Monday, February 4, 2019

Flashback: Koremi, Ethiopia

In March 2011, I wrote this post about a trip to Koremi, near Harar, in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia: Baksheesh! Harar, Day 3, Sunday

Irish Edith, the Dutch couple, and I took a contract minibus to the small town of Koremi ("tinnish" - "tiny" in Amharic, one of my new vocabulary words). This trip was taken on the basis of a recommendation in the Bradt Guide. Disappointing and depressing.

Koremi and its immediate surrounding are home to the Argobba, an ethnic group one adds to the mix of peoples in the Harar region - Harari, Oromo, and Somali. In this neck of the woods, the square houses are of golden stone.

Whatever might have been in the past or will be in the future, Koremi presently offers only an exchange of the occasional gawker and the requests for "baksheesh" from young and old in Koremi. I asked the minibus driver if there was a souk here where one could buy something to support the town in a way other than just handing out birr. Turns out, no. Not even homemade bread or yogurt or cheese -- nuthin'. The Argobba girls and women wear necklace and bracelets of plastic beadwork. I cast about for a small piece I might buy. I spied a girl with a bracelet. "Sintinoh"? I asked ("how much"?). She replied with 70 birr, but with the driver's assistance we negotiated this to 50 birr. The girl removed her bracelet, gave it to me, and I felt good about it. Hopefully, she did, too.

Some of the kids and I did enjoy a lively debate regarding the "faranjo" business, touching each other's arms, hair, and clothing, making distinctions between American and Irish and Dutch, for example, instead of just white ("faranjo"), and Argobba and Harari and Oromo, instead of just "brown." (Nevertheless, I strongly prefer "faranjo" to the "you, you, you!" one hears in Awassa.)

Hot, dusty, and thirsty, we drove back to Harar quietly. An interesting note along our return route: There are tree "houses" or "stands" in the fields. These are for guarding maize from thieving birds and chat from thieving humans.

Pizza at Fresh Touch. Photo credit: LNewman
Upon our return to the Hotel Belayneh, we dispersed without processing our day. I went directly to my room, got something to drink, and rested a bit. Later walked to Fresh Touch Restaurant where I ordered an excellent vegetable pizza.

Harar's smiling condom is everywhere. Photo credit: Clare H-P
While I contemplated my tropical-like surroundings, I glanced up at my table umbrella, appreciating its orange and yellow color, and then noticing the artwork. Ah, a smiling condom with sunglasses. Must be related to the smiling condom on the sticker in my hotel bathroom. In that scenario, the happy guy with sunglasses is pointing at a picture of a toilet.


I was joined by Ed, a New Yorker, who arrived in Harar several hours earlier from the north. Another  American, Tom from Atlanta, joined us a few minutes later, also a new arrival. We exchanged the usual, "Where have you been"? "How long have you been/will be in Ethiopia"? "Where are you going"?

We walked back to the Jugal area (walled city). Tom was meeting up with another new arrival, this a woman from Norway. She, Tom, and Ed were staying at traditional Harari houses (now guest houses) within Jugal. (My Hotel Belayneh is just outside the wall, overlooking one of the markets.)

Photo credit: "Stormshadow" at skyscrapercity

Ed had retained a guide for an overview tour of Harar tomorrow, and agreed that I might join them. He  showed me the way to his guesthouse, gave me a little tour, and then he, and the owners (a daughter and her mother), and I chatted about local culture. He walked me back to my hotel, and we popped up to the top-floor restaurant for a beer. Tom and the Norwegian woman were there having dinner, and we had a nice conversation, the Norwegian woman reporting that one of her first experiences in Harar yesterday was being hit on her back by local men.

Harar is, indeed, an unusual place.

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