Bahir Dar

Bahir Dar is a city in north western Ethiopia and the capital of the Amhara Administrative Region. The city is situated on the southern shore of the source of the Blue Nile.It is 550 kilometers from Addis Ababa, the capital city. Its climate is somewhat tropical and different from the typical highland climate of northeastern Shoa. 

The Tana area forms part of the traditional homeland of the christian Amhara people whose language (Amharic ) was and still is the National dialect of Ethiopia.It has a population of over 200,000, and at least 15,000 people are said to live on the islands in the lake. Bahir Dar is home to Bahir Dar University (BDU).

Set at more than 1,800 meters above sea level, Lake Tana is 75 kilometers long and 60 kilometers wide. Its 3,600-square-kilometer surface is dotted with more than 37 islands – many of which are home to ancient monasteries and churches containing religiouse frescoes and artifacts. Thus the city makes a pleasant base from which to explore the areas main sites: the Blue Nile Falls and the Island monasteries of Lake Tana.

Among the nearest monasteries to Bahir Dar are Kebran Gabriel, which is forbidden to women, and Ura Kidanmehret, which contains an impressive treasury of ancient illuminated Bibles in the Ge’ez script. The building is decorated with a number of external and internal frescoes of religious significance.

Bahir-dar Market is well worth exploring particularly on the main market day -Saturday. In addition to the different kinds of cereals, vegetables, fruits and spices, you would see colorful striped woven clothes and Agelgil-a kind of grass product bounded externally by leather used by local travelers for transporting their food (injera and wat). In cities like Addis Ababa, people use the Agelgi (local lunch box) when they want to spend a day out of Addis Ababa (in recreational places). On wedding ceremonies this lunch box is widely used too. In houses of city dwellers agelgil, especially the smaller ones are used as a wall decoration.

Lake Tana

Lake Tana is the largest lake in Ethiopia and is the source of the Blue Nile River, which flows to Khartoum, Sudan and beyond. There are 37 islands in the lake, upon which some 20 monasteries from the 14th and 17th century exist.  Although it is relatively small in comparison with the three “great lakes” of East Africa Lake Tana is very important to Ethiopia as a permanent source of both water and hydroelectric power. The lake is situated in the northern highlands at an altitude of approximately 1800 meters. Four perennial rivers and numerous seasonal streams feed the lake. Rainfall averages 1315 mm/year, but evaporation is higher, about 1800 mm/year. With a mean depth of 8 meters only, the alternating dry and rainy seasons result in an average difference of 1.5 to 2 meters between the lowest (May-June) and highest (October-November) lake levels.

Lake Tana was formed by a volcanic blockage that reversed the previously north-flowing Blue Nile and created one of Africa’s greatest waterfalls, known as Tis Abay or Tis Isat. The falls isolated the lake, in which 18 species of barbus fish evolved, the only extended cyprinid species flock in Africa and the only intact flock in the world. The only other known flock, in Lake Lanao, in the Philippines, has been decimated by introduced species.Lake Tana is also one of 250 lakes identified by LakeNet as having globally significant biodiversity.

The Lake Tana Basin significantly contributes to the livelihoods of tens of millions of people in the lower Nile River basin. The fish resource potential of the Lake Tana itself is over 10,000 metric tons per year. The lake is also a natural reservoir for the eighty-megawatt runoff power station at Tis Abay.

The largest city on the lake shore, Bahir Dar, has a population of over 200,000, and at least 15,000 people are said to live on the islands in the lake. Bahir Dar is the capital of the Amhara Province and is home to Bahir Dar University (BDU), which was established in the 1990s by the Ministry of Education, by amalgamating agricultural and teacher training institutions.

 The Blue Nile Falls

The Blue Nile falls into a canyon to form one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Africa, --150 feet high and about a half mile wide, these millions of gallons of water gush downward creating a cloud of mist which is called Tisisat--"a Smoking fire".

The first person to make his way to the source, perhaps in search of the Ark of Covenant, was the Scot James Bruce. James Bruce, in his search for the source of the Nile, came upon the falls in 1770 and described it perfectly as:

“The river ... fell in one sheet of water, without any interval, above half an English mile in breadth, with a force and a noise that was truly terrible, and which stunned and made me, for a time, perfectly dizzy. A thick fume, or haze, covered the fall all around, and hung over the course of the stream both above and below, marking its track, though the water was not seen. ... It was a most magnificent sight, that ages, added to the greatest length of human life, would not deface or eradicate from my memory.”

The second chapter of the book of Genesis refers to the rivers that flow through the Garden of Eden:

“And the name of the second river is Ghion; the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.”

The Blue Nile, sweeping out from Lake Tana in a wide loop, does indeed encompass the ancient land of Ethiopia.

The Blue Nile leaves Lake Tana on an unassuming path lined with grassy banks, gently sloping hills, wild papyrus, green pastures, a scattering of buildings and straw huts on the outskirts of Bahir Dar before collapsing violently down into sharp canyons of basaltic rock. This same river, which holds part of its heart in Ethiopia (over 800km in length), is the longest river in Africa. While the White Nile is the longer of the two streams that join in Khartoum to create the Nile proper, it is the Blue Nile that contributes about 85 percent of the water that powers Egypt, and most of the precious silt that nourishes its banks.

What Happened now??

A new $63 million, 450-megawatt power-generating station (built by Chinese and Serbian contractors) called Tis Abay II is diverting the water just before the fall and re-depositing it a few hundred yards downstream. Now about 75% of this same water is rolling down a giant canal to the west of the river, into a massive concrete spillway. Tourists should expect to see only a quarter of the fall.

Somehow the project sailed to completion without the cognizance of any international environmental watchdog group, or any journalists.

Monasteries of Lake Tana

There are about 37 Islands on lake Tana , the largest lake in Ethiopia. Many of Lake Tana's Islands and peninsuals shelter churches and monasteries of historical and cultural interest most of which were founded in or before the 15th century are still in service today .some of these include Narge SelassieDega Istifanos,Ura KidanemeheretTana Cherkos, Kibran Gebriel, and Debre Mariam. Access for some of the churches is closed to women, who are allowed to land on the banks of the island but not permitted to proceed further.

There are also other Islands which are suitable for bird lovers and are considered as nature sanctuaries . Mitsel Fasiladas Island is a breeding ground for wetland birds. The Zege Peninsula, which supports by far the largest remaining tract of natural forest on Lake Tana, still harbours monkeys and various forest birds, while most of the monastic islands remain remarkably undisturbed in environmental terms. Other places known for bird life include the area around Debre Mariam, the outlet of the Blue Nile,the eastern shore of Lake Tana and the south Western end of Narge Selassie. 



























































































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