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 group who went then were bowled over. We are giving our readers another opportunity to experience this incredible country before the masses arrive.
The JR group will again be led by Rabbi Sybil Sheridan who has visited the country many times and taught the Jewish children in Gondar. Her love of the country was inspiring.
This year the trip has been extended to 13 days to give more time to enjoy the stunning sites and scenery – and to relax.
Photographs from 2015 tour by Lilian Goldberg and Joan Freeman
Tuesday 31 October
Leave Heathrow on Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 701 at 8.15pm.
Wednesday 1 November
Arrive Addis Ababa at Bole International Airport 6.30am.
We meet our guide Abebe and take a 30 min flight to Bahir Dar. We check in to Grand Hotel Spa, relax and acclimatise. After lunch by Lake Tana we take a boat trip to the Uka Kidane Mihret monastery and its amazing mural paintings. On return at sunset we pass close to an island with stunning bird life. We dine at our hotel.
Thursday 2 November
Excursion to the Blue Nile Falls, the second largest in Africa. Expect bumpy roads. After lunch we experience our first African market before we return to our hotel for dinner.
Friday 3 November
An early start for the 3.5 hour drive to Gondar. We stop on route to see the 16th century castle of Guzara and the Finger of God, a rock pointing to the sky.
We arrive in Gondar (home to 5,000 Jews who have not yet received permission to emigrate to Israel) in time to see the children in the Jewish school, as well as the Community's weaving factory. Lunch is at the Kindu Trust of Meketa a British based charity that supports the community.
We check into the Goha Hotel with magnificent views of the city perched on the hill and relax by the pool. It is a birdwatchers’ paradise.
We attend Kabbalat services at the synagogue followed by a kosher meal at Lamergaier Hotel close to the synagogue where members of the Community will join us.
Saturday 4 November
We attend a service in the Synagogue. Following Kiddush and lunch we visit the church of Debre Birhan, Silassie church and the swimming pool of Fasilades plus a visit to the famous Gondar castle.
Overnight at the Goha Hotel.
Sunday 5 November
We visit several Jewish villages and their cemeteries around Gondar. Included is Ambeo Ber, established in 1939 as a village for Falashas, where we see three different synagogues.
Overnight Goha Hotel.
Monday 6 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.
Tuesday 7 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.
After check in at the Sabean Hotel we visit the historic route of the tombs of Remhai and the city museum, the legendary palace of the Queen of Sheba.
Wednesday 8 November
An early flight to Lalibela and check in at the Tukul Village Hotel. Lailibela, 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 an excursion to Yemrehane Kirstos.
Dinner at the hotel.
Thursday 9 November
We continue to discover the wonders of Lalibela.
Overnight in the Tukul Village Hotel.
Friday 10 November
We fly back to Addis Ababa where we visit the National Museum, cathedral church of Trinity and the Old Church of St George. We also aim to visit the secret Jews factory in Addis before heading for the the Entoto Mountain and its magnificent views. We visit biggest market in Africa in Shiro Meda and the synagogues of Kechene, Medhanialem and Koteba.
Overnight at the Hilton Hotel.
Friday night Kabbalat shabbat prayers for those who wish and dinner at the hotel.
Saturday 11 November
Saturday morning visit to Synagogue before we head to visit other sites and museums with early return back 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.
Sunday 12 November
Arrival of flight from Addis Ababa at approximately 6.15am.
Vegetarian food will be available throughout. Those who observe Shabbat will stay on Friday 3 November at the Lamergaier Hotel near the Gondar Synagogue and will be led by Sybil Sheridan on a walking tour the next day.
Please note that this is a demanding tour and is not suitable for those with walking difficulties.
The cost, excluding the international flight, is £2,595 per person sharing a twin or double room. The single supplement is £695. The pp price drops to £2,350 once 15 people register for this trip. This cost covers all accommodation, meals and non-alcoholic drinks taken with them, two internal flights and other transportation, guides, museum entry, tips to drivers and local guides.
Note that this tour is for Jewish Renaissance subscribers only, so if you are not already a subscriber you will need a year's subscription (£29) (go to www.jewishrenaissance.org.uk/subscriptions).
This tour is arranged in association with West End Travel