Q & A with Kebrabe Matewos [“Keb”], Founder, FANOS Ethiopia Tours, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
“Your gateway to visit Ethiopia.” Multi-day tours given in English, French, German, Spanish, or Italian.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF YOUR COMPANY’S NAME – “FANOS?”
FANOS is a type of lantern used for illumination in some rural parts of Ethiopia. It is a symbol; my goal is to cast a positive light on Ethiopia’s image through quality and personalized tour services.
WHAT NATIONALITIES ARE YOUR GUESTS?
The majority are from Belgium - plus a few other European countries. The number of tourists from the United States is recently increasing.
IS IT DIFFICULT TO COMPETE AGAINST OTHER AFRICAN NATIONS FOR A SHARE OF THE TOURISM MARKET?
From a competitive perspective, yes, Ethiopia receives a smaller share of tourists overall - from other African countries or from other continents. While we certainly have nature worth seeing, we don’t have the same volume of wildlife as you will find in Kenya, Tanzania or South Africa. So we do not focus on “wildlife safaris.” We don’t have “extras” like beaches or ocean access, either.
We emphasize our strengths which are: history, religion, culture, and some nature. Ethiopia is full of contrasts and surprises with one of the richest histories found anywhere on the African continent. Many people here are from some of the oldest civilizations known to mankind.
TELL US BRIEFLY ABOUT YOUR NATURE TOURS.
We visit different mountain parks where we may see, depending on location, such animals as: Gelada baboons, the Simien fox, Wali ibex, and Menelik Bush Buck. We do have a staggering number of birds that are endemic or near-endemic, to Ethiopia, and many can best be seen by visiting the Rift Valley lakes.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PLACES?
I love to travel to the towns of Awassa & Bahir Dar. Both have lakes and a similar altitude and climate. Awassa is the town where I grew up as a child. Also, I enjoy boat rides on Lake Tana to visit the islands with monasteries that were built in medieval times.
IS ETHIOPIA CONSIDERED A SAFE COUNTRY TO VISIT?
Ethiopia is the safest destination in Africa. Aside from the small chance of pick-pocketing or theft, there is zero crime here. So just use the same precautions as you would at home.
IS IT MORE ECONOMICAL TO TRAVEL IN A SMALL GROUP?
Yes, of course. FANOS offers small group packaged tours that are the most economical per person. But we do get requests for tailor-made tours - even for just one person. These are priced higher but also come with more flexibility as to schedule and destination.
To Learn More About Ethiopian Culture and Wildlife Click HERE
VISITORS MAY NOT REALIZE ETHIOPIA'S SIZE AND GEOGRAPHY.
Ethiopia is a huge country, five times the size of Britain. Because of past droughts and famine, some visitors envision only a barren landscape. However, they will see that Ethiopia has many different geographical zones, the two principal being the cool highlands and the hot lowlands that surround them.
The Ethiopian Highlands are at elevations between 1800-2400 meters on average, and there are 20 mountains peaks above 4000 meters. Daytime average temperatures are “moderate.” To the other extreme is the Danakil Depression, more than 100 meters below sea level, where the daytime temperatures get extremely hot!
Southern Ethiopia is ‘divided’ diagonally by the African Rift Valley which continues all the way down to Mozambique. A “chain” of several lakes lies along the valley floor.
We have different styles depending on the tour package or the guest preferences. Very often we rely on a 4WD vehicle. We also walk, hike, or use horses or mules – horse riding is part of an old culture, and you will see that a lot in the rural villages. We do have a few bicycle tours where guests bring their own sturdy bicycle for rough roads, and we provide all the logistics. Occasionally we will take a short flight by plane.
WHAT ABOUT GROUP SIZE?
Typically it can be two people. It varies. For example, we require a minimum of five persons to commence a trip to the remote Danakil Depression.
WHAT ARE HOTELS LIKE?
Our hotel and tourism industry is a more recent phenomenon, and currently we are experiencing a boom in the hotel sector. So we have many options of hotels, resorts, and lodges with different sized rooms. They all come with private bathrooms, WiFi, and breakfast. On certain tours we go camping.
WHAT CLOTHES SHOULD WE PACK?
I recommend a variety of clothing. Keep in mind during the winter months, most parts of the country are warm during the day but then get cold at night.
To protect yourself from the sun, bring a cap with a visor or a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen. Some prefer wearing light and thin long-sleeved shirts and trousers. You will need sturdy walking shoes and light boots for trekking. When visiting churches or other religious sites, men should wear long pants, and women should wear long skirts to cover their legs and a scarf to cover their hair.
You should bring small flashlights with extra batteries and aspirin in case of altitude sickness. These are general suggestions, for more specifics you can email me.
Ethiopian food is one of the world’s best kept secrets. Typically it involves a spicy mix of vegetables, slow-simmered meat, or grain stews called wots. The national dish is Doro Wot which has pieces of chicken and hard-boiled eggs served with a spicy sauce called berbere along with injera, the common cake-like bread of Ethiopia. Shiro Wot is a chickpea stew. Breakfast is often injera sautéed with oil and spices and sometimes combined with meat. As for water, bottled and purified water is available.
IS TIPPING FOR SERVICE EXPECTED IN ETHIOPIA?
In most hotels and restaurants, a 10 per cent service charge is added to the bill. Beyond that, tipping is up to you, it is not mandatory, and the amounts are usually small.
ANY CLOSING REMARKS FOR MY READERS?
Yes, I want to thank you for your interest in Ethiopia and FANOS Ethiopia Tours. Your visit here will have a very positive benefit to our community as we rely on local businesses and individuals to assist us. That includes the guides, cooks, those who provide the horses and mules. It is my pleasure to ensure that you will have a most enjoyable tour that meets and exceeds your expectations.
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