After almost a week here in Axum I feel that I should write about my first impressions before I get used to it – although that may take a while. Everyone has been friendly and welcoming asking ‘how do I find Axum?’ and wanting it to be good. People smile as you pass them and the woman living behind my house and her family who live opposite always smile and try to pass the time of day (the language is a barrier currently). As I pass children in the streets the shouts of ferengi (foreigner) and hello start and continue for long after I have walked by having said hello or selam in return. The bolder ones run up to shake my hand.
Axum has two major roads which are tarmacked – one runs through the centre of town and the other goes around the edge passing Axum by. The roads immediately off the main street are cobbled and as you get further away they are stony, dirt tracks. I live on one of these tracks but it’s only a few minutes walk to the main road. The bajaj (like a tuktuk) motor up and down the main road acting like the line taxi minibuses you see elsewhere in towns in Africa. They were brought over by an enterprising businessman and are now the main way to get from one end of Axum to the other.
The animals of Axum deserve a special mention. I think there must be more donkeys than cars. You see them everywhere carrying their burdens or drawing carts following routes they know so well with barely any guidance. Herds of sheep and goats also roam the streets. These are not the neat white animals but brown shaggy ones. Ethiopia is known for it’s bird life and it is in abundance here. There are lots of species I’ve never seen before and a tremendous dawn chorus every morning. Of course the flock of pigeons living above my bedroom create some unwanted noise. One of the cutest animals I saw was a squirrel on my first day. It looked more like a cross between a squirrel and a chipmunk but I was assured it was a squirrel. The most unexpected has to be the camel I saw today passing in front of the hospital!
This weekend is Mekele (the finding of the true cross) celebration and drumbeats and music fill the air before the main event tomorrow.