Monday, November 5, 2012

Ethiopia: soleRebels Footwear in Taiwan

soleRebels Footwear, Ethiopian artisan crafted shoes, are now available for purchase in Taiwan as the first standalone retail shop opens in the Asian country.

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu - soleRebels
soleRebels Footwear is the brainchild of Ethiopian entrepreneur Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu. It is a footwear company that produces handmade shoes out of recycled materials. These artisan crafted shoes have not only become quite popular in Ethiopia but have also made a global impact: they are now available in Taiwan.

Bethlehem is one of the most prominent personalities when it comes to entrepreneurial innovation. She has been the winner of many prestigious awards among which is the Most Valuable Entrepreneur (MVE) that was awarded her at the Global Entrepreneurship Week in 2011. soleRebels Footwear is not only Ethiopia’s sole business that is a recognized Fair Trade Organization (FTO), accredited by the World Fair trade Organization (WFTO) the global authority in fair trade but also a
global first in the footwear industry. It is these recognitions and achievements that have made Bethlehem an active voice for not only young entrepreneurs but also women entrepreneurs in Africa.

Founded in 2005, the organization makes shoes from recycled materials as well raw materials that are manufactured and bought on the local market. The employees are all considered to be stakeholders and are paid wages that are 4 times Ethiopia’s legal minimum wage and thrice the industry’s average wage not only giving them a steady occupation but also allowing them to make use of their creativity in a profitable way. But more importantly it is one of the very few fully eco-friendly organizations in the country. 

Men's Riff reVerb hi
Starting from humble beginnings the organization now commands a market turnover of millions of dollars. It is this entrepreneurial genius that has made it possible for her to appear and rub shoulders with famous business leaders like Richard Branson and to also take center-stage at global conferences all over the world.  

While there are several retail soleRebels outlets in countries like the United States, Canada, many locations in Europe and also in Japan, the new outlet in Taiwan is the organization’s first standalone international retail store.

soleRebels’ new store is located in Kaohsiung, the second largest city in Taiwan. The organization has plans to open a total of 30 outlets in the country, with three more locations expected to open by the end of 2012 alone.

Women's tooToo moc UP
Talking about her unique entrepreneurial spirit, Bethlehem says: “Love what you are trying to do. If you don’t like what you are doing, you are not going to be successful”.

soleRebels shoes can be bought in Addis Ababa at Adams Pavillion – 2nd floor, right above Kaldi’s.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – On Travel Website Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Cities

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia has been named by Lonely Planet as one of the top 10 cities in the world to be visited for the year 2013. Wondering why? Find out.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia has been a popular destination for foreigners visiting the country for over a century. Founded in 1886 by Empress Taytu Betul, the wife of Emperor Menilik II, the city has never stopped growing. It has ever since been the seat of power of the successive governments that came afterwards. Today, it has become the place where tourists, expats and locals like to intermingle in a laidback attitude. It has become so popular a destination that the most popular travel site, Lonely Planet, has included Addis Ababa in its “Best in Travel – Top 10 Cities” list, ranking it at number 9 out of 10 cities, spanning three continents, to be visited in 2013.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
According to the site, the most endearing attributes of Addis Ababa are the fact that it is an “Ethiopian city evolving at pace” - in lieu of the fact that the city’s skyline has been changing at a very rapid rate, especially in the last 5 to 10 years.

Everywhere one goes in the city there seems to be something either being built or being brought down to give space for something new. Traffic jams are nowadays more common than ever as Addis Ababa’s residents put up with the inconveniences in anticipation of the changes that are to come.

But, the bustling energy of the city, or the “confidence and stamina” as Lonely Planet puts it, belies the gusto with which the city’s residents have for fun and entertainment once the sun sets.

Every corner of the city caters to its specific clientele – from the luxurious Sheraton’s “Gaslight” crowd to those that bar-hop the lowly, meter-by-meter shacks that pass as drinking establishments along “Chechnya” (so called because of the hidden risks that came with hanging out in the area - like the snipers during the war in the place’s namesake). One need only find the crowd one can associate with and plunk down for an unforgettable night on the town.

One common thing that can be noticed in all the places is the sprinkling of foreign faces that stand out and yet, oddly, do not look out of place. Tourists, expats and diplomats alike rub shoulders with the local populace without giving it a second thought. The intermingling becomes absolute sometime midway through the night when everyone (that still can) is on their feet dancing to tunes ranging Ethiopian folksongs at “azmari-bets” to selections from the latest, bestselling albums on the charts.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise then, that the “groovy city”, Addis Ababa, is one of the best places to visit. Home to big organizations like the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa  (UNECA) it has had a groove for as long as there have been visitors from abroad to add a flavor to the local spicy nightlife. And one thing that can’t be denied is that Ethiopians have always known how to have a good time. Just ask the old-timers that used to hang out in the “Arada” and “Piazza” of yesteryears.

On a final note, unlike the major metropolises where the prices of commodities and real-estate have leapt in folds with each foreigner that has set foot in it, the Ethiopian capital has been going it at a pace all of its own – for now at least. This was the point that Lonely Planet meant by “Best for: culture, food, value for money”. Any foreign currency can be stretched to an unbelievable limit as can be seen by the number of wily foreigners that have made the city their home and can also be seen braving the crowds of Merkato looking for bargains instead of opting for the pricier goods at the supermarkets on Bole road.

So, time to pack your bags! See you in Addis Ababa!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Ethiopian Kids on Computers Excel without Teachers

Ethiopian kids on computers would probably be the last thing anyone would consider to be something that would neither make headlines or even be something that was possible. Until now...and what a surprise it has been.
The OLPC Motorola Zoom tablet

Imagine your surprise if you were to go to school to find a box of goodies left at your doorsteps. Now imagine that this was in a rural village where the children had hardly been exposed to electricity let alone modern gadgets like computers and laptops. That’s exactly happened when students in Welenchiti and Wenchi in Ethiopia, about 150 km south of the capital Addis Ababa, came to school one morning to find boxes left at their schools’ doorsteps. Opening them, they discovered that they contained laptops but there were no instructions about how to operate the them included in the packages.

The laptops were part of an experiment being conducted by the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) organization. The devices are Motorola Xoom tablets that are solar powered and designed to be wear-and-tear resistant. They have software installed on them that allow children to learn the basics of their school curriculum and also allows them surf the internet (wherever access points are available.

The aim of the experiment was to find out if kids on computers would be able to take off as they would in any western country. But in this case the hitch was that the kids had no previous exposure to technology whatsoever, they barely - if at all - knew how to read and write and there was no one there to teach them.

In short - they were expected to not only read and write but also learn to operate a technologically advanced gadget without having a sense of what it was in the first place. Every week an OLPC worker would visit the children to swap memory cards that registered how the computers had been used. The results were amazing:

  • The kids were found to be singing the alphabet song in both villages.
  • A child that could neither read or write at the time of receiving the laptop, after playing a literacy game, was able to spell “LION” under the correct animal.

Nicholas Negroponte, founder of OLPC, while describing the Ethiopian experiment at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech Conference, said that the results were encouraging. He went on to add:

The One Laptop Per Child logo
I thought the kids would play with the boxes. Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, found the on-off switch … powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android,” Negroponte said. “Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera, and they figured out the camera, and had hacked Android.”

Elaborating further on the comments made by Negroponte, OLPC’s Chief Technology Officer, Ed McNierney added:

The kids had completely customized the desktop—so every kids’ tablet looked different.  We had installed software to prevent them from doing that,” he said. “And the fact they worked around it was clearly the kind of creativity, the kind of inquiry, the kind of discovery that we think is essential to learning.

So, this begs to challenge the old beliefs that children always need the guidance of their teachers and that not being exposed to something doesn’t necessarily mean that a person will not be able to not only figure out how to use it but also how to customize it to cater to their own needs.

Maybe seeing kids on computers will stop being a status symbol and more of a new way of learning. It is about time.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Different Tourist Attractions: Church of St. George – Lalibela, Ethiopia

Among the different tourist attractions in the world the Church of St. George in Lalibela, Ethiopia, is arguably one of the most famous ones. Tourists travelling to the country have made it a point to visit it making it one of the country’s most visited sites. As a matter of fact it can be considered to be one of the great places to visit in Africa.

Church of St. George - Lalibela, Ethiopia
Location: 12°02′N 39°02′E

What is it?

Lalibela is a town in the Amhara region of northern Ethiopia. It is home to a collection of 11 monolithic rock-hewn churches. The churches were created in the 12th century by King Lalibela who lent his name to the town.

While the Church of St. George (Bete-Giorgis) in Lalibela, Ethiopia is the most famous of these churches (for being the most finely hewn and the best preserved of the 11 churches), the one that holds the record for being the largest monolithic church in the world and also the home of The Lalibela Cross is the Church of Savior (Bete Medhane Alem). 

The Lalibela Cross
This cross is considered to be one of Ethiopia’s most religious and historical heirlooms. Thought to be made by King Lalibela himself in the 12 century, it is 60 centimeters tall, weighs about 7kilograms and is made of gold. It was stolen in 1997, sold by a dealer in Addis Ababa for $25,000, located in Belgium in 1999 and returned to Ethiopia in 2001. The Bete Medhane Alem is quite often called the “Eighth Wonder of The World”.


During the reign of King Lalibela the town now named after him was known as Roha.  He is thought to have reigned from 1181 to 1221. His name means “the bees recognize his sovereignty” – after his mother saw that a swarm of bees surrounded him when he was born, and his mother took it as a sign that he would one day reign as Emperor of Ethiopia.

The now world-famous Ethiopian rock-hewn churches believed to have been built either during King Lalibela’s rule or were commissioned by him. Legend has it that the king had a vision of the Jerusalem in Israel and was instructed by angels to build a similar new Jerusalem for those that couldn’t make the pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

In all there are 13 churches in Lalibela (the total number of Ethiopian rock-hewn churches is 153, but none of these are nearly as famous or grandiose as the ones built by King Lalibela). Their names are:

Bete Medhane Alem: Home to the Lailebela Cross and the world’s largest monolithic church.
Bete Maryam: Thought to be the oldest of the churches.
Bete Gologotha: famous for its art and being the place where King Lalibela’s tomb is located.
Bete Giorgis: the most beautiful and best preserved of all the churches.
Bete Amanuel: thought to have been a royal chapel.
Bete Merkorios: thought to have been a former prison.
Bete Gabriel-Rufael: thought to have been a former royal palace.
Bete Abba Libanos
Bete Meskal
Bete Denagel
Bete Lehem

Amazing Facts

The hoof prints of St. George's horse
Photo from: Katie Prescott
The churches were excavated rather than built. A wide trench was dug out on all four sides of the rock. The rock itself was then painstakingly chiseled to create the interior out of it. The structures have doors, windows, columns, multiple floors and roofs. Around them drainage ditches, trenches, baptism ponds, ceremonial passages and hermit caves and catacombs were also dug out.

There is a legend that angels came out at night and helped the workers by picking up where the workers had left off. Another legend has it that in one of the churches, Bete Maryam, there is a stone pillar on which the king himself wrote the secrets of the churches’ construction – it is covered by cloth and only priests are allowed to see it. And, finally, there is also a legend that the hoof prints of St. George’s horse can be seen from when he came down to visit the king.

Ethiopia’s Lalibela churches are not only places of pilgrimage and devotion today, they are one of the main reasons tourists travel to Ethiopia and Africa and Lalibela is also one of the world’s most precious heritages registered by UNESCO.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Virtual Business Tips for Business Owners – An Online Workshop Notice

Connect Ethiopia
Many of my readers here were quite interested in the Elance workshops that were held here in Addis Ababa in November of 2011. As a matter of fact there were more applicants than could be taken on. Those that attended the workshop informed me that they had learned a lot and that they were glad that they had found out new ways of working online.

Connect Ethiopia, with Pat Walsh, is getting ready for another presentation. This time it is in the form of virtual business tips for business owners. The title of the presentation is: “Outsourcing to the Cloud: Benefits for your Business”. It is online and while it is still absolutely free, the seats are limited and admission will be on a first-come-first-served basis. So, business owners that want to learn about, and take advantage of, how to hire professionals in almost any field, here’s the full message with details:

Pat Walsh
On behalf of Connect Ethiopia I am presenting a workshop on "Outsourcing to the Cloud: Benefits for your Business" on Tuesday morning September 25th next in Dublin Chamber of Commerce, 7 Clare Street, Dublin 2 from 8am to 10am (11:00 to 13:00 Addis Ababa time). Admission is Free.

Utilizing and the global phenomenon of Remote Outsourcing this workshop will demonstrate how to:

• Access 1,700,000 Rated and tested professionals
• Get instant access to remote talent including Web Developers, Programmers, Digital Media Experts, Graphic Designers, SEO consultants, Architects, Engineers etc
• Approve work before you pay
• Reduce your Business Costs
• Manage your outsourced projects
• Help Ethiopians with our Connect Ethiopia Project

During the workshop we will do a live linkup to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to demonstrate real time cloud outsourcing in action.

For more information and to reserve your place click on: or email [email protected]

Places are limited and are on a first come first served basis

For more information see: and
And for about the presenter see:

Hopefully you can attend.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Ethiopian Airlines’ Boeing 787 – Africa’s First Dreamliner Delivered

Ethiopian Airlines’ Boeing 787 Dreamliner landed in the history books as it arrived at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport on August 17th, 2012. The aircraft, named “Africa One”, is the first of its type in Africa and the airlines is only the second in the world to own these technological marvels.

After a welcoming ceremony, the aircraft with the tail number ET-AOQ was put on display. People were excited to be inside a Boeing 787 and there was a queue several hundred meters long. Everywhere flashes were going off as people took pictures of its interior and exterior and other amazing features.

Shared below are some Boeing 787 pictures of the interior and exterior. Click on the pictures to view in album mode or enlarge.

Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787

Ethiopian Airlines is a member of Star Alliance

The lion logo on the exterior of the 787 Dreamliner

Side view of Ethiopian Airlines' 787 Dreamliner

Fore view of Ethiopian Airlines' 787 Dreamliner

G&E left engine on Boeing 787

First Class seats inside a Boeing 787

Boeing 787 pictures of interior

787 Dreamliner windows

Overhead storage inside the 787 Dreamliner

Personal entertainment systems in 787


Boeing 787 Dreamliner ET - AOQ

Aft view of the ET - 787 Dreamliner

GE engine on ET Dreamliner

Another side view of the Ethiopian Airlines Dreamliner

Cockpit exterior of 787 - Ethiopian Airlines

Ethiopian Airlines 787

Forward pic of Boeing 787 exterior

Front view 787

Front view of the Ethiopian Dreamliner

Engine close up of Ethiopian Airlines 787

Right aft landing gear of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Under the left wing of ET - AOQ

Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 (Dreamliner)
Boeing 787 Dreamliner - Economy Class

Economy Class - Personal Entertainment System

Aisle of Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Exterior of 787

Front - Side view of ET 787 Dreamliner

Ethiopian Airlines - Dreamliner side view

Underneath the Ethiopian Airlines 787 Dreamliner

Landing gear of Ethiopian 787

Close up of 787 Landing gear

Cockpit close up of Ethiopian Airlines' Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Danakil Depression (Dallol Depression) – in Ethiopia, Out of This World

Note: You can click on all images to enlarge them.

The Dallol Depression also known as the Danakil Depression is a place in northeastern Ethiopia that is famous for many reasons. The main reason is of course that it is the all year round hottest place in the world. The temperature averages around 34°C (94°F) and the fact that is one of the lowest points on earth at 130 meters below sea level.

The Dallol or Danakil Depression in the NE of Ethiopia

The Danakil Depression is located in the Afar region of Ethiopia. This region is famous for being the cradle of mankind as it was here that various human fossils were discovered: Ardi (Ardipithecus ramidus) and Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis).

Ardi (Ardipithecus ramidus)

Apart from the Dallol Depression, Afar is also home to the mount Erta Ale (or Ert’ale – smoking mountain in Afar language), is known to hold the longest-existing lava lake in its summit. It is thought to have existed since 1906. Lava lakes themselves are very rare phenomena with only four currently existing in the whole world.

Ertale (Ert'ale) in the Danakil Depression with its two crater lakes on its summit
Ertale at night

The Ertale crater at night
 The Dallol Depression is quite rich in mineral resources. Potash is currently being mined by various companies – but little do people know that Potash was being exported from Ethiopia in the 14th Century (Yes, you read it right – 14th century) – and is today quite abundant in the area. It is estimated that there are 140 – 150 million tons of it in the area.

Salt mining in the Dallol Depression

Another mineral that comes out of this region is salt. Salt mining is one of the very few ways that the local people can make money. But luckily, salt is very abundant. As a matter of fact the whole region lies on a salt bed that is about 3 kilometers thick. The miners risk the harsh conditions of the land and brave the heat to mine the salts with their bare hands. The salt is then transported on the backs of camels (the only form of transportation that can survive this hostile environment) to where they are sold.

Camel Caravan Lake Dallol - Danakil Depression

But, what is truly amazing about the Dallol or Danakil Depression is the beauty of the place. The salt flats, the desert and the myriad of colors that the landscape has in general. There are blues, whites, yellows, purples, reds and greens in a place where not even a single leaf grows.
These colors are the result of the volcanic nature of the area. The heat pushes up hot springs which in turn bring out various minerals from the earth’s core. As soon as the water reaches the surface it is rapidly evaporated by the intense heat leaving behind various colored minerals.
To have an idea of what picture is naturally painted and yet, out of this worldly landscape, have a look at the following images: