Ethiopia’s Afar region.. Beauty is a margin

The car is advancing inch by inch among the hard stones. I turn and see nothing but black, barren mountains and untamed landscapes. Sharp grooves, each of which tells of an era of the earth, and herds of cattle roaming between valleys and ravines. I was on my way to the “Irat Ali” volcano, or “the kingdom of the jinn” as the Afar tribes living in this region call it. I turned my eyes to the breathtaking and rugged environment that tells the steadfastness of the Afri tribes, and explains part of their steadfast history.

I have dragged my bags in many poor places on the face of the earth, but I have not seen poorer these villages and this province of two million people. I turned my eyes at the long-haired young men, the sitting men who chewed khat and only cut it for prayer.

I noticed stones scattered on the road. I asked my guide about it and he laughed, “This is Widdle. These are pyramids that we build on the graves of our martyrs in the wars with the invaders. Look there, if the monument is covered, it means that the dead man has taken his revenge and can sleep peacefully. If the monument is open to the sky, that means that the blood of the dead man is long He hasn’t got his revenge yet.”

I told the driver to stop and we got off to see the Weddle. A large, circular stone building about a metre. I contemplated it, listening to Muhammad, explaining the philosophy of Al-Widal among the Afar tribes of Arab origin. He said that this monument has been here for hundreds of years so that the grandchildren or cousins ​​of the dead man would not lose sight of his revenge. Stones alone struggle Awadi time and oblivion. Then he bit his lips and said, “These widows are mostly from our wars with the Italians or the Tigrayans.”

It is forbidden in the Afar culture to approach the Wedel. It is a place that only those who will change its cover are approached if the revenge of its owner is taken. In other than that, the graves have their sanctity and sanctity. When the Italians became aware of this culture, they would store their weapons in it, making sure that the Afar would not search for it or approach it.

We went back and the car slalom back on the forbidding road. Hours pass without seeing a human being, then a shepherd appears on the road indicating a bagpipe asking for water, or a flock of roaring antelopes, or an ostrich rumbling not far away. After the artist and her sister, a sleeping village appears in the bosom of a high mountain, or on the edge of a deep valley. very poor villages.

I have dragged my bags in many poor places on the face of the earth, but I have not seen poorer these villages and this province of two million people. I turned my eyes at the long-haired young men, the sitting men who chewed khat and only cut it for prayer. So I remembered what the traveler Al-Adawi said about this space 6 centuries ago, “and with its people there is a preservation of religion, and there is no school for them, nor its suffocation, nor ribat nor corner,” which is an accurate description of the absence of civil landmarks and stability here.

I asked my companion Muhammad – a young Afari, a university graduate who speaks languages ​​- about the reason for this extreme poverty. He said, “This region has been besieged by successive governments. They punished us for our pride in ourselves and our ferocity in wars. Our region was excluded from development, especially under the Tigray government for the past three decades. “.

Muhammad exuberantly spoke in his Yemeni accent about this fourth region in Ethiopia in terms of area. It extends over an area of ​​more than 27 thousand square kilometers. But my mind was distracted by the appearance of Mount Irt Ali on the horizon. The mountain, two thousand feet above sea level, seemed to be shaded by the golden threads of the afternoon, and dazzled with eternal majesty. I turned my back to the escaping sun, raised my leg and took my first step towards the top of the volcano.

The word “Irt Ali” in the Afar language means “mountain of smoke”; This is because of the smoke that always rises from its crater and from its accompanying lava lakes. It is one of the rare volcanoes in the world, active throughout the year. It is characterized by its supporting lava lakes, which always makes smoke rise from the mountains adjacent to it.

I cracked charred black stones on my way. Weird, brittle rocks disintegrate with kicks. Their shape resembles waves, which reminds that they were hot waves one day, and then dried them alternately between night and day. I stood breathless on the edge of the volcano. A circular crater, open like a bloody wound, filled with lava that erupted into an eternal eruption. I had a strong cough because of the rising gases, so I changed my place, repelling the wind. We sat on the edge of the crater, looking at it at sunset. They were moments in which the individual felt his insignificance and the limitations of his offense, his world, and his interests. Lava is differentiated here and scramble Sarmada. It erupts and calms down, people go and come and wrestle, nations rise and fall, arrogant empires appear and fade, and this crater gaping in its mouth during all that only grows more determined and effervescent.

Afar region extends over an area of ​​more than 27 thousand square kilometers (Al-Jazeera)

We sat on the edge of it, and Muhammad said, “The people of the area are unanimously agreed that whoever comes here at night hears all the sounds of the earth. He hears the bellowing of cows, the humming of camels, the bleating of people, and people’s conversations. He was kidnapped by the jinn at once, so the residents of the area see that all the tourists who went missing here were kidnapped by the jinn.”

I prepared my sight for the roaring red crater. Man has been able to deal with environmental phenomena and harness them for his own ambitions and aspirations. He turned the courses of untamed rivers, and cleaved the lofty mountains like wet butter. He flew heavy iron in the air, and walked in and over the bowels of the seas, but he stood kneeling before volcanoes. Let her revolt and calm down, and he is helpless in front of her compelling authority.

Man stood kneeling in front of volcanoes, letting them erupt and calm down, and he is helpless before their omnipotent authorityMan stood kneeling in front of volcanoes, and let them erupt and calm down, and he is helpless before their omnipotent authority (Al-Jazeera)

Muhammad extended his index finger to the volcano, “This environment is similar to us. It is hot and difficult to subdue. No gas tried to enter Ethiopia except that we were the ones who wanted it like Portugal and the Italians, and today we are saving Ethiopia from Tigray.”

Muhammad refers to the last war in which the Tigray Liberation Front tried to overthrow the Addis Ababa government, but was defeated on Afar land. The Afar are not proud of anything, their pride in the inherited equestrianism. Therefore, one of their remaining habits is that if a young man reaches the age of 16, a weapon is bought for him. Even the poor family is forced to sell their most valuable possessions in order to buy a gun for their son to complete his manhood.

The Afar region – located in northeastern Ethiopia – is distinguished by its strategic location, adjacent to all parties to the Ethiopian conflict. It is bordered by the Amhara, the Oromo, the Tigrayans, the Somalis and Eritrea. It is also rich in mineral resources such as salt, gold and potassium, and rare places and attractive tourist areas. Kilometers away from the “Irt Ali” volcano, the Salt Desert and the Red Salt Mountain extend. It is a desert that produces all the salt used in Ethiopia, with its rich water, rivers, and gaseous lakes.

But all these resources do not have any impact on the lives of the inhabitants of the territory. All the villages I passed through were very poor shantytowns. A house of cement is hardly visible; Valboat tinplate or specials of trees. 90% of its population still lives on grazing. One of the anecdotes of their relationship with grazing is the story of their own relationship with camels. Even if a man deliberately kills a camel or a camel, he may be killed with retribution. Decades ago, some Ethiopian army drivers killed Afaria camels by mistake; It was only from them that they killed the army drivers in retaliation for their camels until the authorities intervened and the matter was ended in peace.

The region enjoys – constitutionally like the rest of the regions of Ethiopia – autonomy; It has its president, parliament, army and police. The presence of the federal state is limited to airports only. Its residents are now dreaming of a bright future during the ongoing national dialogue, after their misfortune in the last war. They were able to increase their army for the first time, and the Addis Ababa government assessed their misfortune in the war.

I left the volcano and came back down the mountain. But the area is devoid of any hotel to which one can shelter. We reached the edge of the mountain and lay on the rocks until morning. Movement on unpaved roads at night is impossible here.

I went down with the mountain in the morning, contemplating the beauty carved in the pristine nature, wondering; What unimportant beauty is this?!

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