Harmony at the Grand Abay Fall (Tis Abay)
By Zergabachew Asfaw M.D. FACP
I arrived at beautiful Bahirdar city on August 25,2022 to attend Bahirdar
University students’ graduation ceremony and deliver Prof Edemariam Tsega’s
award from Hakim Workneh and Melaku Beyan Society to an outstanding
student. My visit was culminated with an amazing visit to the Grand Abay fall. The
whole experience was impactful and sobering.
I was accompanied by my best friend captain Kebede Woldetsadik, as we always
do whenever I visit Ethiopia. One day before the graduation I had to visit the
teaching hospital and new support facilities built that can transform the medical
institute to a state-of-the-art medical center in the country. The graduation
ceremony that took at the university sport stadium on August 27,2022 was
glamorous. A large number of students were graduated in different areas. Some
of them graduated at PHD level. A total of 127 students completed the
requirements to become medical doctors and took Hippocratic oath at the
ceremony. The oath is traditional and reminds young doctors that they should
threat everybody equal without any discrimination. Awards were given to
graduates with outstanding performances.
The next day August 28, 2022, we visited Grand Abay Fall. We started the trip at 8
AM from Sky resort and hotel on a minibus. The ride to the cliffs of Abay gorge
took about forty-five minutes. Then we had to walk downhill on a rocky steep
path towards the historic bridge- 17 th century Portuguese Bridge, the first bridge
to span the Abay River near the fall. Local people told us that it was bult during
the reign of emperor Fasillades and the stones were glued together by ostrich egg
and wheat flour. It is fascinating to look down to the river and adjacent gorge and
appreciate the natural beauty of the land. I felt that I am united with nature, and I
became part of it. It is the wilderness that existed before current civilization. One
can see the natural biodiversity and beauty spreading along the gorge. The
tranquility that I experienced was deep and absorbing. We had to cross a metal
rope bridge across gorge near Hydro-electric plant, Tis Abay (smoke of Abay). The
next phase is an upward journey towards a plateau where one can see the Grand
Abay Fall at a close range. This part was the most challenging walk especially for
me. I had experienced shortness of breath on several occasions because of
change of altitude and extreme exertion. My friend Captain Kebede had a walking
stick, and he had a better balance and stability, and he was able to manage
uneven terrain treks over loose rocks. He was able to advance faster ahead of
many of us while I had struggle not to fall.
When we arrived at the plateau things were different. There was a large tent
filled with people dressed in beautiful national dresses. Festivity has started and
there was music, food and drink. I was told that there were celebrities including
mayor of Bahir Dar in the crowd. There were motivational speeches and others
demanding the regional authorities to help build road that leads to the Grand
Abay Fall. Many individuals, including the mayor, participated in the in-group
dance “eskista”. Then it was announced that anybody who is confident can walk
downhill from the plateau towards the Grand Abay Fall to see it at proximity. I
tried to walk halfway, and I found it very risky and gave up. The mayor Bahir Dar
who is very much younger than me returned gasping after going halfway too. This
observation helped to decide rather than fighting with my ego. Then we had to go
on swamp path towards the river so that we can cross on a motorboat.
There were four motorboats transporting people along the bank of Tana River.
The service was not organized and the crowed waiting for the boat ride was huge.
There was an incidence when a gentle man nearly drawn while attempting to get
on one of the boats as a result of pull and push to get ahead. I noticed that
waiting in a queue is not customary. We managed to get on a boat and crossed
Abay River to the other side where the car was waiting for us. One of our team
members wanted to have tella, local beer. We all endorsed his idea and gathered
in a small hut where tella is sold. We all enjoyed the drink and hospitality of the
local people. They are cheerful and friendly. They were very grateful for the
generous payment that we made, and it seems customary to say blessing for their
customers and thus we received their blessings. We then traveled back on the
minibus to Bahur Dar to a boat waiting for us so that we can visit monasteries
located on islands over lake Tana.
There are thirty islands on lake Tana and several monasteries are located here.
The boat trip was arranged by Bahir Dar University as curtesy for Hakim Workneh
and Melaku Beyan Society. The boat trip took half an hour to the nearest
monastery. This is monastery resided by female only. At the entrance we were
welcomed by a female monk, and we proceeded to the church. We were directed
to the church entrance, and we all entered the church after removing our shoes.
The monk explained the history of the monastery. It was established in the 14 th
century by a monk Ezayesus and it was designated after him. The monastery has
centuries old trees and numerous birds. One can feel eternal tranquility at this
place. Because it was getting dark, we proceeded to the next island which is male
monastery. However, since it was closed, we were given a brief description of the
monastery and we visited its museum.
The harmony that we started at The Great Abay Fall culminated at monastery
whose inhabitants, the monks, are content with their lives and live devotional life.
They said they pray for Ethiopia and the whole world. We were told that there are
numerous invisible monks in the monasteries that pray for Ethiopia. What I
observed during my visit to Bahir Dar is emergence of state-of-the-art medical
center that will come into existence within a few years to replace medical tourism
to Bangkok, Thailand. Ethiopia is stretching her hands to God. The nation needs
peace, harmony, love and prosperity. May harmony prevail!
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Ethiopian Medical History
Photo: Dr. Melaku Beyan. Dr. Melaku Beyan became the first Ethiopian medical doctor to complete his education in the United states in 1935 (Dr. Workneh Eshete became the first Ethiopian doctor to obtain a modern medical education in 1882)
The non-governmental organization, People to People, has just released The Manual of Ethiopian Medical History by Enawgaw Mehari, Kinfe Gebeyehu and Zergabachew Asfaw. The purpose of the publication is to teach the future generation of Ethiopian medical students and health care professionals about Ethiopiaâ€™s medical history.
Mekele University and Bahir Dar University have reportedly agreed to incorporate the study into their medical education curriculum.
Enawgaw Mehari, MD
Kinfe Gebeyehu, MD
Zergabachew Asfaw, MD
Senior Graphic Editor: Matthew I. Watt