I was reflecting on an evening walk that I had had the great fortune to have explored all of the earth's deepest canyons. Since all of the top ten deepest canyons are in Asia and South America, I had never considered Africa as a candidate for this comparative survey. As I thought about it more deeply, I realized that not photographing the Canyonlands of Africa would leave a life's work unfinished. I had never had any interest in Africa as perhaps I had the modern American stereotypic view of the continent.
It occurred to me that I had been in plenty of what might be considered very dangerous regions in Mexico and South America, and that there was no reason for me not to test my skills learned in diverse canyon systems around the planet in Africa. Besides, every place that had been identified as "extremely dangerous" had turned out to be less dangerous than the park where I take my sunrise or sunset daily walks.
My first order of business was to head for the local library and look up what the geographical authorities had to say about the region. The first snag came when I found there was no comparative study or even specific insights into the Canyonlands of Africa available through the normal institutional media. There was a lot of talk about modern day explorers "risking their lives" in the tribal homelands of the Ethiopian backcountry. A lot was made about the elusive "shifta" who might shoot strangers on sight. Modern day explorers did not do much for me when looking for hard geographical information on African Canyonlands.
I then turned my attention to the historical accounts availabale in the local library and on line. Historically know as Abyssinia, Ethiopian history goes back to the earliest known humanoids that lived in the Afar region more than three million years ago. Named "Lucy" by her discoverers, Donald Johanson and Tom Gray, on November 30, 1974, she is known as Dinkenesh which means "thou are wondeful" by Ethiopians. Her bones now rest in the Ethiopian National Museum in Adis Abeba.
Ehiopia's next major entry on the world stage was in about 1000 BC when the Queen of Sheba had a state as well as personal liason with King Solomon which produced a lineage of rulers that came down to the modern era, it is said, as Haile Selassie who was proclaimed emporer in 1930.
The first capital of Ethiopia was in the northern region at Axum. The primary items of trade over time was ivory, gold, and slaves. Christianity was adopted as the official state religion in AD 330. The Christians conquered parts of Sudan, Yemen, and southern Arabia and remainded a great power throughout the known world until the expansion of the Islamic faith in AD 1100 or so. In about AD 1400 with the expansion of the Ottoman Empire, Ethiopian fortunes took a dramatic turn for the worse. Ethiopia was saved from collapse by the Portuguese in AD 1542. In AD 1865 the Ethiopians engaged in a major skurmish with the British Empire and in AD 1896 the Ethiopian King Menelik defeated the Italians.
In 1936 Mussolini over ran the country, but it was liberated in 1941 with the return of Haile Selassie as Emperor. In 1974 Haile Selassie was overthrown by junior military officers who set up a Communist regime with the help of Russian and Cuban troops.
In May 1995 Ethiopia's free and democratic elections were held. It has remained a healthy and vibrant democratic country from that time. Due to climate and population pressures, Ethiopia experiences periodic droughts and famines that cause a great deal of suffering for the people and the natural environment to this day.