11 April 2014

Cruising in Ethiopia

We've eaten Ethiopian food in a few cities around the world including Oslo, Rome, Ann Arbor, Portland, The Hague, London, Toronto and Washington D.C. Once, we even walked 3-1/2 miles in a torrential downpour in Athens in search of an Ethiopian restaurant the guidebook promised us. Unfortunately, it had closed down so we had gyros instead, but that will give you a sense of our love of Ethiopian food.

We can now add Auckland to our list having now eaten at Cafe Abyssinia in Mt. Roskill. Mt. Roskill is a really interesting part of Auckland and one we hadn't been to before. Not only can you get Ethiopian food there, but you can also stock up on your favorite kind of taro, whether it be from Tonga, Samoa or Fiji.

The Fijian consulate is also nearby. It is conveniently located within a jewelry store so you can sort out your visa issues and buy something sparkly at the same time. Handy!

It was well worth the effort to head down to Mt. Roskill as Cafe Abyssinia is hands down the best Ethiopian restaurant in New Zealand. Well it is actually the only Ethiopian restaurant in New Zealand that we know of, but it was pretty darn tasty! But, if you want to go to our favorite Ethiopian restaurant in the world, head over to Jarra's in the Hawthorne district of Portland. Order the doro wat and the miser wat, one with A and one with B (it will make sense when you see the menu). Also, get a glass of Widmer Hefeweizen beer and tell Mr. Jarra we sent you. If you haven't had Ethiopian food before, it is delicious. You use your hand (right one only please) to scoop up delicious stew like concoctions with injera (Ethiopian bread). 

So while we were enjoying our meal at Cafe Abyssinia, I started wondering in my head: "I wonder what it would be like to cruise in Ethiopia? Wouldn't it be great to step off of your boat and eat Ethiopian food right in the heart of the motherland?"

Okay, stop and rewind. What is wrong with this sentence - "I wonder what it would be like to cruise in Ethiopia?" Here is what's wrong - Ethiopia is LANDLOCKED. That's right, LANDLOCKED. You cannot cruise right up to the local Addis Ababa marina and get some doro wat to go. Yes, I am American. You can tell from my ignorance of world geography. 

And although I have a passport, in which John Kerry (the current US Secretary of State) kindly requests immigration officers around the world (in three languages no less) to "permit the citizen/national of the United States named herein to pass without delay or hindrance and in case of need to give all lawful aid and protection", clearly I am not qualified to use said passport due to my woeful lack of geographical knowledge. Immigration officers around the world shake their heads every time they see American tourists making their way towards them clutching their blue passports in their hands. They think to themselves, "Do we really have to let them in?" But then, they read Secretary Kerry's politely worded request and consider all of the tourist dollars we might spend and they reluctantly let us in. Well into most countries anyway. 

I also have an Irish passport which I try to use to enter foreign countries whenever possible. I find this works much more smoothly. Immigration officers smile and greet you with open arms when you're clutching an Irish passport in your hands. The think to themselves, "The Irish are here! Yeah! Maybe they have some Guinness in their backpack to share with us!" They never even bother to look at an Irish passport to see if the Minister of Foreign Affairs is kindly requesting entry for the passport holder. They're just happy to see the Irish and let them straight in.

So realizing that embracing a cruising lifestyle requires not only learning about sailing but also about geography, I've done some quick research on the best way to cruise near to Ethiopia. From there, hopefully, we can hitchhike or something from the port to Addis Ababa. I thought I would share my planned route with you in case you too want to go cruising not in, but nearby Ethiopia. 

The first step is to look at the handy map of Ethiopia they have hanging up in Cafe Abyssinia. You can see clearly that Ethiopia is LANDLOCKED. Our best bet is to try to sail up to Eritrea, Djibouti or Somalia and then make our way inland to Ethiopia.

So taking each potential landfall in turn, let's see what we can find out:

1.  Djibouti - I read on one website that "Djibouti is popular among sailors of all levels." This website is targeted at captains of super yachts, so I wonder if that is a polite way of saying the riff-raff of the sailing world also hang out in Djibouti? (I think we would be considered riff-raff.) The website does mention that Djibouti is a convenient refueling stop between the Persian Gulf and the Seychelles, Maldives and India. So it looks like we can get diesel there, but it doesn't mention anything about Ethiopian food. After doing some more research, I find out that the Port of Djibouti is the main port for imports and exports to and from Ethiopia. So, if we can't get to Addis Ababa ourselves, perhaps we can crack open one of the containers in the port and find the ingredients to make our own meal.

2.  Eritrea - According to Noonsite, there are two ports in Eritrea at either end of the country - Massawa and Assab. The daysailing sounds quite pleasant with countless anchorages and offshore islands to explore. (You're not supposed to sail at night as there is a serious lack of navigation aids.) There is also a guy named Mike in Massawa who can help you out with laundry and provisioning. Maybe Mike can also help get us to Addis Ababa to get ourselves some Ethiopian food?

3.  Somalia - Since Noonsite was so informative about Eritrea, I checked out their section on Somalia. Here is what they said: "Sailing to Somalia is considered far too hazardous in the present circumstances and anyone intending to sail anywhere near Somalia should obtain the latest information on the internal situation before venturing anywhere near a Somali port. Only major ports should be approached and only in serious emergencies." Hmm, I'm not sure that looking for some Ethiopian food constitutes a serious emergency, so I think we'll stick to making our landfall in Djibouti or Eritrea.

But something is niggling away at me about this plan. I can't quite put my finger on it...oh yeah, that's it - pirates! And not the Johnny Depp kind of pirates either. These are the mean kind of pirates who brandish some serious firepower and which even big freighter ships are wary of. They've given the place a bad name. The Gulf of Aden is even known as Pirate Alley. 

So I am now rethinking our plan about sailing near Ethiopia in search of Ethiopian food. Unless I can persuade Harry Potter to lend us his invisibility cloak so that we can sneak through the Gulf of Aden without being spotted by the pirates, I think we'll have to stick to having Ethiopian food in places like Auckland and Portland.

Lunch took place Friday, 11 April 2014


  1. Ethiopian food in Auckland sounds like a much safer option. Good choice.

    1. I agree! It is a really cute place - if you haven't been before, might be worth checking out one day with the family.


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