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  • BEYOND GRANDMA'S KITCHEN

    Injera-1.jpgSANTIAGO URQUIJO

    The spongy, sourdough-like flatbread made from the iron-rich teff grain, called injera, is a national dish in Ethiopia. When eating, small pieces ofthe injera are torn off and used to grasp the stews served upon it.

    I’m not quite hooked on the stuff, but sometimes I’ve got to have it. On any given day in my diaspora life, I’ll be stunned into compliance and stop at an Ethiopian store to buy mixed-flour injera prepared in Canada, or splurge for the real deal: a sealed bag of pure teff injera, imported from Ethiopia.

    Unsealed, it frees a waft of subtle aroma, transporting me instantly to my grandmother’s kitchen. When she lifts the lid of her mitad, a billowing cloud of nutty steam envelops us before revealing a perfectly round sheet of spongy, thin injera. Blinking with its thousand “eyes,” the sour bread begs to be peeled off the scalding clay, cooled on a wicker sefed woven to size, and then draped over a wide-mouthedmesob basket.

    Nowadays, grandma’s kitchen is a registered business named after her and one of her daughters, who manages day-to-day operations. Equipped with four mitad, Yimegnushal & Yeshi Injera sells the desired floppy, feather-light sheets to area residents and small merchants. Larger bakeries ship injera by the thousands to members of the diaspora, for whom making pure teff injera remains a losing battle — a situation not helped by the fact that, due to rising international demand, the teff grain (injera’s only ingredient besides water) is banned from leaving the country.

    Injera-2.jpgERIC LAFFORGUE

    Teff was exclusive to its native Ethiopian Highlands for millennia, thanks to geographic and cultural isolation. According to folklore from the Aksum region, where teff has been cultivated since between 4,000 and 1,000 B.C., the ancient Ethiopians’ king and god was a dragon whose descendants ruled for centuries, exacting terrible tributes, until a northerner named Gebgebo trapped the ruling dragon and split its head with an axe. On the spot where the blood spilled, the first teff plant grew.

    That teff wasn’t named after the dragon-slayer is probably due to its size. Referring to the smallest grain in the world, early farmers must have said “teffa” (“it is lost,” in Amharic) so often that the word became synonymous with the grain. Of the 350 species of lovegrass — the plant genus to which teff belongs — only teff is cultivated for food, using an old method of scattering handfuls of seed over moist loose soil. Six months later, after the backbreaking harvest work of stalk drying, threshing by man and beast, and manual winnowing is complete, the grain is ground whole for transforming into injera.

    Injera-3.jpgPHIL DE JONG JR / JGM

    THE GROWING DEMAND FOR TEFF

    At Yimegnushal & Yeshi’s, every day is injera day. Tall blue barrels containing injera batter at different stages testify to the subtle, days-long alchemy of fermenting and diluting a basic mixture of teff flour and water to foamy readiness for baking. Each morning, preheated mitads (clay-topped griddles) await, polished with a dusting of ground cabbage seed to prevent sticking.

    So high is the current demand for injera that the teff yield from more than 6 million farmers barely meets local, much less diaspora, needs — and certainly not that of the new global market, following the discovery of teff’s gluten-free, ancient-grain status. To prevent domestic shortage and inflated prices from so much of the nutrient-rich grain leaving the country, the government in 2006 put a stop to exports of raw teff grain, at least until production can catch up.*

    Foreign interest in teff dates to the 1800s, but mass cultivation abroad began in the 1980s in Idaho with Wayne Carlson, a former Peace Corps volunteer to Ethiopia. His company, Maskal Teff, is the oldest among farms in at least 25 states across the United States. Smaller teff farms also exist in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Australia to supply teff to health-conscious foodies, the gluten intolerant, and injera addicts worldwide.

    Despite this, the grain remains an “orphan crop” — one that is under-researched and underfunded due to its regional rather than global importance — according to Ayele Gebreamlak Ayetenfisu, the director of the Teff and Rice Value Chain at Ethiopia’s Agricultural Transformation Agency. Since 2011, the ATA been tasked with raising the sector’s productivity to meet local demand and then compete globally.

    Injera-4.jpgRYAN KILPATRICK

    Growth controlled by teff’s ancestral custodians prevents loss of genetic varieties of the grain, and the royalties from capitalizing on such, to foreign interests. One focus area of the ATA is transitioning farmers, the original teff production experts, to row planting: a more methodical, economical joining of seed and land than traditional scattering. Sample results having shown a voluminous, robust crop, and expanded rollout is planned. Eventually, says Ayele, Ethiopia can produce a surplus for its own international brand of teff-based products.

    In Ethiopia’s current market, however, teff is so expensive that the traditional grading system — magna (white), sergegna (mixed) and key (brown), of which magna used to be the most expensive — has been modified to include a new fourth grade, liyu magna(very white), in the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange.

    Yet the injera business remains hot. Gone are the days when counting injera was taboo and buying from outside considered shameful. Urbanites buy by the piece for reasons ranging from tiny condos, a culture of convenience, or the inability to afford bulk teff. Universities, hotels and resorts contract out the work. Part-time bakers can gross 20,000 birr monthly (nearly US$1,000), while big players like Mama Fresh sell at prepaid dollar prices to the lucrative Ethiopian diaspora market where, thanks to Ethiopian Airlines’ numerous daily direct flights, fresh injera reaches the same day it leaves the mitad.

    In Toronto, Ethiopian shop owner Desta sells many brands of mixed-flour injera — teff cut with buckwheat, barley, wheat or fenugreek — that are delivered to his store by independent distributors, alongside pure teff injera imported weekly from his Addis supplier.

    Nunu, owner of the eponymous restaurant in Toronto, offers Desta’s pure teff injera to customers as an extra-cost substitution to her in-house mixed-flour injera. She remembers when the mystery of making pure teff injera in the West was suffered communally among early immigrants, who made do with self-rising flour, using frying pans or early-model U.S.-made mitads with faulty wiring.

    “We would end up with something that was injera only in name. But now, we have injera,” she says, having arrived at a workable recipe and the Wass Mitad, 15 years in the making by Washington, D.C.–based engineer Wassie Mulugeta. And yet, the quest for pure teff injera made in the West continues. Nunu’s husband, Chris, recently consulted gluten experts in academia about why it is so impossible to duplicate, to no avail.

    SPARING NO EFFORT FOR INJERA

    Years ago, Desta imported pure teff injera only for a few older, diabetic Ethiopian immigrants. Today, he brings 2,000 pieces weekly, but customers haven’t all caught on. “People have become addicted to the mixed-flour injera because it has sugar and salt,” he says. “It is hard to go back to that pure sour taste. The older people age 40 and up will eat nothing but the original, but the kids won’t touch it.”

    For Nunu, like most, it’s a bit of both. She savors the taste of pure teff injera but gets heartburn if she eats it constantly. Another common complaint, says distributor Adisalem of Tenama Injera, is that it is thin as lace, hardly filling. Asefa of Zemen Injera is troubled by how easily teff injera spoils and is discarded due to improper refrigeration.

    Distributors have it hard. Kalkidan Bekele, a 17-year veteran laments, “The business is very moody. Even the weather can make the day’s batch unfit to distribute.” And while many urbanites in Ethiopia have become perfectly at ease with buying their injera from stores, diaspora customers distrust too-perfect commercial mixed-flour injera. Because of how hard it is to get such a result, folks suspect the use of secret ingredients by commercial bakers — including, as Washington, D.C., rumor once had it, even pharmaceuticals.

    The majority of diaspora eat homemade injera, using closely-guarded recipes achieved after years of trial and error. Even then, though, results fluctuate due to altitude, water, baking surface, teff variety and secondary flour. Many have long accepted that there has to be some mystery factor yet to be identified, because the injera hardly ever comes out the same way twice.

    FRANS SCHALEKAMP

    But for those who love it, no effort is too much. Going without simply cannot be done. “Like asking Indians to give up rice,” says Desta, whose customers come from even the Yukon to stock up. A resident of the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area, who drives 30 miles for injera, says, “When I am really hungry and am desperate for food, it is the first type of food that pops into my mind.” Another adds, “I once craved firfir (injera scrambled with stew) early in the morning but didn’t have injera at home. I drove around for an hour trying to find an Ethiopian grocery store that opened earlier than 9 a.m. I didn’t find one, so I waited outside of one until it opened.”

    Whenever my own injera mood strikes, I find myself wishing I had paid attention on childhood injera days, and I resolve to memorize everything that goes on in grandma’s kitchen next time I’m in Ethiopia. But she won’t hear of it, saying, “Why exhaust yourself attempting the impossible and unnecessary?” After all, in the grand injera chain of being, everyone has a role — and mine is eating.

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  • Third Time’s the Charm: Kuriftu’s New Adama Getaway

    Boston Kuriftu recently opened its 3rd resort in Adama in April. This resort is intended to change the family weekend hangout spot lacking in the town. The Eminence attended the opening ceremony and witnessed what it had to offer.

    They call Adama (Nazareth) the beauty in the rift valley. Adama gets the name from its low land natural landscape and an urban taste that separates it from other towns that make up Ethiopia. In addition, Adama is known to be a popular weekend destination for tourist as well as a common place to hold various conferences and meetings, making the town a prevalent tourist attraction. This has led to a growing interest from investors who are eager to advance Adama in the hospitality sector and expand its hotels and recreation centers.
    Regardless of the major investments taking place in Adama, one major critique is that since a lot of major meetings and conferences take place in the town, many of the hotels and recreational centers being built focus solely on business conference tourism. It is clear that though the sector is booming, there are few alternative places where families can spend their weekends and meet their vacation and travel needs.
    That is what owner and CEO of Boston Partners PLC, Tadiyos Getachew, noticed during his stay in Adama. This motivated him to give the town what he thought was lacking, a major family tourist attraction where families can find something to enjoy during their stay.

    Tadiyos is an entrepreneur who was a former hairdresser in Boston, Masachusetts. He owned multiple beauty salons in the city, leading him to become an expert in the business. In 2002, he came back to Ethiopia and started Boston Day Spa in Addis Ababa. The first office was located in Bole. Since he lived in Boston for 19 years, he wanted to incorporate the vibe of the city to his company. Kuriftu is now joining the multiple Boston lodges and spas that Getachew has in cities across Ethiopia like Debre Zeit and Bahirdar. Tadiyos came up with the idea of creating the new Kuriftu lodge so he could add something new and different to Adama. Though Adama has been a popular tourist site for years, he wanted to give it a spice of family flavor suitable for conducting events like weddings, honeymoons and family vacations. He believes that building this type of lodge will give Adama a chance to attract more travelers and families from nearby cities and other parts of the country.

    Getachew took on this project of creating a family weekend lodge by renovating Maya Hotel, one of the town’s international hotels, and turning it into Kuriftu. Getachew signed a 15-year rental agreement with the previous owners of the Hotel and began implementing his development plans in June 2014. According to Tadiyos the renovation project of Kuriftuwas divided into three phases of remodeling. The phases of his remodeling plans include giving the resort a more local taste and adding different accommodations for the enjoyment of tourists like children’s playground, professional spa, poolside luxury cabanas, an international standard bar and a complete restructuring of the rooms.

    After six month of working on the project with a budget of 15 million ETB, the first phase of renovation was completed and Kuriftu of Nazareth Adama threw its opening party this past April.
    With the building of the new expressway from Addis Ababa to Adama, travelers from the capital city are able to move at a speed of 120 km/hour and arrive at Adama within 40 minutes. Adama has a hot and humid climate that may feel strange to someone traveling from Addis Ababa, but it makes the location ideal for a summer-like vacation stay. At the opening celebration of Kuriftu, the Marketing manager of the resort, Michael Tesfaye, welcomed everyone with a warm smile and great hospitality. The bell boys took the guests’ luggage and directed them to the reception desk to retrieve their room keys.
    The rooms were spacious with bright lighting from large glass double doors that led to the room’s balcony. The room included amenities like a small refrigerator stocked with cold water, a flat screen television, comfortable bed, and a shower with hot running water. Michael explained that there is still remodeling that needs to be done to the rooms, which will occur in phase two of the renovation project and that around a quarter of the rooms were restructured in the first phase of the lodge’s alterations. Regardless, the rooms were impressive and comfortable when The Eminence visited.


    If you have seen the previous hotel, then the changes Getachew has made in creating Kuriftu Lodge are very apparent.When entering the outdoor pool area, the view you experience is reminiscent of a classy resort you see abroad in a western country. The tables in the The tables in the outdoor lounge were set up under large and magnificent trees full of red and orange blossoms, which served as great shade that invited cool and breezy air. The outdoor pool was glistening and along the side of the swimming area were cabanas artistically sculpted of wood and covered with white linen drapes so guests can enjoy shade from the heat penetrating from the Adama sun. Underneath the cabanas were wooden benches covered with soft white mattresses and decorated with pillows made up of bright pinks, greens, and reds. By the left side of the pool was a dining hall that had cultural touches like a large roof made out of dried grass, which also worked to minimize the heat from the hot weather.

     

    On the other side of the pool was a stretch bar and huge wine selection that took up the entire wall. There were chairs along the bar that extends to the other end of the pool area. The infusion of cultural items served as a nice touch with chairs made of leather and wood that were intentionally selected to resemble traditional Ethiopian furniture pieces.

    The food selection at Kuriftu offers a wide variety that ranges from local to foreign dishes. Even though the dishes tasted delicious, the breakfast tables were setup under the big trees around the pool, leading to leaves and sticks from above falling on to plates and trays of food. Regardless, there was also quick service and the smile the waiters provided made guests feel welcomed.
    Michael shared the renovation plans and the new things Boston added in its remodeling. He explained there are 96 rooms available in the lodge and in the first phase of the project 22 of them are fully restructured. These changes include Boston adding cultural taste and class to the rooms. He said they have not yet set fixed prices to the rooms, but they are committed to making them affordable to foreign travelers as well as locals.

    Next, he presented the resting areas of the lodge. The area’s look was relaxing and designed for a family looking to enjoy a day of resting and chatting. There was not much change to the indoor dining area, which Michael later explained is part of the second phase of the renovation project. Michael also mentioned that Kuriftu included a large parking area so guests and customers would not have to worry about parking.
    As a whole Kuriftu Adama is a pleasant place for a family as well as other groups looking to enjoy themselves. It is great that these alternative family hangout spots are growing in the country. It also is a great way to bring revenue to the country through expanding the development of the tourism and hospitality sector.

    Source :http://theeminencemagazine.com/

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  • 5 Ways Ethiopia Will Surprise You

    Last January, I was unexpectedly gifted with a few extra weeks of vacation time, which inspired me to stretch a layover in Addis Ababa into a two-week trip. I knew very little about Ethiopia other than: a) The legendary Queen of Sheba is often associated with the ancient region that now encompasses modern-day Ethiopia, and b) In the 1980s, images of malnourished Ethiopians became the symbol of cause-related anti-famine efforts. While poverty and hunger are still a huge issue in the country, especially in rural areas, in other parts of Ethiopia an economic boom and cultural renaissance is in full swing. Here are just five ways Ethiopia surprised me:

    1. Addis Ababa is a boom town.

    2. There are restaurants that look like a set from Mad Max.

    3. The jazz scene is hot, hot, hot.

    4. You can easily hop back to the 17th century, or earlier.

    5. That famous coffee comes with a ritual.

    Source: www.afar.com

     

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  • Performance art in Addis

                    

    Performance art is an essentially contested concept: any single definition of it implies the recognition of rival uses.

    Like concepts regarding "democracy" or "art", it implies productive disagreement with itself. Performance may be either scripted or unscripted, random or carefully orchestrated, spontaneous or otherwise carefully planned with or without audience participation. Now, this art form is on its way to becoming popular in Ethiopia, writes Tibebeselassie Tigabu. 

    Many spectators who are used to mainstream media know the grandmother of performance art, Serbian Marina Abramovic, and her recent collaboration with the renowned rapper Jay-Z in a video entitled Picasso Baby.  

    Inspired by one of her projects, “The artist is present”, where the artist sits immobile and silent in a museum for three months, 736 hours and 30 minutes. Spectators were invited to take turns sitting opposite her.

    By far this is not her most bizarre performance art piece. The artist has tested the most visceral experiences of art. She has volunteered her body for a self-designed study on torture. In her famous 1974 installation, “Rhythm 0”, she laid out 72 items on a table and invited the audience to use them on her body in any way they want. 

    Among the objects were a feather, a rose, a braided whip, scissors, a nail, a scalpel and a gun with a single bullet. After six hours of passive acceptance to participants’ cutting her clothes, trying to mutilate her in increasing acts of cruelty, an audience member reached for the gun and shot her. Her blood spilling, the performance came to an end. She was quoted saying, “If you leave it up to the audience, they can kill you.” 

    Many other performance artists, like Abramovic, also pushed the limit; they were subjected to pain and torture; they were shot, burned, disfigured, and mutilated; they even ate parts of themselves. The Guardian’s list of the most shocking performance art works includes the Russian artist Petr Pavlensky, who nailed his scrotum to the cobblestone in Red Square to challenge “totalitarianism”.  Another gruesome performance art piece was by Japanese artist Mao Sugiyama, who, in 2012, had his genitals surgically removed to raise awareness of sexual rights and after keeping them in the fridge for a while, he cooked them and served his friends. 

    Looking at these gruesome deeds, one might raise the question of what performance art is. In the 21st century, experts say performance art is an essentially contested concept. There is no rule or guideline, but often challenge the audience to think in new and unconventional ways while breaking conventions of traditional arts. The performers use their body, space, and time and interact with the audience. Co-signing with post-modernism concepts, it challenges the orthodox art forms and cultural norms. The performance art borrows from music, theatre, fine arts, and any form of art to take it one step further by taking its art directly to a public forum. In this instance it eliminates the need for galleries and agents, and rather makes the audience the commentators of the art. 

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    Source: the Ethiopian Reporter

     

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  • The sky’s the limit

     

    Reopened in January 2015, after a year and a half of permit issues, Abyssinia Ballooning is back on track and is offering customers the astonishing chance to discover the earth from above. 

    To enjoy an incredible adventure, you need to make some small sacrifices. The one obligation coming with a balloon ride is to wake up really early. On a Sunday morning, at 4:30 am, I am all set and ready, waiting for my ride. Five minutes later, my cellphone rings and I can hear the strong and deep voice of Bram van Loosbroek on the other end of the line.

     “Hey, where are you?! ”

    Bram, Dutch, tall and loud, is definitely one of a kind. Almost four years ago, after twenty years spent as a pilot in his own country, he made a life-changing decision to come to Ethiopia and create the first and only ballooning business in the country. 

    “The journey has been long and bumpy; the road had real deep downs but I had to keep fighting for my team. I am proud to say that I managed to keep them hired even during the year and a half of closure we just went through. I also got support from some amazing people and companies like Zemen Bank. They helped us fund the structure and we are now happy to fly with their balloon,” he says. “It’s a win-win situation; they use it for client relationship management and also for promotions.” 

    Considering that the price of a hot-air balloon reaches up to a million birr, it sure was important for the Dutchman to find some good partnerships!

    Beehive

    Around 5:00 a.m, not far from Holeta, we finally stop alongside an empty meadow. It is still dark but I can perceive the crack of dawn behind the neighboring mountains, a thin line of light emphasizing the morning’s shadows. We jump out of the car and start walking towards a truck parked on the side of the road. Inside the trailer: the nacelle and the balloon—perfectly folded—and two of his teammates.

    Being an experienced pilot, Bram halts and makes sure the weather is safe for the flight before letting his employees take the structure off the vehicle. After a few minutes, seeming happy with the conditions, he starts walking into the pasture. The truck follows him up the hill and they stop while the sunrise starts to turn the sky into an incredible melting pot of pinks.

    In the semi-obscurity, they unload the pieces, running left and right and jumping in and out of the vehicle. Their behavior amazes me: synchronized, almost like a hive. Apart from a few orders Bram has to shout out loud, they appear to be one organism following a well-known choreography. If you want my opinion, it is definitely part of the experience to watch their shadows dance in the middle of nowhere while religious chants from a nearby church permeate the air. An intriguing instant mixing calm and frenzy. 

    Time to go…

    Fifteen minutes before six o’clock, the other passengers arrive on site. We enjoy a cup of coffee and some biscuits while the team open up the valves and start to inflate the structure. The sound of the ignited propane reminds me of the long moan of a lion’s pack, rough and unfathomable. It spreads through the meadow and accords peacefully with the gospel. I cannot keep myself from thinking that I am listening to the song of escapade.

    The sun is now getting higher and we can enjoy every detail of the spectacular show taking place in front of us: the balloon rising up and lifting the nacelle. It is a really slow process that some passersby appreciate with us. 

    6:00 a.m: It’s time to go! 

    We hop on the platform and Bram releases the gas flow. The loud deflagration warms us up and dives into the balloon, hovering us up into the air. Here we go… we finally take off! Gently, one meter after another, we gradually gain altitude and in a couple of minutes, we reach up to a height of 100 meters. On the ground, I can distinguish the tiny silhouettes of some random football players trying to run after us. They quickly give up but keep on waving their hands in a goodbye—or a good luck—sign. I salute them in return before the wind takes us away. 

    Divine inspiration

    Now, I will do my best to describe to you the feeling of being carried around by this heavy assembly, but I am perfectly aware that I am not going to be able to render the complexity of the experience. In the quiet of the sky, I can only hear the chants from the churches we are flying over. on the horizon, a golden light is flooding the mountains and hurtling down the ravines, setting ablaze the calm waters. No matter where I look, the verdant lands are paying a quiet homage to Mother Nature, rolling out infinite green layers of life. From time to time, some constructions rip out of the ground, with the glowing of a million lights under the sun’s caress. 

    “Isn’t it beautiful?” Bram says.

    I turn back to Bram and the burner, feeling the heat upon my skin. I take a minute to think about it, but “beautiful” is definitely not the adjective I would use to describe this spectacle. Astonishing, maybe. I settle for a discreet nod before getting back to the magnificence of the landscapes.  

    I should probably specify that it is not my first balloon flight. I already had the pleasure of this activity in Spain a few years ago and although you might think. “a ride is a ride”, similar to another, I would definitely dispute this statement. The magnificence of Ethiopia’s lands makes it an unrivalled adventure! The emptiness of the natural surroundings hits you hard and is a constant reminder that we, human beings are nothing but a virulent form of a disease, parasitizing something bigger than us. 

    Here, the sky’s the limit and humanity is nothing but a little dot on the soil. 

    Breakfast and history

    The journey ends an hour later when we land next to a small village, on the other side of the Menagesha National Forest. Around a hundred kids run towards us, screaming and shaking their arms in a warm, welcoming wave. They stare at the balloon going down, trying to hide in its enormous shadow. When we get out of the nacelle, they come to our group with a quiet question upon their lips.

     “Where do you come from? ” 

    From the blue, my dears… 

    Once the equipment is back in the rear of the truck, we get into a van and return to Addis in order to enjoy a warm and generous breakfast with a flute of champagne. While we eat our cheese omelet, the group listens to Bram’s historical speech about the Montgolfier brothers: Joseph-Michel Montgolfier and his younger sibling, Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier, the inventors of the first hot-air balloon. Travel sure broadens the minds but a little lecture doesn’t hurt either!

    If you want to book a flight, you can call +251-926-845086 or go to the company’s website: www.abyssiniaballooning. Having to close down during the rainy season, they offer great sales for the reopening weeks in the beginning of October.

    Source: the reporter

     

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