Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Scot went walkin'

A Scot went walkin', and when he walked back no one believed he'd seen what he said.

Eight hundred years ago King Lalibela created a marvelous gift to the world. Often called the Eighth Wonder of the World, Lalibela contains towering churches that were carved from the soft, volcanic tuff in which they stand. Some lie almost completely hidden in deep trenches, and others stand in open quarried caves. A complex and bewildering labyrinth of tunnels and narrow passageways with crypts, grottoes, and galleries connects them all. Within this mystical world, priests go about their daily tasks, seemingly oblivious of the outside world. Standing 38 feet tall with seventy-two pillars, Medhane Alem is not only the largest in Lalibela, it is the largest monolithic rock-hewn church in the world. The oldest of the churches, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Bet Maryam is the only Lalibela monolith with a porch. The remains of exquisite early frescoes can be seen on the ceiling and upper walls, and there are many elaborately carved details on the piers, capitals, and arches.

Those who wish to practice their Gaelic can turn to the following link for more details of Ethiopian Christianity.

Some people build up churches by cutting things into pieces and stacking them atop each other, and others dig a hole and leave the core to carve away. Some people write about Ethiopia in Gaelic. And some bloggers don't have a copy of Alan Moorehead, The Blue Nile, but they have two copies of his The White Nile. Some people come across as strange, and others one should just shoot. Our best friend didn't realize till just now he doesn't have the right book, and now can't quote the story of the Scottish explorer who walked to Ethiopia in the 18th century. But I did find a brief reference to James Bruce at

In the 18th century James Bruce declared that he had been to the source of the Blue Nile. He was brave and determined and a dedicated amateur. Bruce thought the Blue Nile was the main stream and the White Nile was a tributary. Affairs in Ethiopia were nightmarish. The Ethiopian warriors were impressed by the power of his rifle. His book appeared in 1790, seventeen years after his expedition.
Reviewer:Mary E. Sibley

And more from Wikipedia:

James Bruce, (December 14, 1730 – April 27, 1794) was a Scottish traveller and travel writer who spent more than a dozen years in North Africa and Abyssinia (Ethiopia) where he traced the Blue Nile.

On the outbreak of war with Spain in 1762 he submitted to the British government a plan for an attack on Ferrol. His suggestion was not adopted, but it led to his selection by the 2nd Earl of Halifax for the post of British consul at Algiers, with a commission to study the ancient ruins in that country, in which interest had been excited by the descriptions sent home by Thomas Shaw (1694–1751), who was consular chaplain at Algiers. Having spent six months in Italy studying antiquities, Bruce reached Algiers in March 1763. The whole of his time was taken up with his consular duties at the piratical court of the dey, and he was kept without the assistance promised. But in August 1765, a successor in the consulate having arrived, Bruce began his exploration of the Roman ruins in Barbary. Having examined many ruins in eastern Algeria, he travelled by land from Tunis to Tripoli, and at Ptolemeta took passage for Candia; but was shipwrecked near Bengazi and had to swim ashore. He eventually reached Crete, and sailing thence to Sidon, travelled through Syria, visiting Palmyra and Baalbek. Throughout his journeyings in Barbary and the Levant, Bruce made careful drawings of the many ruins he examined. He also acquired a sufficient knowledge of medicine to enable him to pass in the East as a physician.

In June 1768 he arrived at Alexandria, having resolved to endeavour to discover the source of the Nile, which he believed to rise in Ethiopia. At Cairo he gained the support of the Mameluke ruler, Ali Bey; after visiting Thebes (where here entered the tomb of Ramesses III, KV11) he crossed the desert to Kosseir, where he embarked in the dress of a Turkish sailor. He reached Jidda in May 1769, and after a stay in Arabia he recrossed the Red Sea and landed at Massawa, then in possession of the Turks, on September 19. He reached Gondar, then the capital of Ethiopia, on February 14, 1770, where he was well received by the nəgusä nägäst Tekle Haymanot II, by Ras Mikael Sehul, the real ruler of the country, by Ozoro Esther, wife of the Ras, and by the Ethiopians generally. His fine presence (he was 6 ft. 4 in.. high), his knowledge of Geez, his excellence in sports, his courage, resource and self-esteem, all told in his favor among a people who were in general distrustful of all foreigners. He stayed in Ethiopia for two years, gaining knowledge which enabled him subsequently to present a perfect picture of Ethiopian life. On November 14, 1770 he reached Lake Tana, the long-sought source of the Blue Nile. Though admitting that the White Nile was the larger stream, Bruce claimed that the Blue Nile was the Nile of the ancients and that he was thus the discoverer of its source. The Jesuit missionary Pedro Paez is widely regarded by historians as having been the first European to reach the site; Bruce, however, disputed his claim and suggested that the relevant passage in Paez's memoirs had been fabricated by Athanasius Kircher.

Setting out from Gondar in December 1771, Bruce made his way, in spite of enormous difficulties, by Sennar to Nubia, being the first to trace the Blue Nile to its confluence with the White Nile. On November 29, 1772 he reached Aswan, presently returning to the desert to recover his journals and his baggage, which had been abandoned in consequence of the death of all his camels. Cairo was reached in January 1773, and in March Bruce arrived in France, where he was welcomed by Buffon and other savants. He came to London in 1774, but, offended by the incredulity with which his story was received, retired to his home at Kinnaird. It was not until 1790 that, urged by his friend Daines Barrington, he published his Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile, In the Years 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772 and 1773, but was assailed by other travellers as being unworthy of credence. The substantial accuracy of his Abyssinian travels has since been demonstrated, and it is considered that he made a real addition to the geographical knowledge of his day.

Right about now most readers are probably saying: "?!"

Yes, it's Christmas, and most people in the Modern world are not likely dwelling on an eighteenth century explorer who walked to Ethiopia. Those of us who are, well, we chuckle, don't we? That's because we know that our fellows in Ethiopia are now at war with jihadis in Somalia, and that we too could be like our friend and mentor, James Bruce. Yes, this new year could see us going to Ethiopia to volunteer to help in the war against Islamic fascism. Cool, huh? You could surprise the kids no end. And your grandchildren would have a marvelous time at school during "Show and Tell" with stuff you send back from the front.

There's no good reason at all why we can't go to Ethiopia and fight with the locals against the jihadis.

All I need for Christmas is a round-trip ticket to Addis Ababa. We can go walk-about, and folks will never believe the tales we tell.


Pastorius said...

Merry Christmas, Dag.

Another year isn't almost gone, and our counter-Jihad numbers have increased, but so have the numbers of the enemy.

Keep fighting. You're a very important voice.

truepeers said...

An ancient Christian nation buried and alive in Africa... not just to believe it's there but to help defend... what a blessing you have,

Merry Christmas!

Always On Watch said...

From this source, on December 24:

BAIDOA, Somalia (Reuters) - Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said on Sunday he was waging war against Somalia's Islamists to protect his country's sovereignty, intensifying a conflict that threatens to engulf the Horn of Africa....

The war declared long ago and manifesting itself in many different places does indeed continue, even on this Christmas Day, while we are preparing to feast and enjoy fellowship with friends and family. And most people I know don't want to look at the news today so as not to spoil their good time. The rest of the year, many choose to bury their heads in the sand or to tell themselves, "It's over there. It doesn't affect me." And when in a few hours my husband and I go to a neighbors' house for dinner, the discussion of politics has been banned at the dinner table. I'll respect the wishes of my host on this one day; the rest of the year, they get an earful.

My mind will not shut off. It hasn't shut off since 9/11. I've lost a few friends over this "obsession" I have, but I've gained many more friends--mostly but not limited to the blogosphere.

Last night, my family met to exchange gifts; we do our family celebration on Christmas Eve, in the Southern tradition. One of the gifts I received was a rain gauge in the shape of an infidel pig. As the family said, "Your porch is filled with infidel pigs." Yes, we are proud infidels here in this family! Not all of us are a part of the counter-jihad, but I certainly am!

So, Dag, all this blabbing to preface my wishing you a Merry Christmas.

Fight on! Keep raising your voice.

Anonymous said...

Wow! That is really cool. So many things in the world that I've never heard of.... I do know about the grass eating baboons in Ethiopia though:^) I have a very dear Ethiopian friend, Coptic. She is a true saint,, visited me every day I was in the hospital with pneumonia.

Merry merry Christmas Dag! I'm looking forward to your writing in 2007!

Dag said...

I have the pleasure and privilege of dining this Christmas evening with Jane, a nice time with a friend who makes the day enjoyable regardless of the holiday. On behalf of both of us, we wish you all a Merry Christmas.