After our last breakfast in the hotel (and my last of halva, porridge and silan), we checked out, but left our luggage so that we had our hands free for one last adventure. The goal was to try and see the Ethiopian Orthodox Church currently set in the modern city.
On our way, the air raid sirens brought the whole city to a stop for a moment of silence in memory of the holocaust. It was eerie and extremely touching to see absolutely everyone stop where they were and be still, some with tears in their eyes. Poignant to say the least.
After coming out of the collective reverie, Branson had us homed in on the church and much to our surprise it was open! After removing our shoes (as per custom) in we went and aside from two old gentlemen praying (napping?) it was just us. It was an interesting space, very different from any other church I'd been in and yet still very familiar. It is certainly less prosperous than many of the others we had seen on our trip, but still kept up with lots of love. I was particularly intrigued by the different drums that were haphazardly stacked in various corners and alcoves and wonder what their services are like. A few signs in English gave us a sense of some of the more unusual iconography though I wish I had more knowledge of their beliefs before going.
Meandering back through the modern city to our hotel, the dust storm which had been predicted for the past few days finally started to blow in and the sky took on the eerie yellowish-rusty brown of desert sand. After a few minutes, even my lungs were protesting. I suppose it was a sign that even in the most beautiful climates, there are down sides.
After arriving back at our hotel there was nothing left after a brief rest and stowing of gear but to head off to the airport. We took mostly the public transport route, Branson going with us very kindly to ensure that we made it (in total fairness, it's not the most straight forward of systems to figure out!). And another tearful goodbye that was the end of another wonderful trip.
And to be honest, we're still processing it. Going through pictures, absorbing all the things we saw and trying to square the different sides of the country that we saw and frankly speculating about what we didn't see. I can't thank Branson enough for having us and being such a fabulous guide. It's been interesting to see him go through his own expat experience while we've had ours and to experience a little of that world for ourselves. Had he not been there, I'm not sure we would have gone at all, let alone twice! It's a complex place full of passionate people and more history than you can shake a stick at. I have a feeling that it won't be our last trip, although next time perhaps we'll be less complacent and learn a bit of Hebrew and Arabic for ourselves!