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Bahir Dar (Bahar Dar) Ethiopia

Lake Tana, papyrus boats, island monasteries travel pictures

Bahir Dar (Bahar Dar) on Lake Tana was a stop on a tour of  Ethiopia; an hour-long Ethiopian Airlines flight north from Addis Ababa. From Bahir Dar, a half hour drive south took me to one of the trails to Blue Nile Falls. Lake Tana, where you can see fishermen in papyrus boats, is Africa's third largest lake, spanning 75 km (47 miles) north to south, and 60 km (37 miles) east to west. It's a popular tour stop for wildlife viewing, bird watching, and island monasteries tours all within a short (35-40 mins) boat ride from the Ghion Hotel dock.

Bahir Dar and Blue Nile River, looking north to Lake Tana Ethiopia

Ciew of lake tana and blue nile river from a mountainside Overlooking Bahir Dar ethiopia.

From a hillside south of Bahir Dar, there are expansive views of the outlet of the Blue Nile River from Lake Tana.

The Blue Nile joins the White Nile at Khartoum, Sudan, and they continue their journey to, and through, Egypt.

This lookout is about 5 kilometres (3 miles) east of Bahir Dar, in front of Haile Selassie's old palace.

We had take a short boat ride on the lake, from the hotel dock to river outlet, hoping to see the hippos that inhabit that area.

Donkeys on dirt road near Bahir Dar Ethiopia : Typical Scene Farmer and family walking donkeys on a dirt road mear Bahir Dar EThiopia.

Families herding donkeys or other animals along the road near Bahir Dar is a typical scene in most of the Ethiopian Highlands.

Note the dry season's calling card of powdery red dust; it gets into every crevice and graces every surface.

When you wash at night, the water runs red with the dust.


Ethiopian children get a lesson in ethics, Golden Rule

Ethiopian children outside traditonal cone roof hut in bahir dar.

Here's how we lost our coats: It was almost sunset when we stopped on the way back from the Lake Tana lookout, to observe a workshop that built papyrus boats.

With no road off the highway to the boat yard, our driver simply eased the van down a wide embankment to the flood plain along the river. A few small homes were barely visible among the trees up a low hill.

On the flood plain west of the river, dozens of children of all ages ran about. When they saw us stop, they all came racing, and crowded around us.

We were looking at the papyrus boats when we heard a huge commotion back at the van, out of sight, but only 50 feet away. It took some minutes for the guide to sort out what had happened.

Apparently, several young boys -- not these well-behaved lads in the photo -- had managed to open one of the van's rear side windows, and made off with five of our jackets.

There we were, surrounded by a crowd of toddlers, teens, and in-betweens, all chattering at once,  and a very angry driver, who had left his money the pocket in his now-missing jacket. The nights are quite cool (5C or 41F) and these were the only jackets we had.

Some lads suggested that since we came from a rich country, we could well afford to buy new jackets.

Over the hubbub, I heard one of our group say, calmly and clearly:

"I don't care what country you're from. Stealing is never right." The group reflected for a few minutes, then gave up the culprits.

Later that night, the police found the jackets (though not the driver's money) and returned them to us.

Bringing in the millet ~ Farm wagon near Bahir Dar Ethiopia Ethiopian farmer and wife unloading bags of  millet near Bahir Dar

While the children played along the river bank, this couple were unloading bags of millet near where we had stopped to see how papyrus was shaped the boats.

Another family nearby was winnowing some grain.

They spread it on a sheet on the ground, and holding tight to the corners, repeatedly flung the millet in the air.

The breeze blew away the chaff, and the clean grains fell back onto the sheet.

As the grains flew up from the sheet, the wind caught the chaff and blew it away.

Bahir Dar Market Ethiopia Shopping Stop People in Bahir Dar Market in  Ethiopia.

One afternoon, we walked south, then west from the Ghion Hotel grounds along dusty streets, looking for a market where we could buy some drinking glasses.

When we came upon a large mosque, with a half-dozen large loudspeakers on its tower, we knew we had found the source of the daily 4:30 a.m. 'wake-up calls'.

Twice we went to dinner at the restaurant at the much larger Das Anbessa Hotel, where a television set to CNN Asia gave us our only news of the outside world.

The Das Anbessa is few blocks east from the Ghion, past the ranks of beggars that frequent the streets around St. Mikael Church.

Ghion Hotel Bahir Dar (Bahar Dar)

The Ghion Hotel in Bahar Dar (Bahir Dar) cost 105 Ethiopian birr per night. That was about $12 US, and a *more* than fair price. The Ghion had very basic rooms, clean as is possible, with equally basic bathrooms (tub, shower, sink and toilet). The hotel bar offers wine and beer and its modest restaurant serves up tasty pan-fried tilapia fresh from the lake and traditional Ethiopian food. Meals are served on a covered veranda overlooking the lake and dock, with views to some of the islands.

For breakfast (not included), I recommend the scrambled eggs, served with excellent fresh breads and local jam. If you like milk with your coffee (cream is not available most places) ask for a pot -- it's served scalding hot, and won't cool the coffee. Most tours book guests into Bahir Bar's Tana Hotel, a few kilometres from the Ghion, but also sited on the Lake Tana shore. It's a bit pricier, but apparently well worth the money.

Lake Tana Ferry Bahir Dar to Gorgora : Ethiopia Touring Lake Tana Ethiopia Ferry Bajir Dar to Gorgora.

At daybreak on Sundays, the ferry heads north from Bahir Dar on Lake Tana, turning west to call in at several lakeshore communities, then northeast to the port of Gorgora.

From there, it's 48 kilometres (30 miles) by road further north into Gonder. The early morning is still cool, and smoke from cooking fires hangs low over the lake.

This photo was taken from the dock area below the Ghion Hotel veranda, looking east.

Lake Tana Ethiopian fisherman with Pink Pelican Entourage Ethiopia fisherman paddles boat on lake tana near bahir dar with pink pelicans following him.

Not far from the Ghion Hotel, these pink pelicans were waiting for the fisherman to do all the work.

Hippos hang out where the river exits the lake just east from the Ghion Hotel, and are most likely to be seen early in the morning.

Note: Bahir Dar is one of the few Highlands malaria hot spots; and Lake Tana contains bilharzia (also called schistosomiasis), so no swimming, sipping or splashing is advised.

Papyrus boat Lake Tana Laden with wood for Bahir Dar Saturday Market man paddles a Papyrus boat on Lake Tana near bahir dar ethiopia.

On Saturdays, Lake Tana's island and shore dwellers paddle their papyrus boats, heavily laden with firewood or fish, to the regional market in Bahir Dar.

These boats, locally made, are virtually the same as in the time of the Pharoahs.

On market night (these visitors stay and camp overnight), the smoke from hundreds of cooking fires in and around Bahir Dar chokes the night air, and lingers until dawn.

Zege Peninsula Lake Tana : Near Bahir Dar Ethiopia tour boat docked at Zege Peninsula Lake Tana near bahir dar ethiopia.

We hired this motorboat boat with captain at the small marina at the Ghion Hotel in Bahir Dar.

There are 37 islands on Lake Tana; 20 with monasteries. We were heading to 2 monasteries that, though accessed by boat, are located on the Zege peninsula, about half hour ride from Bahir Dar.

The monasteries are a 15 minute walk uphill, on an uneven trail that winds through hanging tree branches and underbrush. Look for lemon trees and coffee plants in this area.

I paid an admission fee of 40 birr (about $5 U.S.) that included two monasteries -- I believe they were Beta Giogis and Beta Maryum.

Lake Tana 'Island' Ethiopian Coptic church Lake Tana 'Island' church / monastery near bahir dar ethiopia


Judging from the grass roof, this should be Azuwa Mariam. Many place names, etc. are spelled various ways, so you find Azwa and Azuwa, Maryam, Maryum and Marium.

So, too, are these edifices referred to as churches and/or monasteries.

Visitors must remove their shoes.

TIP: As the monastery floors are covered in straw mats that can harbour fleas, bring socks to slip on your feet so you aren't barefoot.

A pair of large socks, courtesy of British Airways, came in handy: I slipped off my shoes and put on these socks over the socks I was wearing, then removed them before putting on my shoes after the tour.

Lake Tana Island Ethiopian Coptic Church interior detail Island church wall paintings with religious theme near bahir dar ethiopia.

In the island churches, the paintings are done on the inner walls and ceiling of the hall that circles the inner church.

The paintings are wonderfully detailed in several styles, well maintained, and depicting stories from the Bible.

The gentleman showing us the churches went into great detail about a number of the paintings; a very informed guide, as usual in Ethiopia. They depict stories from the Bible.

Lake Tana Monastery priest poses for pictures near Bahir DarLake Tana Monastery priest in yellow robes outside monastery in ethiopia.


This priest was most willing to pose for photos, but he never spoke.

When you visit, do allow time to sit and wait for someone to find the priest who will conduct the tours of the monasteries.




Related Ethiopia pictures:

Gonder, gateway to the Simien Mountains

Debark; Axum (Aksum) and the Axum stele;

Ethiopian coffee and foods;

Ethiopia travel, literary books.