Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ethiopia: A Day in Gonder: Kings, God, and the Law

Breakfast at hotel - onion/pepper omelet + roll + coffee. Picked up by tour guide Belay and taxi driver.

We went first to the Royal Enclosure (Fasil Ghebbi) - six palaces - 1st one build in 1630s ...

 ... and the royal swimming pool.

Belay is a very knowledgeable and personable guide. He has many scholarly interests and is something of a celebrity in the country, given his regular TV appearances regarding cultural and historical facts about Ethiopia. Belay also consults with Gonder hotels and restaurants about pleasing tourists.

We took a mid-day break. I used that time to relax at the hotel, have lunch (a superb penne and vegetables dish) and a brief time on the internet.

Then Belay and I walked up to the monastery (Debre Birhan Selassie), built in the 1680s. Wow, the interior, while small, is covered with beautiful paintings of angels, Mary, Jesus, the Last Supper, several saints, and so on.


Various impressions of Gonder - more compact and sensorily accessible than Addis Abada. Public transport via blue minivan, blue taxi, blue tuktuk (bajaj), and even horse-drawn buggies. Hills. Historically, a mix of 17th century Ethiopian architectures, WWII Italianate (buildings painted "fascist yellow"), a smattering of tukuls, and boxy new construction. Children say "hello! hello! hello!"

After the church tour, Belay took me also for a walking tour of the city. We say a completely naked man, sadly psychotic, who sometimes kicks people.

Had a bottle of Dashen beer in the beer garden.

While we stood outside the courthouse, Belay explained to me about the row of stalls outside the courthouse in which operate the "adjudicators," who sell legal advice the John Q. Public.

As I tried to ascertain the qualifications of the adjudicators and if there was a conflict-of-interest ethic, lo and behold, a judge walked by. He knew Belay, and because of this, I enjoyed the benefit of an interesting conversation about Ethiopia's legal system specifically the roles between attorneys and clients. The "adjudicators" are actually clerks who have a little bit of legal knowledge that they sell. In sum, the attorneys and the clerks are strictly for profit; such niceties as conflict of interest aren't part of the equation, All judges appointed. Their role is to execute the rules and regs as designed by the legislature. There is no such thing as establishing case law.

As we headed back to my hotel, we saw that the electricity was out in the hotel neighborhood. This gave me the opportunity to look up at the millions of stars.

The hotel lobby was lit by candles and I wrote this account via flashlight and candlelight, listening to Johnny Cash on my wonderful mp3 player and mini speaker!

Note: Incredibly, I have used my flashlight every single day of my trip - including the flight leg between Chicago and Frankfurt!

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