Out of the main routes, there are some excursions really worth trying.
- East: Another possible escape is to head east, where, after passing the Awash National Park, where you can see waterfalls, spring water, palm trees and spot some animals (gazelles, ostriches, black-backed chacal and warthogs), you can reach the cities of Dire Dawa and Harar. Dire Dawa was once well known as the train Addis – Djibouti used to pass through (and now does again after its renovation). It is a city that has, somehow, a French influence. Harar, on the other hand, is one hour away from Dire Dawa (where the airport is), and it is a romantic walled Arab city with hundreds of mosques within its old quarter, being a very important place for Muslims and a World Heritage Site since 1996. Wander around the town, visit Rimbaud’s house, enjoy the tea and chat with the people, visit the market and get lost at night in the beautiful Harar. You won’t regret it.
- West: this side of the country can be tricky. Not having specific attractions by themselves, it can be an interesting place to see “another Ethiopia”, less common, culturally diverse, greener, and rich of ancient traditions. The west is difficult to access by road (though not impossible), so I will divide them according to their nearest airport:
- North West (flying to Assosa), this is the way to go to Benishangul-Gumuz region. The constitution and physical aspect of this people differs to the rest of the Ethiopians, being ethnically closer to Sudanese phenotypes. I went here to do a documentary a few years ago and I could see how people felt that they had historically been segregated from Ethiopia. The main reason to travel here may be to live for a while with them, learn about their traditions or, what recently has become a big hit, visit the construction of the Great Renaissance Dam, the meant-to-be biggest hydroelectric dam in Africa.
- West (flying to Gambella), this is one of those destinations that I have always been close to visit without actually ever going there. Therefore, I can’t say much about it. I know it is a fertile, green, beautiful and hot area with many farms (which by the way has created some tensions between foreign investors and locals) but I cannot say much more than that and that you have to check the security warnings before traveling there.
- South West (flying to Jimma): there is probably one main reason for you to come here: Coffee. This area is extremely green, leafy, fertile and pretty: the paradise on earth. Coffee is believed to have been discovered here and it grows in unbelievable amounts. If you are a coffee dreamer you may want to come and see its huge plantations, do a farm visit, observe the whole process of coffee-making and of course, bring home as much as you can!