VARIETY COLUMN

"...A column for Ethiopian culture, geography, History, literature, music, k'ne, humor, current affairs and the like...."

NUMBER 5 ---< < < < < For the EEDN community > > > > > > --- November 29, 1992


Selam wd wegenoC! Indemn alaCu?

This week's edition of Variety Column will take you to the town of Bati in the Wello region.

BATI

E're Bati, Bati........

Bati gende'liyu........

Teren-wa y'metal

Teshe-faf-new sihedu...

E're Bati, Bati........

goes one of Kassa's Tizeta songs paying tribute to a small town in Wello that has inspired countless verses of songs that celebrate the beauty, romance and poetry of the land and children of Wello.

Bati is a small town you meet as you travel from Dessie high in the central plateau to the lowlands of Afar on your way to the Red Sea port city of Asseb. Bati is a unique place where Dega Ethiopia meets Kola Ethiopia. It is a place where Christian Ethiopia meets Moslem Ethiopia. Oromo Ethiopia, Afar Ethiopia and Amhara Ethiopia meet in this unique place and interact in a remarkable way that sets a positive example to the rest of the nation.

As you read this article this Monday morning, thousands of Ethiopians flock to Bati Gebeya as they have done so regularly for each of the 52 Mondays of the past 200-300 years(*). At around 10 o'clock in the morning, Afars from the Danakil lowlands could be seen leading hundreds of camels to the market. Highland Amhara men clad in 'Bernos' and their women with silver crosses around their necks, Oromo and Amhara Moslem men in their knitted skull-caps are a common sight.

By mid-day, Bati Gebeya is flooded with almost 15,000 people(*) trading in such diverse items as Chinese tea-cups, soap, nafta, batteries, incense, blue jeans, electronic goods, salt etc.. But for most of the people assembled here this Monday morning, business as in selling and buying stuffs is not on the top of the list. It is rather a secondary engagement. Socializing and just watching everybody else seems to be the favorite engagement of everyone here.

For both the highlanders (Dege'gnas) and the lowlanders (Kole-gnas), Bati Gebeya is a whole different world. Afar women, most of them bare-breasted, display their necklaces, bracelets and earrings and their intricate hairdos. The Afar men, often lean and tall, walk around with a rifle slung over their shoulders and a large dagger dangling over their sides. They walk effortlessly and often checking the roundness of their afro hairstyles. Tigrean and Yemeni used to be the main traders here, but with the introduction of the lucrative trade in electronic goods such as tape recorders and VCR, the ever entrepreneurs-the Gurages are establishing a strong presence.

Late in the afternoon, as business winds down to a slow pace and young men and women have flirted, the lowlanders pack up to travel to their homes in the Danakil plains before sunset. And the higlanders, often satisfied with their new purchased batteries and Nafta fuel and occasionally, electronic goods from Taiwan get ready to negotiate the uphill routes to their homes in Kombolcha, Dessie and the environs.

And far in the highlands, shepherds (Ere'gnas), as they have done for hundreds of years, sing aloud songs of love, romance and simple village lives as they lead their cattle back to the "berets' before darkness sets in.

And the land of Wello and town of Bati slip to the doldrums of a quiet evening and week....only to awaken next Monday when it will be one more market day.

____________ end _________________

Belu melkam sa'mnt le-hulachinim.

Samuel Kinde

(*) - reference - Ethiopian Journeys - P. Henze.