My hotel was sponsoring a conference for the “Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association”. I was excited to meet some of these women as we shared a dining table for lunch. I was invited to a graduation party for a handful of young women just graduating from Addis Ababa University. The party started with a traditional coffee ceremony. I was allowed to take a picture of the coffee service as long as I blurred out the server’s face.
The graduating women were in traditional dresses. One of the graduates (now with a degree in fashion design) had designed and made all of their dresses. I would love to have had a picture of the group, but it was not allowed.
It was my honor to toast the graduates with their local honey wine. After several abysmal attempts at “Ley Tay Notay Chen” we agreed on “Cheers”!
Despite my repeated polite refusals, they insisted that I dance. This was when I noticed the altitude: 7,000 feet above sea level. Who knew Ethiopia was so high. All in all, it was an absolutely wonderful evening. The graduates had changed back into their street clothes and I was allowed to take a picture with the most outgoing of them, Tsion (pronounced Zion) who now has a degree in Civil Engineering. All beautiful, talented women just launching their careers. I did offer to bring them all home with me but of course they feared being deported...
Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony
The server first roasts green coffee beans over a hot fire. She then offers the pan around the room to allow the aroma to waft. She grinds the coffee beans by hand using a mortar and pestle.
The coffee is then brewed in the traditional pot called a Jebena.
On the serving tray is a bowl of burning Frankincense.