From January 15-23, 2005, we will have the opportunity to join Bob Cornuke, the famous international archaeological investigator, on an expedition to Ethiopia to participate in the annual Timkat celebration (see photo). About 45 of us took the trip in January 2003 and it turned out to be one of the most life-changing experiences we've ever had. This time we've added an optional four-night East-African Photo Safari and have extended our capacity to 86 people on a first-come, first-booked basis. TMI Tours has provided the following itinerary as a preview of the 2005 expedition:
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What an adventure! Ethiopia is an integral part of Christian history, and its tradition lays claim to what many (including Bob and Chuck) believe is the Ark of the Covenant. Come explore the tradition, the wonder, and the mystery of the Ark and Ethiopia.
Each day will be an expedition unto itself as Bob and Chuck lead us on an amazing journey! Have your hearts and cameras ready for the warmth of the Christian Ethiopian communities, the rock-hewn churches, the palace of the Queen of Sheba, Tana Kirkos - previous home of the Ark of the Covenant - and the Timkat festival's momentous, joyous ceremonies. The chanting and prayers of fellow believers is almost overwhelming. Here's the planned schedule:
Day 1 - Depart the U.S.
Day 2 - Arrive in Addis Ababa. Your hotel will be the beautiful Sheraton Addis. The weather here in Addis should be a welcome relief from the cold of most of our winters. Perhaps enjoy a pool-side lunch on arrival.
Day 3 - After breakfast, you'll have some free time in the morning to explore. Later, we'll visit a very special orphanage that Bob has worked with for some time. We will also visit a women's center and be able to share gifts and encouragement with them. We will also get to see the famous "Lucy" skull at the Archaeological Museum, visit Mount Entoto, the former Emperor Haile Selassie's palace, Menelik II's Mausoleum, and the Merkato, one of Africa's largest open-air markets. You'll be fascinated with Addis's exotic mixture of modern buildings and city bustle living side by side with traditional culture.
Day 4 and 5 - After breakfast, we'll fly to Axum, where we'll stay at the Remhi Hotel. We'll be in time for the beginning of the Timkat festivities. This Feast of Epiphany is a very important time of the Ethiopian Church year, coming just two weeks after their Christmas and commemorating Jesus's baptism in the Jordan. You'll see the Tabots (tablets from the 10 Commandments) brought from the churches and borne through the streets. You can be a part of the celebration as the bells ring and trumpets blow and people dance and sing and praise on parade. While in this oldest of Ethiopia's cities, you'll visit the Archaeological Museum, Stele Square (site of the pre-Christian engraved granite monoliths) and the exotic tombs of former kings. On our first evening there, we'll attend Ketera, the Eve of Timkat, where we'll see traditional dancing and singing.
On our second morning in Axum, we'll witness the climax of the festivities, as the Tabots are returned in procession to their respective churches and the dance of David - commemorating that of 3000 years ago at the gates of Jerusalem before the original Ark - is reenacted amidst shouting and the sounds of tambourines, cymbals, trumpets, and stringed instruments.
Day 6 - Today we take the short flight to Lalibella, located 8530 feet above sea level, to see the amazing monolithic churches hewn completely out of the solid rock during the 12th century. Chuck's insight and teachings on the significance of these churches is fascinating. Imagine the need for the entire Church to literally move underground. Later today, we'll fly to Bahir Dar and transfer to the new hotel located on Lake Tana. Lake Tana is the second largest lake in Africa with fantastic birding and wildlife viewing.
Day 7 - You'll have some time this morning to enjoy the lakeside. Later, we'll tour the town, including the basket and wood markets, the starting point of the Blue Nile, and the view point by the late Haile Selassie's palace. After lunch we'll take the scenic drive to the spectacular, thundering Blue Nile Falls. We'll cross the Blue Nile in papyrus boats (known locally as tankwas). Those who wish can take a natural shower and swim right at the bottom of the falls. This evening we'll be treated to a traditional Ethiopian folk dance, coffee ceremony, and barbecue dinner in the hotel's garden by the lake shore.
Day 8 - We'll spend the day on Lake Tana, visiting several of its islands, including Tana Kirkos - the island that held the Ark of the Covenant for many years. Although women are not allowed to visit this, we'll make special arrangements with the monks to have artifacts from the monastery brought out for viewing. We'll also be visiting islands where Nargo Selassie and Ura Kidane Mihret Monasteries are located (women ARE allowed to visit these islands.) We'll have a late dinner at the hotel.
Day 9 - After a late checkout, we'll fly to Addis and onward, either homeward or on to Nairobi, on safari.
For those traveling on with our Photo Safari into Kenya: After departing Addis Ababa, you'll arrive at Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi and transfer to your lodge located in the rain forest at the 7,200 foot level of Mt. Kenya, the country's highest peak. Your lodge, the only one located inside Mt. Kenya National Park, is a top spot for animal viewing as all rooms face the waterhole used by forest antelope, giant forest hogs, monkeys, waterbuck, rhino, buffalo, and elephants. A specially constructed viewing bunker, connected to the lodge by a short tunnel, offers spectacular close-up views of wildlife at the waterhole. Dinner will be at the lodge.
Day 10 - After breakfast, we'll drive to our lodge overlooking Lake Nakuru from inside Lake Nakuru National Park, which provides sanctuary for Rothschild giraffe, rhino, and leopard. This afternoon, we'll go out on safari, using 6-8 passenger, pop-top 4WD vehicles and accompanied by our tracker guide. This is Kenya's most densely animal-populated park and refuge. Both the black and the white rhino are being nurtured and their populations are growing slowing under stern protection from poachers. Because the lion and leopard populations are low, waterbuck and impala herds thrive. You're likely to see zebra, gazelles, and ostriches, as well. Lunch and dinner are at our exotic lodge.
Day 11 and 12 - After breakfast, we'll leave the Rift Valley and drive west to our tented lodge camp, the Sarova Mara, on the Masai Mara National Reserve. Most people deem this the best animal reserve in Kenya, where a visitor can see a dozen different species at one time. The reserve is a high grassland, an extension of the Serengeti Plain, with ample rain to support large and diverse animal populations including wildebeests, zebras, giraffes, buffalo, hyenas, lions, gazelles, and elephants.
We'll be out on safari at least five times during our stay here, including early morning, later morning, and afternoon, to best spot a variety of animal life. During one of the outings, you'll visit a Masai village. The Masai are some of the most photographed, colorful people of Africa. Your tented room, with private bath, is set amid jungle gardens and lily ponds full of fish. You may want to take a dip in the pool at our camp. All meals will be in camp. You would never know that all the fresh fish, water and food is flown into this remote camp each day.
Day 13 - After breakfast, we share our last trek together and end at a nice hotel to freshen up and put our feet up. This evening we take our evening flight back towards the U.S. and your home city.
Day 14 (January 28, 2005) - Arrive at your home city early evening today.
Not all elements of the pricing are finalized yet. We expect the expedition's rate to be $3950 - $4250 per person (double occupancy), including air from Newark, most meals, all tours, entrance fees, intra-Ethiopian flights, transfers, other ground transportation, and teachings with Bob and Chuck. The optional four-night safari extension to Kenya, including additional flights, accommodations, most meals, and all guides, ground transportation, and touring will be approximately $1475 per person, double occupancy.
We're working feverishly to finalize everything and until we know all prices for sure, we're accepting refundable deposits of $200 per person to hold your space. For more information about joining us for this trip of a lifetime, please call TMI Tours at (800) 975-7775 or e-mail us at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org?Subject=Ethiopia Tour.