Ethiopia: A trip to a timeless land
On a visit to ‘magical’ Ethiopia, Clover Stroud is beguiled by the ancient and the everyday.
By Clover Stroud
Thousands of people had congregated in the field, including hundreds of priests dressed in brightly coloured, richly embroidered cassocks, carrying ornate staffs topped with heavy silver crosses. Behind them, groups of children were divided into choirs, each wearing their own colourful ceremonial robes, chanting and clapping as they followed the procession. Among them wandered thousands of men and women – some barefoot, some carrying children, some bent double with age – but almost all swathed in the finest white muslin shawls.
The dancing and chanting of the crowds around was wild, hypnotic, but the rituals of their prayers were familiar Christian evocations.
It was a scene that might have been from the long-distant past, except for the fact that among these biblical figures I also saw characters who were a product of the 21st century. I spotted a little girl in a fluffy leopard-print jacket and Reebok trainers, the latter adorned with multicoloured flashing lights.
I spotted a priest, swooping around in a floor-length cassock, a huge wooden cross in one hand, mobile phone clamped to his head in the other. Beside me in the crowd stood a young man, in his late teens, dressed in a flash of bright yellow sportswear, gold chains strung around his neck which made him look as if he might break into gangsta rap at any moment – instead, he joined the psalms sung by the choir in front of us.