The Eastern Tourist Route
About the Route
The East Oromian Tourist route stretches from Awash National park to the boarder of East Hararge Zone of the Oromia Regional National State. Zones included in this route are the West and East Hararge zones of the Oromia Regional National State. Tourists traveling in this route can also have the chance to visit Dire Dawa City Administration, the Harari and Somali Regional National State.
This route is known for its fascinating landscapes and marvelous world-scale caves. This route also marks a place where many nations and nationalities of the country converge and live with complete harmony and tolerance, which is being token as an example to the rest of the world.
Recent studies disclose that the area has rich historical resources expressed on underground rock paintings, carvings, and sculpture that date back to the pre-historic time.
This is a place where five national regional states converge. As a result, it marks an area where multitudes of nationalities are found with different life styles without putting pressure on one another. This area was also a gateway to ancient Middle East civilization.
Culture and Lifestyle
The Oromo people in the Eastern Oromia tourist route are the Itus who belong to the major Barento clan. The life style of the Oromo people in this area is the result of all above factors. The rural people in this region largely make their livelihood from cash crops: coffee and chat, and from crop production of maize and sorghum.
The beautiful white cotton fabric with colorful beads and ornaments make the wearing of the women of this area unique. This dress, known ‘sadeta’, is eight meters in length and is worn by wrapping around body without sewing. The men wear a white shirt and a wrap around band of cloth down to waist. Men usually hang a very sharp sword on their waist for self-protection. Young men put a comb with red decorative thread on their hair; and the young women put shining and interwoven decorative beads on their hair down to their forehead.
The people do also have a rich tradition of making house wares from grass. The wares are used to serve food on, store grains and to make personal and home decorations. This tradition is also common among the Harari people. The Harari Regional National State’s Museum is the best place to visit different house wares of this route.
Awash National Park:Stretched over 756 kilometers,2 AWNP is situated at the distance of 225 kilometers to the south-east of Addis on a plain where the highway and railway line leading to Dire Dawa and Djibouti passé.
Established in 1966, Awash National Park marks the first officially gazetted wildlife reserve in the country. The park is entirely established on the plain of the Rift Valley. With the exception of 2600m high Mountain Fantale, the park area is predominantly covered with shrub, bush, acacia and open grass lands.
The main tourist attractions of the park include:
- The 46 major species of mammals and 453 species of birds among which six species are endemic to the country. All the mammals are East African plain animals in origin like the greater and lesser kudus, oryx, bush buck, dik-dik, gazzelle, fox, klipspringer, cheetah, lions and others. The bird species include secretary birds, Abyssinian ground hornbill, carmine bee eater, Abyssinian Roller and birds of riverine forest like coucal, turaco and goaway birds;
- The Awash River, at the end of its gentle flowing course in relatively plain surface, suddenly drops into a gorge where the water hits the bottom basaltic rocks to forming a smoky waterfalls offering delightful sensation;
- Fantalle Mountain, which rises majestically over the surrounding lowland with its fascinating feature of volcanic origin depression on the top of the mountain, forms a rugged surface with clouds of volcanic steam rising here and there;
- The palm springs of the northern part of the park, where hot water springs from the wall of hill flows down making a stream and a natural swimming pool amidst the palm trees;
- The museum in the park headquarters where trophies of animals living in the park are displayed, and
- The 22 caravans stationed on the edge of the Awash River gorge and the camp sites along the gently flowing Awash River where visitors could camp under riverine trees giving opportunities to see crocodiles in the river and other larger animals that come to drink water.
Asabot Mountain and Its Monastery: A 10 km drive from the park gate takes you to the town of Awash and a few more kms drive from Awash brings you to a point where the road splits in to two. The road to the left leads to Afar Regional National State and then to Djibouti. The other leads you to Eastern Oromia If you are traveling to the Eastern Oromia, Asabot Monastery is a place to be visited next to the Awash Park. The Asabot Monastery is only 20 kilometers far away from the Asabot town. This monastery is known for its scenic beauty and the monastic enclave of Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The monastery has two churches, the Trinity Church set on the top of the mountain overlooking the Afar depression to the north-east and the Abune Samuel Church located at forefront of the mountain to the side of the Asabot town. There are historical manuscripts depicting miraculous deeds of Saint Samuel both in Geez and English versions.
Viewing the scenic beauty of the mountain, walking (climbing), horse riding and Listing cultural sites are the ideal activities of the people who visit this place.
Jalo-Qunni Mukhtar Forests: Touristic ally, West and East Hararge zones are known for their un- paralleled scenic landscape. The scenery begins at Chiro, the capital of West Hararge Zone, and is magnified by the fantastically situated mountains of Jalo Mukhtar, Quni Mukhtar and others that encircle Chiro the (Asebe Teferi) town. This scenic beauty extends to East Hararge where attractive massifs and peaks are observed throughout the route to Dangago ridge.
Jallo Qunni Mukhtar mountains are known for their physical beauty, vegetation and wildlife habitats; they are currently preserved as sanctuaries of mountain Nyala. This forest area of 9320 hectares offers visitors good opportunities for trekking, nature and wildlife sightseeing, and forest exploration.
Oda Bultum: This is a site which holds important place in the history of the Eastern Oromo people. It is a site where the Gada System was celebrated colorfully. This is the place where Gada system power transfer ceremonies and ceremonies of promotion from one Gada age grade to the other took place every eight years. It was also the place where Gada laws were drafted and amended.
The latest Gada power transfer ceremony was carried out colorfully in January 2008 under the symbolic giant and graceful Oda tree. On this occasion, foundation was laid to build a new and modern Gada convention centre and Museum.
The Oda Bultum Gada site is located at the distance of 15 kms from Badesa town. After few kilometers drive from Badesa, you turn to the left at the village follow a dusty road for about 5 kms which takes you to Oda Bultum.
All the way from Arbarakate village, when you turn to the right to Bedesa town, the area marks enjoyable dramatic land forum and terrain ranging from deep gorges. This place grows coffee and chat, and the mountain ranges are covered with evergreen vegetation.
Warabesa Cave: This cave is found in West Hararghe Zone, Habro Woreda in Ibsa village at the distance of 400 kms from Addis Ababa, or 100kms from the Ciro town, or 25kms from the Galamso town. It was a home of hyenas, Warabesa in Afan Oromo, from which its name has been derived. There are bats and spiders throughout this cave.
The speleologists who studied the cave say that they have explored only some parts of the cave, though there are plenty of caves in the area which can be potential destination areas for tourists and interested researchers.
Dindin Forest- At the distance of 18 kms on the gravel road from Galamso you find one of the untouched forestlands known as Dindin. Dindin forest is one of the remnants of the natural forests in the country, marking the largest forest in the Eastern part of the country. This dense forest covers an area of 12,207 hectares hosting wildlife like the endemic mountain nyala, bushbuck, cheetah and others. This forest reserve is one of the best research centers in the country for biodiversity and ecosystem. It is, thus, one of the controlled hunting areas in the country. It is also an ideal site also ideal for camping, trekking, sightseeing and photo and wildlife safari.
Achare, Aynage and Baro Caves: These are newly discovered caves in Daro Labu district of the West Hararge Zone at the distance of about 89 kilometers to the west of the Chiro town, or at the distance of 6 kilometers to the nearest town of Machara. It was officially discovered in 1995/96 by the British caving expedition (caving club) from Hudders Field University with the name "Cave Ethiopia 1995". Both Echare and Aynage Caves were identified as the second biggest caves in Ethiopia; next to the Sof Umar Cave.
These caves have a complex network of passages with two entrances. These caves are attractive for researchers and adventurers. Baro cave, which was discovered in 2009, is also the cave that needs further and deeper exploration.
Qullubi Gabriel Church: Now let’s turn back to the asphalt road that leads to Harar. On the way to Harar, you get one of the remarkable cultural tourist attraction sites along the eastern tourist route; the St. Gabriel Church of Qulubi at the distance of 464 kilometers from Addis. The Church is situated in the town of Qullubbi which is only at the distance of 62 kilometers before you reach Harar. A pleasant drive of 138 kilometers to the east from Chiro to Harar along a very scenic landscape takes one to the site of the church. Being the most popular pilgrimage site of the Ethiopian Coptic Orthodox Church, eventful religious festivals are held twice a year at this church, on Hamle 19 (26 July) and Tahisas 19 (28 December) which tens and thousands of pilgrims from all over the country attend.
Dirre-Dawa: Being one of the busiest business cities of the country, Dire Dawa is among the valuable areas of the Eastern Oromia zone. Dirre-Dawa is situated at the distance of 453 kilometers from Addis lying on the plain bordering Hararge escarpment to the south-east. Established at the halfway point between the Djibouti - Addis Ababa railway line, Dire Dawa serves as a good holiday destination for visitors from Djibouti and the Middle East. Having an international airport serves as an important gate way to the Hararge areas marking an important tourist destination center in the country.
Dire-Dawa is also an ideal site of ethnic variety whereby diversified cultural styles of the Oromo, the Somali, the Afar, the Harari and others are easily observed. Laga Oda Cave, with its pre- historic paintings, is found at a short distance from the Dire-Dawa city.
Harar: The historical town of Harar is specially known by its Harari ethnic group. The Harari Regional National State neighbors Oromia to the east, marking are of the significant tourist attraction places in the eastern tourist route. Encircled by East Hararge Zone of Oromia, Harari Regional National State is located at the distance of 526 kilometers from Addis Ababa. Harari National Region State is especially known for its old historical walled town of Harar; one of the major tourist destinations in Eastern Ethiopia.
“Jugol”, part of the city, is encircled by a great defensive wall. The wall was believed to built in the 1450’s by Amir Nur, the nephew of the great Imam Ahmad Ibn Ibrahim Alghazi. Jugol, the walled city, has five gates and 362 complex alleys on the area of 38 hectares. Apart from these impressive centuries of old walls, there are interesting places inside the town which include the Harari houses with their unique architectural features, a number of ancient mosques, and two museums and craft centers.
The Harari and the Oromo women in the Harar city have been known for their unique custom and basket works. They wave intricate creation from colored fibers and grasses. Harar is also famous for its “Hyenas Man” who makes their living by playing a remarkable show of tamed hyenas.
Destinations around the Harer City: The Harar city and the Regional National State of Hareri are encircled by the Harerge Zone of the Oromia National Regional State. Making your centre at Harar, you have a lot of places to visit and explore in the East Harerge of which the following are some:
Babile Elephant Sanctuary: Shared between Oromia and Somali Regional National States, The Babile Elephant Sanctuary covers an area of about 6982 square kilometers, and is a wonderful destination for those who like to view wildlife. This sanctuary is situated to the south-east of the Harar town at the distance of 35km adjacent to the Babile town. It has been reserved for the protection of the endemic Lodinta Africana Oreleansi elephant sub species. Apart from elephants, this-semi arid and wood land sanctuary, is also a habitat for a number of mammals which include black manned lion, kudu (greater and lesser), wild ass, and others.
The Unique Rock of Babbile:These uniquely shaped rocks with admirable features are found in a place called Dakata at the distance of 5 kilometers from Babile or at the distance of 40 kilometers from Harar. These wonderful rocks can easily be seen with their structural settings on the road from Harar to Funyan Bira. The Dakata Valley, which is filled with these unusual volcanic formation rocks, can be a good attraction for sightseers, nature lovers and adventurers.
Mountain Kundudo: Located in Gursum District, at few kilometers away from the Funyan Bira town, there is a mountain known as Kundudo (also nicknamed as “W” mountain because of its shape). The mountain is known for its wild horses. Historical evidence puts them on the mountain for at least few generations. They were feral which have been living on the mountain for at least 150 years. Currently, there are 50 wild horses living in the forest and slopes of the mountain.
In addition to the Kundudo horses, there are unique wealth of birds of prey and other bird species, mongooses and monkeys in this forest, which make the mountain one of the significant attraction areas to be visited in the zone.
Dima Cave: Dima natural cave is found in Eastern Hararge, Badano district at the distance of about 646 kms from Addis Ababa, or 125km from the Harar city, or at the distance of about 26 km from Badano town. This cave has seven wide entrances, three wide rooms with the height of 8-10 meters accommodating more than 30 people at a time.
Speleologists say that the cave has a length of one kilometer, though others believe that its length is more than that. The cave has got its name from a farmer who tried to enter into the cave in the past.
Different colored melting rock segments of stalactite and stalagmite hanged on the roof of the cave make the Dima Cave an interesting destination place for researchers and visitors.
Oromo Cave: This incredible underground village-like structure shaped cave is found in the Eastern Hararge zone, Grusum district, Biyo Nagaya Kebele at the locality known as Oromo Village at the distance of about 621kms from Addis, or 95kms from the Harar city.
Its unique creation of different structures of plant like rock, water-born animals and flower- like plants make the cave a potential research site in the future.
The French, the British and the Italian speleologists have given the name “the Gursum Pearl” to the cave, Many small interconnected caves in the area, its landscapes and wild horses make the area a chosen place for researchers such as archeologists and paleoanthropologists.
Historical Mosques: Due to its relative proximity to the Middle East, the Eastern part of Ethiopia and Oromia is a place where Islam and Islamic civilization first flourished in the country. As a result, the region is rich in heritages of ruins of mosques, tombs and centers of Islamic teachings which date back to 1000 years. Though, not well organized and kept, there are old manuscripts held by individuals.
Interesting sites to be visited are places around the town of Kersa and Fedhis. Ruins of old mosques and villages of Islamic teaching are observed at a distance of few kilometers drive from Kersa and Fedhis towns reflecting their past glories and inviting places for interested researchers in the history of Islamic civilization. These sites need detailed studies, and power collection, organization and preservation of their manuscripts.