the Camelot of Africa

Bewkat, Fasil and Daniel

the Coffee Ceremony

GONDAR x xxxI had no idea what there was to see when I arrived in Gondar. I soon learned that it had been called by some the Camelot of Africa. Ethiopia had an unbroken dynasty of about 250 kings. King Fasil, about number 150 in the bunch, established his kingdom in Gondar. Almost everything to see in Gondar revolved around Fasil or one of his immediate successors.

In addition to the castle complex, I visited the Debre Berhan Selassie Church (most famous for the winged angels painted on the ceiling), the royal baths, and the market. Gondar was easily and leisurely done in half a day. My taxi driver didn't speak much English, but somewhere along the way he picked up Bewkat, a student with good English and an excellent sense of humor. He told all sorts of funny stories about the Seventh Day Adventist school he attended in Addis Ababa. The best was when he got in trouble - for studying on the Sabbath. The teachers called him a brat and promised to expel him if he was ever caught again.

Bewkat couldn't believe I'd not attended an Ethiopian coffee ceremony. So plans were made for coffee at his grandmother's home. The experience was a great chance to see Ethiopian life. Bewkat lived with his grandmother, two younger brothers, and a "lazy uncle". Fasil was about ten with a killer smile. Daniel was one and cried every time I looked at him. Their home was one room partitioned with curtains. It was kind of like an Ethiopian apartment building because neighbor shared walls on two sides. The grandmother was gone to a funeral so a neighbor woman took over the coffee. Using a coal pot and metal plate, she first roasted the beans. Then, she pounded them in a tall, skinny mortar. The ground coffee was boiled in a pot that was made of clay. It had a round bottom with a narrow spout. Ethiopian coffee was strong. But when grandma and a friend arrived, they said the brew was too weak. I let the neighbor know that I liked it.

Copyright 2001 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.