4-17 NOVEMBER 2019
Ethiopia has been casting a spell on foreign travellers since the days of the Crusaders. Indeed it was voted by European tour operators as the top travel destination in 2015 and the JR groups who went in 2015 and 2017 were bowled over. We are giving our readers another opportunity to experience this incredible country before the masses arrive. We are repeating the tour in 2019, extended to 13 days, to give more time to enjoy the stunning sites and scenery – and to relax.
The JR group will again be led by Rabbi Sybil Sheridan (pictured) who has visited the country many times and taught the Jewish children in Gondar, and by national guide Abye Tilahun Lakew. The love of both of them for Ethiopia is inspiring. This is an assessment by a 2017 traveller:
"Sybil Sheridan was an excellent leader and the insight into the Jewish communities of Gondar and Addis Ababa was of the highest order and deeply moving. Our Ethiopian guide for the whole of the trip could not have been improved on and left many of us thirsting for additional opportunities to visit other parts of the country." –Richard Keisner
Read Janet Abrams' account of the JR tour 2017 Jewish community visits published in The Forward.
Photographs from 2015 tour by Lilian Goldberg and Joan Freeman
Day 1 Monday 4 November
Leave Heathrow on Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 701 at 8.15pm.
Day 2 Tuesday 5 November
Arrive Addis Ababa at Bole International Airport 6.30am. We meet our guide Abye and take a 30-min flight to Bahir Dar. We check in to Avanti Blue Nile Hotel, relax and acclimatise. After lunch we drive to the Blue Nile Falls, the second largest in Africa. Expect bumpy roads.
Day 3 Wednesday 6 November
We take a boat trip on Lake Tana to the Uka Kidane Mihret monastery and its amazing mural paintings. We will pass by islands with extraordinary bird life, and may see a hippopotamus or two. After lunch by the lakeside, we experience our first African market before we return to our hotel for dinner.
DAY 4 Thursday 7 November
We take a coach for the 3.5 hour drive to Gondar, stopping en-route to take in the stunning scenery and unusual rock formations. Check in at the new Jacaranda Hotel with its amazing views of Gondar and the surrounding countryside. Lunch at the Hotel. In the afternoon, we visit the village of Ambober with its synagogue and children’s cemetery. Dinner at the hotel.
Day 5 Friday 8 November
Morning visit to the Meketa Jewish school homework cub to share in their Kabbalat Shabbat. Meketa is a British based charity that supports the Jewish community waiting to go on Aliyah. We will see the weaving co-operative sponsored by Meketa and other micro enterprises where you will have the chance to buy scarves, tallitot, and kippot.
Lunch at the Link Ethiopia/Kindu Trust compound. this is a British based charity that focusses on education in schools in Ethiopia and that supports the work of Meketa. After a rest at the hotel, enjoying the view and its swimming pool, we attend Kabbalat Shabbat service at the synagogue followed by a kosher meal at Lamergaier Hotel close to the synagogue where members of the Community will join us. Those who observe Shabbat will stay at the Lamergaier Hotel.
Day 6 Saturday 9 November
Early service in the Synagogue, after which, we visit the church of Debre Birhan Silassie After lunch, we visit the famous Gondar Castles and the swimming pool of Fasilades. Shabbat observers will be led by Sybil Sheridan on a walking tour, joining the rest of the group for lunch and a tour of the Castles, and returning to the synagogue for MIncha/Ma’ariv and havdalah. Dinner at the famous Four Sisters restaurant, and a display of traditional dancing.
Overnight at the Jacaranda Hotel.
Day 7 Sunday 10 November
An early start for the Semien Mountains where we take walks and drives to see the local flora and fauna, including some of the most exotic birdlife on this planet. Overnight in the Semien Eco Lodge Hotel.
Day 8 Monday 11 November
After another nature walk we leave for AXUM, the legendary last resting place of the Ark of the Covenant, a place crammed with ruins of palaces, underground tombs and huge monolithic steles. We check in at the Sabean Hotel
Day 9 Tuesday 12 November
We visit Axum’s historic route of the tombs of Remhai and the city museum, the legendary palace of the Queen of Sheba. Overnight at the Sabean Hotel.
Day 10 Wednesday 13 November
An early flight to Lalibela and check in at the Mountain View Hotel. Lalibela, is a site of remarkable red rock formations. The rock-hewn monolithic churches dating from the 12th century, some lying in deep trenches and others in quarried caves, are among the wonders of the world. Each building is structurally unique with carvings and beautiful paintings, complex in architecture with super human workmanship and concept. After lunch at the hotel we will visit the first set of rock-hewn Churches. Dinner at the hotel.
Day 11 Thursday 14 November
We drive to the monastery of Yimrehane Kirstos returning to Lalibela for lunch and to explore the second set of Churches, which represent the ‘heavenly Jerusalem’. Overnight in the Mountain View Hotel
Day 12 Friday 15 November
We fly back to Addis Ababa where we check in to the Hilton Hotel. We visit the National Museum, and the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity. Kabbalat Shabbat prayers at the Beta Israel Synagogue returning for dinner at the hotel. (Shabbat observers will remain at the hotel.)
Overnight at the Hilton Hotel.
Day 13 Saturday 16 November
Optional tours around Addis, including the National Ethnographic Museum, and the Merkato – the biggest market in Africa. Early return to our Hilton Hotel for rest and relaxation before final group meal celebration ahead of departure to Bole International airport for 1.15am flight home to London. Arrival at Heathrow from Addis Ababa at approximately 6.15am on Sunday 17 November.
Please note that this is a demanding tour and is not suitable for those with walking difficulties.
The cost, excluding the international flight, will be £2,750 per person sharing a twin or double room. The single supplement is £795. The cost covers all accommodation, meals and a bottle of water taken with them, three internal flights and other transportation, guides, museum entry, tips to drivers and local guides.
NOTE: The flight to Addis Ababa on Ethiopia airlines from and to London will be booked by West End Travel but will be an extra cost. There will be a significant premium to pay on domestic flights if you arrive in Addis on another airline.
This tour is for Jewish Renaissance subscribers only, so if you are not already a subscriber you will need a subscription – click here to subscribe.
Please send expressions of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org and you will be sent a form to reserve a place, on payment of a returnable deposit cheque for £300 per person, which will not be paid in until the tour is confirmed.
This tour is arranged in association with West End Travel