Photo Essay - April 19, 2004 -  MediaETHIOPIA

"Awassa - the Jewel of the South"

Awassa is a city that was meant to be. When our assignment took us to this magical city by the lake, we knew we will find stories and pictures that will confirm our firm belief that Awassa has already become the undisputed gateway to the South - the country's economic heartland.

Many factors conspire almost in a magical way to make this city of 75,000 people or so the new Bahr Dar. The second most beautiful lake in the country, ample water, a gorgeous climate given more to sunshine than anything else, the incredible agricultural wealth of the Sidamo interior, and most importantly a pleasant and ethnically diverse population have made Awassa a truly remarkable Ethiopian city. One of the ironies of the explosive growth of Awassa in the 80s and 90s is the fact that this city at the eastern edges of the Great Rift Valley has proved that EPRDF's kilil idealogy was dead on arrival at the Ethiopian Southland. 

The growing Debub University, Beza College, the textile factory, and the numerous businesses in town provide most of the employment in the city.  Our most entertaining time was spent on the shores of Lake Awassa. We took a trip on the boats, caught some tilapia fish along the way and settled for a late afternoon lunch right by the shores where beautiful Sidama ladies prepared some of the finest fish stew we ever had.  Only if Lake Awassa had the 75 kilo Nile Perch "ye-arba minch asa", we thought as we feasted in this Awassa delicacy! May be Dr. Geremew at Debub University knows the reason.


Almost everyone we met in Awassa seems to have moved there only recently. Only few people seem to remember the days when Awassa was a small provincial town living under the shadow of the prosperous Yirga Alem. The magnificent and huge church of St. Gabriel now stands as one of the most important buildings in the city. With Kidus Gebriel as its guardian angel, we thought Awassa is yet to see some of its best years! According to our engineer friends, this church may as well be the largest church in Ethiopia!   

In this column: The massive St. Gabriel Church, the Africa Beza College, the Debub-hizb teradeo/cooperative shopping complex, 'trakoman inkelakel' bill-board.

On our way to the cool highland city of Addis Ababa, we passed through Shashemene - the city that owes its existence to the forking of the highway to Arba Minch, Goba and Awassa. We even visited the sleepy volcanic mountain outside Awassa - a reminder that this city shakes once in a while as the gods of the Great Rift Valley yawn. At our favorite watering hole in Addis, Awassa - the hope of the South -still remains a topic of our talks.


In this column: The gorgeous Lake Awassa,  beautiful Sidama women just hanging out, our 'asa-wet' lunch being readied and cooked under acacia trees, and a street scene in Awassa. A goat that must have chewed some 'chat' climbs a tree in front of our very eyes! We swear it was not ours 'chat'! We abhor that stuff. Wait till we do a story on Harer in the next issue!

In this column: The campus of Debub University recently rocked by one of EPRDF's money-laundering schemes - 'wechi megarat',  part of our lunch, and then a reminder that the battle to stop HIV/AIDS goes on even in this Rift Valley Paradise.

Copyright @2001-2004

MediaEthiopia [SKK]