Into the Ethiopian Rift Belt

  The Great Rift Valley, known as the “Scar of the Earth”, starts from the Jordan River and the Dead Sea in the north, enters Ethiopia along the Red Sea in the south, and then passes through Kenya, Tanzania, and the Indian Ocean coast of Mozambique, with a total length of 6,400 kilometers. When we were working in Middle Eastern countries, we have been to the Jordan River, Dead Sea, Gulf of Aqaba and Red Sea many times, which is the tail end of the Great Rift Valley in East Africa. Especially in the Dead Sea area, there is a long and narrow valley with a width of only 10 kilometers from north to south. It is deeply immersed in nearly 400 meters below sea level. The cliffs on both sides are steep, and it really looks like a big “scar”. The faults formed are complete and clear, like a textbook with detailed contents, and it is known as a “natural geological museum”. During my visit to Ethiopia this time, I have the opportunity to approach this world-famous geological wonder again, which is a lifetime wish.
  The rift belt in Ethiopia is the eastern branch of the Great Rift Valley in East Africa. It seems that someone wielded a giant axe and split the central Ethiopian plateau in half from northeast to southwest. In the Danakil Depression between the Awash River and the Omo River, a “scar” with a width of more than 100 kilometers and a depth of nearly 2 kilometers was left. However, from the ground, because the rift zone here is much wider than the Jordan Valley where the Dead Sea is located, it is not as obvious as we see in the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea area.
  When we set off, Mr. Tased Ayaru, deputy director of the Ethiopian International Peace and Development Institute, reminded that Ethiopia is a plateau country dominated by mountains and is known as the “roof of Africa”. With the different altitudes, the climate and vegetation ecology have obvious vertical zone characteristics. Except for the frigid plateau climate zone above 3,500 meters in the north, the Weiqi zone, which we could not experience during our trip, other climate zones with different altitudes can be experienced in person. Near Addis Ababa, it is a temperate mountain climate zone of 2400-3500 meters, the Degas zone, with an annual average temperature of about 15 degrees. The vegetation is mainly eucalyptus, locust and grass, and the pastures are concentrated area. From time to time on both sides of the road, you can see free herds of cattle on the pasture. According to Mr. Tasaid Ayaru, Ethiopia’s land suitable for grazing accounts for more than half of the country’s land area, with nearly 100 million cattle and sheep in herds, ranking first in Africa. However, family grazing is the mainstay, lack of large-scale breeding experience and technology, and poor ability to resist disasters and comprehensive utilization. In fact, it is only a resource yet to be developed. Unconsciously, yellow wood, juniper and olive groves appeared outside the car window, indicating that we have entered the subtropical plateau climate zone of 1800-2400 meters above sea level – the Voinadega belt. The average annual temperature here is 18-24 degrees, and the sunlight shining through the windows is not as soft as before. The car continued to move forward, and the sun had gradually become scorching hot. The dense forest receded, and the scenery changed. On the plains, not far away, there is a dwarf tree with a flat, thin and broad crown like a layer of green clouds. From a distance, it looks like a carefully cultivated bamboo. This is the Acacia tree, a tree species suitable for growing in the wilderness areas with an annual average temperature of 22-26 degrees, strong sunshine, little rain, and dry land. Pull strap sign. After arriving in the rift lake areas such as Kuka and Zwei, where the Awash River Valley is connected to the Omo River Valley, it will enter the tropical desert climate zone below 500 meters above sea level and dominated by plains, lowlands and deserts – Bailey Ha took it. The annual average temperature here is over 30 degrees, not only the sun is scorching hot, but even the wind blowing through the car windows brings a heat wave. Surface vegetation is also replaced by drought-tolerant sea buckthorn, agave, and succulent, prickly cactus. In some places, there are only bare deserts and a puff of camel grass…
  
  Ethiopia is a country dominated by agriculture and animal husbandry. As early as more than 3000 BC, the Negro people engaged in agriculture and animal husbandry here. Around 1000 BC, with the immigration of Hamits and Semites, they brought sorghum, rapeseed, teff, plantain, coffee and other crop varieties and cultivation techniques. Because Ethiopia’s natural conditions are suitable for the growth of coffee, plantains, and chaat (an evergreen shrub of the Phyllodes family, its leaves can produce excitement when chewed, and become addictive for a long time), making it a famous source of these crops. Origin. Among them, coffee is the main export material of Ethiopia, accounting for 95% of the country’s foreign exchange income. In addition to domestic consumption, the chhat leaves, which produce thousands of tons, are mainly sold to Islamic countries around the Red Sea and the Middle East who have the habit of chewing chhat leaves. The Awash Valley is an important agricultural area in Ethiopia. The crops we saw along the way included sorghum, corn, sunflower, barley, wheat, teff, sugar cane and cotton. The history of sugarcane cultivation in Ethiopia is relatively short, and it was only introduced in the 1950s. Of the crops, we are most interested in teff, of course. Injera, the indispensable staple food of Ethiopians every day, is made of noodles ground with teff seeds. On the way, we saw that Ethiopian farmers were carrying bags of threshed wheat and teff to the side of the road to be transported, and they stopped and ran over to look. It turns out that the teff seeds are actually small grass seeds that are much smaller than the sesame seeds. They come in black and white colors, and the latter is the top grade. Because of its small grain size, its yield is much lower than that of wheat, and it is mostly used as pasture in other countries and regions. Only the Ethiopians choose to grind the seeds of teff into noodles as their staple food, and they would rather be famined year after year than accept the proposal of foreign agricultural experts to reduce the teff planting area, and the yield of replanting is many times higher than that of teff. The suggestion of wheat and corn is amazing.
  At the intersection of the Awash River Valley and the Omo River Valley, from north to south, there are a total of 8 rift lakes, large and small, like a string of pearls, forming a unique scenery in the southern rift belt of Ethiopia. Among them, there are 3 saltwater lakes and 5 freshwater lakes. Some lakes are orange-red because they contain iron oxide, while others are blue and clear, maintaining a good natural ecology. There are many rare animals and plants growing by the lake, we have seen argali, deer, gazelle, fox, vervet monkey and squirrel. It is said that in the 1960s and 1970s, there were still fish in some rift lakes or lakeside depressions. They were later hunted by poachers and became extinct. This string of rift lakes and lake depressions, swamps and forests is a paradise for birds. Moreover, these animals and birds are not afraid of people at all and are even happy to be close to people. We saw flocks of egrets, grey cranes, wild ducks and pelicans vying for the little fish that the children threw at them, a picture of people and birds having fun together. In the Akagata Sala National Nature Reserve, we not only saw the largest ostrich with a height of 2.5 meters and a weight of 130 kg, but also saw a small hummingbird with a body length of only 6.3 cm and a weight of less than 3 grams.
  Watching the sunset on the lake is also one of the famous landscapes of Rift Valley Lake. We rushed to the town of Awasa, it was almost dusk. In order to watch the sunset, we didn’t have time to go to the resort to arrange accommodation, so we drove the car directly to the shore of Lake Awasa, where a lot of people had gathered, including European tourists and local residents of Ethiopia. , there are also some hawkers selling handicrafts. Everyone waited quietly by the lake, but unfortunately there were clouds blocking the magnificent scenery in the sunset lake. However, a few dan clouds inlaid with Phnom Penh are reflected in the lake, adding a touch of bright color to the surrounding green mountains and beautiful waters, which is also a rare beauty.
  Like the Jordan River, Dead Sea, and the Gulf of Aqaba, there are many volcanic remains in the rift belt in southern Ethiopia. Just as we left the Awasa Lake and were on our way to the resort, we saw an independent hill rising from the grass in the distance, glowing red in the afterglow of the setting sun. Judging from our long-term experience of working and living in West Asia, the Jordan Valley, and the Dead Sea region, the hills must be formed by the accumulation of volcanic rocks. When we returned to Addis Ababa the next day, we bent over there first, and saw that the hill was indeed made of volcanic ash, and the red and black were distinct, which was really beautiful. In fact, it can be completely transformed into a tourist attraction, and the town government is planning to develop it as a road paving material to improve the road conditions in the south. We really feel a pity. On the way back to Addis Ababa, we not only saw several hills composed of volcanic deposits, but also saw houses and bridges built with volcanic stones, which are also unique. The hills composed of volcanic accumulation rocks are probably common to the Ethiopians for a long time.
  Although we were in a hurry and came and went in a hurry, the trip to the Ethiopian Rift Valley really left a deep impression on us…