• Ethiopia – Philippines’ bridge to Africa

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    The 17th century Fasiledes palace

    The 17th century Fasiledes palace

    A gateway to a 3,000-year-old civilization has opened to the Philippines with the launch of Ethiopian Airlines’ first direct flight to the country on Thursday.

    This legendary country in the Horn of Africa lists Lucy, the oldest humanoid fossil, and, supposedly, the Ark of the Covenant, among many of its distinctive ancient relics, world heritage sites, and attractions, which now wait for Filipino travelers to see.

    The government-owned Ethiopian Airlines had been eyeing a service in Manila since 2013, but logistic issues held up plans, according to its country manager Solomon Bekele. The Manila Times was part of a roundtable discussion with the executive at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City, where he excitedly announced the commencement of a thrice-weekly flight at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport 1. From Manila, a stopover in Bangkok will be part of the route before reaching the final destination of capital Addis Ababa, which clocks in a total of 13 hours travel time.

    “Ethiopia is a very diverse country,” Bekele said as enumerated the highlights of the country. A few of Ethiopia’s many attractions include the Lalibela churches carved from living rock; the 17th century Fasiledes palace; the 1,700-year-old 24-meter Obelisk of Axum; and the Blue Nile Falls called “smoking water.”

    The weather there, according to Bekele, is perfect—“not very warm and not very cold.” Though one may expect hot weather in the tropics, Bekele explained that Ethiopia sits on elevated ground so it is not affected by the fact that the continent is centered on the equator.

    The churches of Lalibela were carved from living rock formations. These rock-hewn churches were named Unesco World Heritage site in 1978

    The churches of Lalibela were carved from living rock formations. These rock-hewn churches were named Unesco World Heritage site in 1978

    “The average temperature is at 25 degrees Celsius,” he said.

    Bekele also stressed that the airline does not only highlight tourism in Ethiopia. As a gateway, it also seeks to open other African destinations to the Philippines such as the beaches of Seychelles, the wildlife of Kenya and Serengeti, the port city of Cape Town, and South Africa’s biggest city, Johannesburg.

    For those who have time and money to spare, Ethiopia makes a perfect hub for a European and South American tour. It gives alternate routes to these regions without having to go through stopovers in the United States.

    As part of the Travel Madness Expo 2015, which ended on July 5, Ethiopian Airlines introduced discounted prices until September 30. A roundtrip fare from Addis Ababa to Manila starts at $921.

    It is relatively easy to reach Africa for Filipino travelers. A visa is required but this can be arranged upon arrival. Travelers also need a yellow fever vaccination certificate depending on the places visited.

    The majestic Blue Nile river called ‘smoking water’ plunges down 45 meters

    The majestic Blue Nile river called ‘smoking water’ plunges down 45 meters

    Despite Ethiopia being one of the world’s fastest growing economies with a 7-percet GDP and a population of over 94 million, the cost of living has not skyrocketed over there. One US dollar is equal to 20 Ethiopian birr.

    “There is a range of good quality hotels that can be booked from $50 to $200 or $250 depending on their rating. European and Asian restaurants are available. Casual dining may be $5 or $10 per portion or $20 to $30 per portion in a moderately high-class restaurant. A bottle of drinking water can be bought for less than a dollar. Group, hostel and other kind of accommodation arrangements can be made for cheaper rates,” Bekele elaborated.

    For more information, email MNLsales@ethiopianairlines.com

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