I recently returned from a voyage into the heart of east Africa. For over two weeks I traveled around the countries of Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somaliland, and Somalia. In these travels I experienced many different places, people, animals, and birds. I would like to share a bit about each of these countries with you as well as a glimpse of what I saw through my videos. I did not see any Meyers Parrots or Red Bellied Parrots but I traveled through the ecosystems where they might be seen. I did see parakeets in Djibouti and share a lot of footage and stories about them. Thank you for reading and enjoy.
In Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia you can see the fossil remains of Lucy the famous Australopithecus afarensis. However, the bones on display are just a copy like in any other museum. The real ones are not publicly displayed for fear of theft. Unlike its surrounding neighbors, Ethiopia is predominantly Christian.
South Sudan is the world's newest nation, accepted into the UN in just 2011. The skies of the capital city of Juba are filled with Black Kites lazily circling about in thermal updrafts. Despite recent hardships, the markets are bustling with commerce and activity. The savannah woodlands of South Sudan are in the middle of the range of Meyer's Parrots, Poicephalus Meyeri. However, because I was visiting during the dry seasons, there was no opportunity to see them. I was told by local farmers that during the wet season they approach in large numbers and pillage the millet harvest.
Khartoum, Sudan's capital city, is located on the merge of the Blue Nile and White Nile. Despite skyscrapers and endless concrete, there's no hiding the fact that the city is located in a desert climate. Sand blows down the streets making you feel like you are located in a sandblasting cabinet. You'll be lucky to find the contours of your face in tact after spending any length of time outdoors. Sudan was the center of the Nubia, a powerful ancient empire that once even conquered Egypt.
Now Eritrea is something else. This little country, once a part of Ethiopia, is one of the world's last remaining totalitarian police states. This little nation took the remains of Ethiopia's coastline entirely away leaving Ethiopia with no access to the Red Sea. Asmara, Eritrea's capital, is a remnant of Italian colonial rule. With it's Art Deco laden boulevards, Fiats, and Cafe's it's not a wonder the city is known as Little Roma. Yet, since the country severed ties with most of its neighbors, it relies almost entirely on domestic commerce. There is very little import so the country is living almost as it did back when Italians lived in those central quarters. Donkeys and manual labor take place of machinery, scrap metal is meticulous reused, and cars are few and far in between. There's never a problem finding a parking spot but buses are packed full. A tank graveyard on the cities outskirts is a reminder of the long war with Ethiopia for independence. Massawa, the port city, to this days lays in ruins since the war some twenty years past.
Although Djibouti borders Eritrea, it was impossible to travel from one country to the next. It required a flight first to Yemen and then to Djibouti because of their severed relations. Unlike Eritrea, Djibouti has good relations with Ethiopia and is prospering on international commerce. Djibouti serves as one of the primary ports of import for Ethiopia. For this reason, it is occasionally possible to see diplomats and businessmen in this unlikely corner of Africa. Lake Assal is a salt water lake below sea level.
Now I have to tell you about who else was staying at the Sheraton hotel. My dad told me he saw a green parrot similar to Kili out the window. I told him he was dreaming, that there can't be Senegal Parrots in East Africa! I didn't believe him till I saw for myself. Except this was no Senegal Parrot. With a long tail and a red chin, it was immediately obvious that this was a Rose-Ringed Parakeet. And sure enough there it was sitting on the outside sill of our hotel window on the top floor. The reason he was there became obvious when I saw the gaping hole in the sill. I sat quietly watching and saw his mate emerge from their little nest. She stretched one wing at a time, dropped, a load, and shot off with the male to follow. They flew over to a nearby tree and got busy. I told them, "Cmon guys! Get a room!" so they did. They flew back over to the Sheraton hotel and went back in to lay eggs in the penthouse suite.
During the daytime, the parakeets were nowhere to be seen or heard. However, in the mornings and evenings they were out and about. I counted at least 3 pairs living in various parts of the hotel wall. Occasionally the parakeets would fly off in small groups to feed on neighboring mango trees but would shortly return to chill in the hotel top. I was thrilled to watch the birds interact with each other and their surroundings for a good length of time. They're shrill calls, green color, and flight patterns make them easily distinguishable from any other local parrot.
We crossed the border by land to neighboring Somaliland. Somaliland is still technically part of the nation of Somalia and is not recognized. However, Somaliland has its own government, currency, border control, and is run more like a nation than the rest of Somalia. Yet, Somaliland is not recognized by the rest of the world as the separate country that it is. The city of Zeila still displays war scars from the fight for independence from Somalia.
There are vast expanses of desert where short of a few camels and herders, there is nothing to be seen for hundreds of miles. Camels are occasionally brought to villages to drink well water and eventually are brought to Hargeisa to be sold in the famous camel market. There are more camels living in Somalia than people. They are used for transport and meat but are mainly exported to Saudi Arabia in exchange for cars and other necessities. Because of out of control inflation, Somaliland's currency is practically worthless. Instead of armored cars, money changers transport their bricks of paper currency by wheelbarrow. Cave paintings in Laas Gaal were only discovered recently and are considered to be nearly 10,000 years old.
The only African animals to be seen in all of Somalia were gathered in one place. The garbage dump! Marabous, Vultures, Spoonbills, Jackals, Hyenas, Baboons, and Warthogs, animals normally found in Africa's Savannahs, are confined to this toxic waste dump. It is the one place they are safe from human predation and food is plentiful. Remains of slaughtered goats, camels, and cows are dumped here and make for a feast to be remembered. Toxic wastepools of motor oils and chemicals form lagoons for water birds. This is a Somalia Safari:
Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, is the world's most dangerous city. A friend of mine exclaimed, "Mogadishu!? Why would you want to go there? If God wanted to give the world an enema, he'd start by sticking the hose in Mogadishu!"
Mogadishu has been war ravished for the last 20 years. The situation has just begun to stabilize and peace hangs by a thin thread. There is no value of human life, dignity, or compassion here. Young children are too busy shooting each other to bother learning to read or write so the literacy rate is under 20%. There is no economy to speak of except exporting a few bananas, most money comes from drugs, looting, ransoming, and piracy. Car bombs, IEDs, terrorists, street war run rampant. There are few places we could even get a glimpse of. The streets are perilous. If you want an idea of what hell looks like, this is it. This is Somalia.