When we announced we would be traveling to Ethiopia, everyone had the same response. Soon, my practiced answer became, “Because I want to experience the typical African way of life.”
In reality, it was only one of two reasons my partner and I decided to visit the country. Around the time we were finalizing our travel plans, I was editing a book on the prehistoric cultures of the people around the Indian Ocean that devoted a substantial bit to Ethiopia, where the first hominid, with the ability to walk on two legs, was discovered.
Her name is Lucy, inspired by the Beatles song that played during the celebratory party after her excavation. She existed 3.2 million years ago and her remains were preserved in the National Museum in Addis Ababa. Reading about her, I felt an intense longing to see Lucy in person.
And then, as I read more about Ethiopia, I found it was the only country in Africa that was not colonized by a Western power (the Italians were there for a couple of years; their legacy, arguably, is that the best Italian food outside of the motherland can be found in Ethiopia).
The country, as we were to discover, had remained unadulterated by foreign cultures, holding on to its ancient heritage—including its own daily clock and civil calendar.
During the time we were there in late 2016, their calendar reflected the year 2008. That they had a 13-month year, celebrated Christmas in January and New Year’s in September really piqued our curiosity.