to Addis Ababa and drive on the new four lane toll highway to Adama (formerly know as Nazareth), a showplace of the nation’s transformation to modernity.

Tuesday — Oct. 3: Adama sightseeing, including visits to the Wonji Sugar Factory, the local train station of the new, Chinese-built Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, and the Oromo Parliament Building, symbolic of Ethiopia’s recognition of formerly ignored ethnic groups.

Wednesday — Oct. 4: A morning of Sister City visits for our Aurora-Adama Sister City committee members. Leisure time for everyone else. In the afternoon a relaxing and refreshing visit to the Sodere Hot Springs.

Thursday — Oct. 5: Adama-Lake Langano and an afternoon at leisure.

Friday — Oct. 6: Lake Langano is a popular destination for Ethiopians and international tourist alike, famousfor its variety of birds and other wildlife. Our wildlife viewing excursion will include both land visits and a boat trip on the lake itself.

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OPTION 2 — Axum – Historic Route for non-Adama Sister Cities participants

Monday — Oct. 2: Today the long but rewarding drive from Axum to Gondar, the former royal capital of Ethiopia. The drive cuts through the impressive Simien Mountains — the “Roof of Africa.” This is Ethiopia’s most mountainous region filled with spectacular scenery and gorgeous views. Hopefully we will encounter birds and game like the Gelada baboon, Walya ibex, and the Simien fox — animals found nowhere else in the world.

Tuesday — Oct. 3: Gondar is the former royal capital of the ancient kingdom of Ethiopia, embodied in the castles of the Royal Compound, which led to its name the “Camelot of Africa.” Explore the castles and visit the Debre Berhan Selassie Church.

Wednesday — Oct. 4: Today our Gondar Sister Cities committee members will visit their local counterparts. This will be a leisure day for the other participants. FK Tours will offer an optional opportunity to visit the Ethiopian Jews (“Bete Israel”), the last of a once larger community many of whom have now emigrated to Israel.

Thursday — Oct. 5: Fly to Bahir Dar on Lake Tana, source of the Blue Nile River and an area known for its island monasteries. Boat trip on Lake Tana to visit these ancient monasteries.

Friday — Oct. 6
: Excursion to the Blue Nile Falls. Great birding en route. Cross a 17th-century bridge built by artisans sent to Ethiopia from Portuguese India. Return across the Blue Nile River by tankwa, a traditional Ethiopian reed boat. After lunch, a guided visit of Bahir Dar town.

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Final 3 days

The two groups reunite

Saturday — Oct. 7:

  • Return to Addis Ababa from either Bahir Dar or Lake Langano.
  • For the afternoon our F.K. hosts will offer a program of optional sightseeing activities, including a visit to the sprawling Merkato — the largest open air market in Africa.
  • This evening enjoy a traditional Ethiopian dinner followed by colorful folkloric singing and dancing highlighting Ethiopia’s cultural diversity.

Sunday — Oct. 8: Full day city tour of Addis Ababa: Menelik’s Mausoleum; National Archaeological Museum; a drive to Mount Entoto for a breathtaking view of the capital and a visit to Emperor Menelik II’s palace and the Entoto Mariam Church.

Monday — Oct. 9:

  • A day at leisure.
  • This evening  transfer to the airport for departures to the U.S.
  • Some of our travel companions may remain in Ethiopia for independent touring .
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Note: Those taking the tour are responsible for arranging their own flights  and paying for their travel between the U.S. and Ethiopia.

Tour participants must choose one of the in-country options. It is not possible to do both. Prices are per person based on double occupancy,


  •  All transfers to/from airports in Ethiopia.
  •  Hotels including all taxes and fees.
  •  Three meals each day (only two meals on Sept. 26 and Oct. 9).
  •  All ground transportation by bus.
  •  Expert English-speaking guides throughout the tour.
  •  All taxes and service charges.
  •  Porters’ fees, tips to waiters, drivers and guides.
  •  All activities named in the tour description.
  •  All entrance fees.
  •  $200 tax deductible donation to the Axum Sister City Projects Fund.
  • Not Included are: Drinks, telephone calls, laundry, personal items purchased, excess baggage fees, vaccinations and medications, passport/visa fees.

— the cost for those choosing:

  • OPTION 1 — Adama Sister Cities Itinerary is $2,770.00.
  • OPTION 2 — Axum-Historic Route is  $2,930.00.


  • $188.00 if you arrive in Ethiopia on Ethiopian Airlines.
  • $544.00 if you arrive in Ethiopia on any other airline.
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  • A $250.00 deposit is due at time of booking.
  • The balance is due 90 days prior to departure. (June 27, 2017)
  • Payments may be by personal check or credit card (with an additional 3.2% premium).

Cancellations: Tour participants are strongly advised to purchase tour cancellation insurance that covers cancellation for any reason. Cancellations received:

  • 90 days or more prior to departure (June 27), $100 per person.
  • 89–60 days (July 27): 25% of the tour price;
  • 59-45 days (August 11): 50% of the tour price;
  • 44–31 days (August 25): 75% of the tour price;
  • 30 days or less: 100% of the tour price.

Travel Insurance: Medical facilities are very limited. Tour participants are urged to purchase travel insurance that covers medical and hospital expense and also includes medical evacuation when necessary.

Single passengers: Single passengers can be accommodated with payment of an additional $400.00 single supplement. Please phone for details.

Extra nights in Addis Ababa: Available before and after the tour at $79 per person (double) per night. Especially recommended for passengers arriving in Addis Ababa the morning of Sept. 24.

Air connections: Passengers are responsible for making their own way to Addis Ababa.

Tour managers are not responsible for failure to take tour flights or for missed activities.

Required Documentation: United States citizens are required to have a visa to enter Ethiopia.

Medical and passport/visa requirements: Passengers are responsible for compliance with all medical and passport/visa requirements for entering Ethiopia. Please visit the Ethiopian Embassy website for up-to-date requirements.



Coming Full Circle

A visit with the President of Ethiopia in Emperor Haile Salassie’s old palace brings back memories of an earlier era — and a charming conversation

by Haskell Ward (Nazareth 63–65)

In early September in my capacity as a member of the national Board of Directors of the American Cancer Society I participated in the First Global Summit on Women’s Cancer in Africa held in Addis. At the end of the conference five of us met with Girme Wolde-Giorgis, the President of Ethiopia, to deliver a copy of the conference declaration and to thank the Ethiopian government and people for their support of the meeting. The American Cancer Society was a leading partner at this Addis Conference which was organized by the Princess Nikky Foundation. Along with Princess Nikky Onyeri of Nigeria, I was a spokesperson for the visit with the President.

DO YOU SPEAK AMHARIC? Haskell Ward and President Girme Wolde Giogis

This was my first visit inside the palace grounds since 1973 when I participated in a luncheon Emperor Haile Selassie hosted for the International Association of Africanists. It was most likely one of the last large gatherings before his overthrow the next year. That earlier meeting was held in the Palace’s large Grand Ballroom, the room where our Peace Corps group, Ethiopia II, first met the Emperor in 1963 when he received us at the beginning of our tour as PCVs.

Our meeting with the Ethiopian President was held in what was once the Emperor’s main office where he conducted business with his ministers and other non-ceremonial visitors. After we were led into the office by the Chief of Protocol, Princess Nikky spoke first, then I followed. The President was very surprised and amused when I spoke to him in Amharic. I told him that I had served as an English teacher in Nazareth 48 years ago at the Atse Gelawdios Secondary School. The President interrupted me to say that the Peace Corps had made a great contribution to Ethiopia and had been a major catalyst in the modernization of the country. He indicated that he had great admiration for Sargent Shriver and was saddened to hear of his death. He also noted that the Peace Corps is now back in the country.

I thanked the President for the impact that Ethiopia and its people had had on my life that I now appreciate even more as I grow older. When he ask how old I was, I replied that I would be 72 on my next birthday. At that he said, “You are still young. I wonder if you know how old I am?” I said I would be afraid to guess. “I am 87!”

The President is a very large man and during our photo session said that his legs made it difficult for him to stand. Though somewhat disabled, he is still mentally very  alert. I told him that we were going to celebrate the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Peace Corps’ founding at the end of this month in Washington, and that those of us who had served in Ethiopia would have dinner at the Ethiopian embassy. He said that his ambassador to the U.S. was in Addis then.

We spoke of the drought in Somalia and a number of other issues, and he acknowledged that the cancer burden was a major issue confronting his country, He thanked the American Cancer Society for supporting efforts to address it.

The president has a sharp mind and wit and a broad set of interests. He asked Princess Nikky how it was that she was a princess even though Nigeria had no king. When a delegate from South Africa identified herself as the representative of that country’s First Lady, he asked “Which one?” She said that in fact she represented two of President Zuma’s four wives. He asked the Uganda representative what “our brother Isaias” Afwerki of Eritrea had discussed with Ugandan President Yowerki  Museveni during Isaias’ visit to Uganda the previous week.

Our courtesy call was unrushed and very informal. We finally took our leave. The grounds of the palace looked quite clean and the President told us that the main Palace building itself was under renovation. My meeting with the Ethiopian President completes a circle of sorts. It reminds me also of why I decided to devote my life to addressing some of the continent’s problems which were illuminated to me first — and in the clearest terms — in this country.