Saturday, October 9, 2010

50 - Al Qaeda in Ethiopia

In eastern Ethiopia Al Qaeda is the name used for the white Isuzu trucks that zoom at breakneck speed down the highway to Somaliland loaded with huge bags of qat, sweeping all before them in frequent deadly crashes to be the first to bring the choicest and freshest plants least dried by the sun to waiting Somali mandibulas. The fresher the qat, the more the money, the more reckless the driving - and the more overturned wrecks you see by the roadside.
Babile phallus
A Somali lady called Sura living in the Ethiopian town of Jijiga sees to have cornered the market and now flies around in her own private plane purchased with the proceeds. It's all legal and she doesn't seem to have fallen foul of the real Al Qaeda allies in the region, Somalia's Moslem Shabaab militants who, according to local buzz, opened fire from a hilltop on US special forces in Jijiga, killing no one but persuading the Yanks to move back to the town of Dire Dawa. On the other hand they did manage to kill some Chinese in the Ogaden region. The Chinese, as elsewhere in Africa, are here in considerable numbers, building roads and getting the same complaints about terrible shoddy work as in Angola.

Kids at another phallus
Ju-Phallic Park - Forget about the Jurassic one. Muggins is not alone in seeing a myriad massive stone circumcised penises among the amazing boulders and crags at Babile park between Harare and Jijiga. The locals call it Dakheta, which in Somali evidently means dick. But if the wide mountainous expanses of penis park is a place for solitude and meditation, it ain't today. Muggins has become a pied piper, again, and I'm now being followed by a horde of 10-to-12-year-old shepherds, goatherds, cowherds and whatever-herds who have abandoned their herds and flocks to flock after a new quarry. Actually they're all rather sweet, jabbering away and posing for photos with their fingers in suggestive gestures under the lofty stone willies.
Babile boulders
Shoe Shine Express - Beautifully peaceful afternoon, sitting at an outdoor cafe in Harar, sipping fresh mango juice (they're in season and wonderful); a shoe shine boy passes, and after much pleading muggins finally relents. The boy proceeds to pull off my shoes, puts a wooden board under my feet and walks off with them (the shoes that is). Now this could be interesting - let's see if he comes back. All the kids passing by are cackling and shouting 'farango' (foreigner), a word that apparently derives from the time when the French were building the Djibouti-Addis Ababa railway; that was the way the locals said 'from France.'

After half an hour, another mango juice, and a couple of teas, he still has not reappeared. OK, they were getting a bit down at the heels and I can always hobble to the market down the street and buy some flip-flops. Suddenly the kid reappears, my shoes in one hand, a jar of some messy cream in the other, and proceeds to sit down in front of me, deftly dabbing the cream on and giving them the final almost-sparkle with all the concentration and dedication of a master craftsman.

Hyenas with flash working
It restores your faith in human nature, until it comes in for another beating at Hyenas - Take Two. The guy promised to feed them again tonight without charge in case I got my camera flash reworking, which it now is, but he now isn't. His no: 2 just throws pieces of meat instead of feeding the slinking beasts from a stick in his mouth, the hyenas themselves are in an apathetic mood, totally ignoring my calls of 'kitty, kitty, come kitty, kitty, kitty' and, to boot, no: 2 now demands a new payment of 50 birr.That's only about $3.70, but bangs goes faith.

English As She Is Spoke - The people here deserve full admiration for their linguistics – they speak two or three languages from totally different families, like Amharic (Semitic), Oromo and Somali (both Cushitic but different). But some attempts at English are worthy of note. One guide advertises himself with the motto 'Gust's are always right.' Meanwhile a hotel restaurant is promising 'domestic and international cousins.'

Outside Harar's walls
On the inside
Harar old town

Red bird among the cow or donkey crap

View from Harar city

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