Traveling with the lions

May 10, 2013


Zambia is fully engaged in the rehabilitation and subsequent release of lions back into the wild. This is not just an opportunity for the country to lend a hand to Mother Nature by helping to preserve these majestic animals, it is also a tourism opportunity for visitors to have an up-close and personal experience with the lions.

Lion Encounter operates stage one of the African Lion and Environmental Research Trust’s four stage Rehabilitation and Release into the Wild Program. The first stage of the program involves the young lions being taken out into the Bush, allowing them to build confidence in their natural habitat and practice their hunting techniques before being released into stage two of the program.

Joining the lions walks, participants are actively assisting in the pre-release training for the cubs as well as giving funding for ALERT to develop all stages of the release program, implement conservation and research programs to protect Africa’s precious habitat and wildlife, and engage in a variety of community development and empowerment schemes for those living in and around wildlife conservation areas.

For Lion Encounter Zambia, guests are collected from their lodges and comfortably transported a short distance to the Boma – a hospitality suite overlooking the Zambezi River within the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park – where a friendly hospitality team is waiting to greet participants with a welcome soft-drink or teas and coffees for the early risers, after which they are shown to their seats.

Guests enjoy a short film to give them information on the lion release program, and the film explains why it is necessary to facilitate such a project. It also shows guests some behind the scenes footage regarding ALERT’s others efforts, which benefit communities bordering conservation areas run by the ALERT Communities Trust (ACT) and its other wildlife conservation and research programs through the Conservation Centre for Wild Africa (CCWA).

All participants of the walk then receive the all-important dos and don’ts in a safety talk delivered by their guide. Guests are then ready to meet the lions who are already waiting for them in the Bush.

During the walk itself, guests will be accompanied by experienced guides, handlers, and scouts that ensure rigorous safety procedures are upheld, allowing guests to enjoy watching the lions play, hunt, and enjoy their natural habitat. At times, the lions may rest, allowing guests for some close encounters and opportunities to get a photo with the lions. Guests’ experiences will be enhanced by hearing about the lion as a species as well as receiving the latest updates on the progress of the release program.

For more information, visit the Zambia Tourism Board website: .

New Victoria Falls City to beef up tourism

April 24, 2013

ZAMBIA (eTN) – During a ceremony at Victoria Falls Airport, Walter Mzembi, Minister of Tourism, stated that land had been allocated for a new Victoria Falls City. The city was to be modeled on Niagara Falls City and be home to hotels, theme parks, and casinos. 1,200 has been allocated to the project on the road to the airport. There are also plans to develop Kariba and Masvingo for tourism.

I think we have heard all this before. When the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) meeting was announced to take part at the Victoria Falls, to be shared between Zambia and Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe government pledged to build massive infrastructure. It didn’t happen. It didn’t happen for two reasons. Firstly the government has no money, and secondly the private sector would not take on the challenge. The situation has not changed.

Until Zimbabwe sorts out its political situation and tourists feel comfortable visiting Zimbabwe, the tourism industry cannot be revived. So, the plan to build a new Victoria Falls City will be a pipe dream and maybe is just being mooted for political means.

Meanwhile Victoria Falls Town is gearing itself up for the UNWTO. According to reports, the private sector has spent around US$16million in upgrades for their hotels. The government is working on the airport and roads; electricity and waterworks have been improved, as has Internet connection and medical facilities.

Exodus abandons Omo Valley tours

April 18, 2013

By Oliver Smith
The tribes, known for their tattoos, body paint and lip plates, are a big draw for tourists to the region, but Exodus said the recent construction of a new road has had a negative impact, bringing in too many visitors.
“In the past the Omo Valley was hard to reach, and only a handful of more adventurous tourists would make the journey to visit the tribes,” said a spokesperson. “Many more people have started visiting and tourism to the region is becoming negative – rather than going for a special experience, the Omo Valley has become a place for tourists to simply gawk at the tribes who live there, without respecting their lifestyle and traditions.”
Any holidaymakers with existing bookings will be allowed to complete their trip, but no new ones will be accepted, it said.
In an article written before the recent completion of the new road – which links the southern towns of Konso and Jinka – Susie Grant, a tour guide for Exodus, said: “[The road] will bring more infrastructure to the Omo Valley – better medical and educational facilities, trading and many associated benefits – but, of course, it will mean that some of the tribal culture will be lost.”
She added: “The tribes largely welcome us but unwittingly we can sometimes behave in a culturally unsuitable way. It is important that as travellers we visit sensitive regions like this in a responsible, open-minded way.”
The Omo Valley is home to eight different tribes numbering around 200,000 people in total. A number of other operators continue to offer itineraries to the region, including Wild Frontiers and Explore. Marc Leaderman, head of group tour operations at Wild Frontiers, said he understood Exodus’s decision, but said his company would continue to visit the area, offering tours that provide an “ethical” and “authentic” experience.
“The region has long been a concern,” he said. “Visitors to the Omo are often overwhelmed, and the trading of money for photographs can feel awkward. We’re running just one tour this year, and are working hard to offer something that takes visitors away from the busy villages, and that attracts tourists who are respectful.”
He admitted that a lack of regulation and growing visitor numbers meant “the tide is against us” but said pulling out entirely “would help no-one”, including the tribes who now rely on the income that tourists bring.
Justin Francis, managing director of Responsible Travel, an agent that specialises in ethical holidays, said: “Exodus has clearly given this a lot of thought and I respect their decision – many tourists and travel companies find this a difficult dilemma.
“The real question is what do the tribal communities want? This becomes complex as the communities often do not share the same opinion. Some see tourism as an intrusion from which they see little benefit, others see it as one of the only ways to earn an income and improve their lives.
“I would limit tourist numbers and consult with the communities to determine which would like tourism, and which would not, and on what terms.”
According to human rights groups, the welfare of the tribes is also threatened by the construction of the Gibe III hydroelectric dam and “land grabs” by the Ethiopian government.
Elizabeth Hunter of Survival International, which campaigns on behalf of tribal groups around the world, said: “The Ethiopian government rides roughshod over the rights of the Omo Valley tribes, and is now embarking on a disastrous programme to forcibly resettle them. The decision by Exodus to pull out of the region sends a strong message to the Ethiopian government and aid agencies that the world is watching.”
Source the Telegraph

Ethiopia: Lalibela’s underground churches

February 22, 2013


By Chris Pritchard

Awe-struck visitors often call Lalibela’s underground churches the most impressive sight in all of Africa. They’re also arguably Africa’s most mysterious attraction.
Ruins such as Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and Peru’s Machu Picchu spark intense speculation about how they came to be built – along with unabashed amazement at the ancients’ architectural abilities.

Such destinations are firmly on tourist trails, with multitudinous hotels and diverse attractions to complement exploration of the ruins themselves.

But Lalibela is far less widely known.

Tourists occasionally boast of encountering no other visitors.

Egypt’s pyramids are commonly considered Africa’s top constructed attraction. However, some who’ve eyeballed Lalibela maintain it’s even more memorable than the pyramids of Giza.

My low-level flight from Addis Ababa to Lalibela crosses semi-arid countryside more reminiscent of Australia’s outback than the lush jungles of equatorial Africa. Long ridges extend like giant’s fingers over a harsh landscape. Some farming families’ homes perch precariously at cliff edges.

Lalibela lures foreigners to Ethiopia, a regionally important Horn of Africa nation.

It’s still visited mostly by intrepid backpackers and upmarket tourists (some on escorted packages). Mid-market tourism is in its infancy.

The town is named after King Lalibela, a revered 12th-century monarch. Why were the underground churches built? The answer is a mix of oral history and local legend.

The story goes like this. A prince was miraculously unhurt after being covered as a baby by a swarm of angry bees. It was an omen that he’d one day rule a vast swathe of what is present-day Ethiopia.

However, his brother, the king, was jealous of Lalibela’s popularity and tried poisoning his younger sibling with a herbal potion. Against all odds, the prince survived. But, while drugged by the poison, he was taken to heaven to see a complex of churches. Angels instructed him to build similar structures on earth.

So, when Lalibela became king he assembled a vast army of workers who built 11 churches in three clusters on a patch of land, roughly one square kilometre in size, alongside the town.

The still-used complex remains sacred to just over half of Ethiopia’s 90 million people – followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, one of the world’s oldest Christian denominations which traces its history to the fourth century.

The churches occupy pits, roughly the size of squash courts, scooped from surrounding red earth to expose giant rocks.

Each large church – a few of which are linked by tunnels – is, in fact, a big rock.

Expert carvers painstakingly hollowed the rock to create big chambers complete with ornate religious sculptures.

The end-result looks as if the churches were dropped into the pits that contain them. Though called “underground churches” the sky is visible above.

Priests in ornate robes sit reading Bibles or praying quietly inside churches largely devoid of pews. Instead, the faithful stand – usually leaning against T-shaped sticks.

Some churches are filled with religious art – including gory portrayals of the spearing or impaling of non-believers – as well as elaborately carved relics of gold, brass and wood.

Priests show visitors goatskin bibles, with monks’ handwritten text in distinctive Amharic script interspersed with colourful religious art.

Outside the churches, monks live in caves in the pit walls, relying for survival on donations from local residents and visitors, and spending their waking hours praying or reading religious texts.

A monk invites me to inspect his small cave, signalling me to stand on a wooden box to peer into the dim interior.

It is empty except for a little crate containing all his worldly possessions – and a skeleton in a corner.

An English-speaking guide tells me later that the bones are those of another monk who died many years earlier. These bones, believed holy, were exhumed – and the monk keeps them next to him.

On a mule’s back I make a seven kilometre journey to a small church and monastery called Na’akuto La’ab. It is one of several in the area – natural caves that, over the centuries, have had their mouths covered with stone and doorways constructed.

Water drips from the cave’s roof into a jug. A priest tells me it’s holy water, capable of curing most ills.

To reach the cave we cross farmland, following narrow paths between fields planted with teff (a staple grain common in Ethiopia).

We stop to chat to friendly farmers who are keen to show off their few English phrases.

The locals’ huts resemble those in much of Africa – except that they’re double-storeyed. It’s peculiar to parts of Ethiopia, with a different family occupying each level.

My recalcitrant mule transports me back to Lalibela for repeat visits to several churches. Bete Medhane Alem is the world’s biggest monolithic church; Bete Maryam, according to archaeologists, is the oldest of Lalibela’s holy places; Bete Giyorgis is most visited and in best condition; Bete Golgotha is most sacred, containing a tomb believed to hold King Lalibela’s remains.

But there’s something missing. There’s no-one trying to sell me postcards and guidebooks. Not yet.


Seychelles capital named 3rd most romantic city in the world

December 7, 2012


CNN, one of the world’s leading news and information channels, has voted the Seychelles islands as the third most romantic city in the world after ranking New Orleans of the USA as the first one, followed by Moscow, Russia, in second place. The result of the most eight romantic cities was published on November 14, 2012, on the travel website of CNN America.

Others to have made it onto CNN’s list of the world’s eight most romantic cities are Buenos Aires, Argentina; Amsterdam, Holland; Havana, Cuba; Barcelona, Spain; and Paris, France.

Picking up on this good news is the Apple Daily News, the number one circulation in Hong Kong who reported on the eight cities to have as the most romantic in the world in its article, “New Orleans is the most romantic.”

“Paris does not rank 1st, instead New Orleans which has just been seriously destructed by Hurricane Katrina becomes the most romantic city,” remarked the article.

The article goes on to say that though Paris no longer ranks number one as the most romantic city it is, according to the research conducted by the World Tourism Organization the most popular tourism country.

As for Victoria, Seychelles, the article describes it as “a city with charming beaches, beautiful scenery, not densely populated, full of classical British architectural style, just like a paradise on Earth, average temperature is about 27c, all these make people become more passionate.”

The Seychelles Tourism Board received this news selection with great pride. Elsia Grandcourt, CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board, commented that this selection comes at an opportune time as great marketing efforts are being put on the Asian market visitors.

“Seychelles remains the idyllic destination, attractive not only for romance but an array of niche markets such as eco-tourism, sailing, wellness & spa, diving, snorkelling, and deep sea fishing to appeal to our visitors,” said Mrs. Elsia Grandcourt.

On a similar note, reporting on the voting results on the CNN travel website, journalist Jordan Burchette has described Victoria of Seychelles, saying: “There’s nothing more romantic than being as far from other people as possible, and no capital city offers this kind of isolation with this kind of beachfront.”

“Plus, the architecture of this former British colony often mimics that of its former empire. It’s like they put England somewhere good. The transcendence of its pristine beaches, the prehistoric beauty of Vallee de Mai (the reputed original Garden of Eden), the eroticism of moutya dancing, which increases as the rhythm quickens,” added Jordan Burchette.

Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister responsible for Tourism & Culture, said that CNN’s assessment of Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles, reflected what our visitors say, “’A city with charming beaches, beautiful scenery, not densely populated,  full of classical British architectural style, just like a paradise on Earth, average temperature is about 27c, all these make people become more passionate,’ is a fair description of Victoria,” Minister St.Ange said.

Seychelles prides itself to be safe and clean and said the Minister, “We are a year-round tourism destination, because we have no winter – so our clean and white sandy beaches will offer unrivaled swimming in our clear and clean turquoise blue seas 365 days of the year.”

Seychelles is a founding member of the International Coalition of Tourism Partners (ICTP).

Source: Seychelles Ministry of Tourism and Culture
Source: Global Travel News

In Ethiopia, faith of centuries, carved in stone

November 20, 2012


By Michael Fabey

The van progressed at a pilgrim’s pace, rattling along the rutted Ethiopian mountain road past the hamlets of huts and bouncing alongside the stream of donkeys, cows and schoolchildren making their daily journeys.Swarms of people played and watched games of table tennis on boards propped up on the uneven, dusty footpaths, next to little stalls where grizzled men and women sewed and weaved and watched the traffic of people, beasts and vehicles.These mountain masses of Ethiopians were quite used to vans of tourists making the trek from Lalibela Airport to the rock-hewn churches dug, chiseled and sculpted in the hills above in the mystical days of the medieval millennia. Ethiopia’s remote mountain enclaves have been Orthodox Christian strongholds for centuries.Our guide Wondefraw Girma, in true Ethiopian tradition, weaved tales and legends of magic, of how the Queen of Sheba journeyed from these hills to seek Solomon because, as the queen said in the Kebra Nagast, Ethiopia’s national epic, “Wisdom is the best of all treasures.”

But the queen returned with more than the wisdom of Solomon. She also bore him a son, who brought back the “true Ark of the Covenant” to these hallowed hills — where, many in the country believe, it still rests.

It may sound like the stuff of an Indiana Jones movie, but for Ethiopians, these religious precepts are serious business. The country is an island in a sea of Islamic nations, and for hundreds of years, Christianity, Islam and even native animism have all shared the same faith space.

A sense of history and tradition is inescapable here. At restaurants like Yod Abyssinia in Addis Ababa, the nation’s capital, local troupes contort themselves to traditional dances like the eskista as diners enjoy foods such as kitfo, a beef dish, and injera, the pancake-like flatbread that’s a staple of the country. Tej, the local honey-wine, makes you smack your lips and lose depth perception rather quickly.

But it’s about 400 miles north of the capital that Ethiopia’s sense of history really takes hold. Watching the sun sinking below the western rim of Lake Tana, coating the still, blue water with an orange sheen, I recalled the many battles waged around its now placid shores.

This lake fills a thousand square miles with a drainage area five times that size. It is the source of the Blue Nile, and, some believed, it provided the realm with special powers: The Egyptians thought Ethiopians controlled the river’s flow. The river and its source were, in the words of historian Alan Moorehead, “cloaked in mystery” until only a couple of centuries ago.

From here, Emperor Tewodros tried to create order from chaos in the mid-1800s, with a tyrant’s hand. The English disposed of him with an invading force, but the Brits didn’t stay. Italy tried to rule here, too, just before the advent of World War II. They didn’t last long, either. Other than Liberia, Ethiopia is the only African country never to be colonized.

With wars, as with real estate, everything is location, location, location. And these mountains surrounding Lake Tana and the region, home to early Ethiopian capitals, served as a natural fortress against invaders, African or European. The mountains were ideal, too, for hatching and growing, like those surrounding the rock-hewn churches.

King Lalibela, the story goes, was poisoned by his half-brother about a thousand years ago. The ancient monarch slipped into a coma and visited the heavens, where he was ordered to return to Earth and build the churches, to create a New Jerusalem.

The 11 churches, a Unesco heritage site, stand as a monument of human forbearance, fervor and spirit. Climbing through the rock passageways and grottos past crypts and polished stone walls towering to the sky is like taking a trek back through time.

It cost a bit more than $12 to visit the churches and another $6 to capture them on video. A local guide costs about $9, and because shoes are not allowed, visitors should factor in a small tip for the “shoe bearer” who will watch their footwear while they venture inside.

The most striking church is Bet Giyorgis, built to honor St. George, the nation’s patron. Looking at the church — shaped like an enormous Greek cross with its roof, walls and windows intricately carved and chiseled with ornamental flourish — and listening to priests chant in the background, I couldn’t help but wonder how the medieval Ethiopians performed such a task with the most primitive of tools.

Ethiopia’s forgotten attraction

October 9, 2012

BY Tsegaye Tadesse

The crocodile ranch lies almost hidden and largely forgotten behind the  airport in Ethiopia’s southern town of Arba Minch.

The country’s first crocodile farm, it was built by an enterprising  government official in the 1980s to generate foreign currency in one of Africa’s  poorest countries, where people mainly live from subsistence farming.

But the ranch has since fallen into disrepair, its decline a symbol of the  challenges facing Ethiopia as it seeks to lure more tourists to its mountainous  ranges and seemingly endless plains.

At the end of a narrow path, the crocodiles laze in deep pools, their eyes  glittering as they stare down nervous visitors. Separated according to age, the  crocodiles feast on horse meat twice a week.


Thousands of the reptiles are reared in these cement-floored pools, but the  paths leading to the ranch’s star attraction are covered with weeds and hidden  in the dense overgrowth.

Metal fences meant to protect visitors from the crocodiles’ jaws are rusted  and broken in places.

“The place would have been a gold mine, if it had been privatised to a  commercial-minded investor,” one visitor said.

Ethiopia may struggle to reach its target of attracting one million tourists  a year within the next decade.

It’s not that the country — labelled the cradle of mankind after the  discovery of ancient human remains — lacks attractions but its infrastructure  is creaking, with poor roads and a lack of hotels. A 1998-2000 border war with  Eritrea also hit tourist earnings.

Nonetheless, the government aims to promote Ethiopia as one of the top 10  tourist destinations in Africa by 2016, hoping to reap $US650 million ($A873.50  million) a year in much-needed foreign receipts.

Last year, the Horn of Africa country hosted around 227,000 tourists, earning  $US156 million ($A210 million) in foreign exchange, compared with the $US134.5  million ($A181 million) earned from 184,000 visitors the previous year,  according to ministry of tourism figures.

Like many other potential money-spinners, the crocodile ranch is crying out  for investment to improve facilities and boost earnings.

Ethiopia boasts medieval cities, rich in ruined castles, palaces and  churches. One of its holiest cities, Axum, offers teetering stelae, underground  tombs and ancient inscriptions, while the 13th century rock-hewn churches of  Lalibela feature carvings of saints and mystical symbols.

The country has eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

But most visitors would never come across the Arba Minch crocodile farm,  which generated a paltry $US48,000 ($A64,503) from visitors in 2000 — far below  its overhead expenses.

Some 500km south of the capital Addis Ababa, Arba Minch is studded with  glistening lakes formed from bubbling streams that flow through the tropical  forests on nearby slopes.

The lakes give the town its Amharic name which means “40 springs” in  Ethiopia’s official language.

Estifanos Endeshaw, one of the ranch’s guides, said some 5,000 crocodiles are  fished out of Lakes Chamo and Abaya each year to be reared on the farm.

Scouts from the ranch scour the lakes’ sandy beaches in search of the hidden  nooks where the crocodiles lay their eggs.

Three months after the eggs hatch, the baby crocs are transported back to the  ranch where they spend the next year in a nursery pool. It takes up to 15 years  for a crocodile to develop into a full-bodied reptile.

Twice a week huge chunks of horse meat are thrown to the crocodiles. The  horses are bought at a nearby market and kept on the ranch before being  slaughtered and fed to the crocodiles.

Some of the crocodiles are killed on the ranch, their skins destined to be  used to make expensive shoes, handbags and belts, mainly for export.

“The crocodiles being reared in the ranch are mostly for tourist attraction,  although those which are old enough are shot for their skins,” Estifanos  said.


Etihad Airways to launch flights to Ethiopia

July 6, 2012

Best Airline by all means.

Ethad Airways will add  the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to its rapidly growing network in November  2012.

The airline will also  start flying to the Indian city of Ahmedabad in the same month. The two new cities  will expand the airline’s reach to 86 passenger and cargo destinations around  the world.

The new routes will each  be served by an Airbus A320 aircraft and support Etihad Airways’ aims to  connect key strategic cities with its home base of Abu Dhabi, enhancing commercial  and leisure travel with the UAE’s capital city.

Flights between Abu  Dhabi and Addis Ababa, its ninth destination in Africa, will initially operate five  times a week, increasing to daily in 2013. Flights will operate daily between  Abu Dhabi and Ahmedabad, the airline’s ninth destination in India.

James Hogan, Etihad  Airways’ President and Chief Executive Officer, said: “We continue to build  strength and depth to our global network and the addition of Addis Ababa, a major  East African hub, and Ahmedabad, the fifth largest city in India, will make  significant contributions to traffic flows to Abu Dhabi and beyond.

“Addis Ababa and  Ahmedabad are economic centres in their respective countries and daily flights  to Abu Dhabi will build greater ties with the UAE’s capital as it continues to  invest in world-class development projects and attract business and leisure  travellers.”

Ethiopia is the  largest African market that Etihad Airways is yet to serve and the second most  populous country in Africa. It is expected to contribute strong business and  leisure traffic within the airline’s network.

There is also a  growing Ethiopian population living and working in Abu Dhabi and the UAE which  will benefit from the new Abu Dhabi   Addis Ababa service.

Etihad Airways’ new  service to Ahmedabad will offer nearly 1,000 seats a week into the Guajarati  city and the November 2012 launch will coincide with the beginning of the peak  travel season in India.

The airline  anticipates strong traffic flows from Ahmedabad to Abu Dhabi and onto its  European and US destinations. It also underlines Etihad Airways’ commitment to  serve the major population centres across India with direct flights to Abu  Dhabi.

The A320 aircraft  that will serve Addis Ababa and Ahmedabad have two cabins with 16 Pearl Business  Class seats and 120 Coral Economy Class seats.

DNA clues to Queen of Sheba tale-Ethiopia

June 22, 2012

Modern day Ethiopians show great cultural, linguistic and historical diversity

By Helen Briggs

Clues to the origins of the Queen of Sheba legend are written in the DNA of some Africans, according to scientists.

Genetic research suggests Ethiopians mixed with Egyptian, Israeli or Syrian populations about 3,000 years ago.

This is the time the queen, mentioned in great religious works, is said to have ruled the kingdom of Sheba.

The Queen of Sheba

  • Queen mentioned in the Bible, the Koran and the Ethiopian Kabra Nagast
  • Sheba was a rich kingdom that prospered through trade with Jerusalem and the Roman Empire, and spanned modern day Ethiopia and Yemen
  • Queen said to have visited Jerusalem with gold to give to King Solomon
  • Some texts record that she had a son with King Solomon

According to fossil evidence, human history goes back longer in Ethiopia than anywhere else in the world. But little has been known until now about the human genetics of Ethiopians.

Professor Chris Tyler-Smith of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK, a researcher on the study, told BBC News: “Genetics can tell us about historical events.

“By analysing the genetics of Ethiopia and several other regions we can see that there was gene flow into Ethiopia, probably from the Levant, around 3,000 years ago, and this fits perfectly with the story of the Queen of Sheba.”

“Start Quote

This paper sheds light on the very interesting recent and ancient population history of a region that played an important role in both recent and ancient human migration events”

End Quote Dr Sarah Tishcoff Department of Genetics and Biology at the University of Pennsylvania

Lead researcher Luca Pagani of the University of Cambridge and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute added: “The genetic evidence is in support of the legend of the Queen of Sheba.”

More than 200 individuals from 10 Ethiopian and two neighbouring African populations were analysed in the largest genetic investigation of its kind on Ethiopian populations.

About a million genetic letters in each genome were studied. Previous Ethiopian genetic studies have focussed on smaller sections of the human genome and mitochondrial DNA, which passes along the maternal line.

Dr Sarah Tishcoff of the Department of Genetics and Biology at the University of Pennsylvania, said Ethiopia would be an important region to study in the future.

Commenting on the study, she said: “Ethiopia is a very diverse region culturally and linguistically but, until now, we’ve known little about genetic diversity in the region.

“This paper sheds light on the very interesting recent and ancient population history of a region that played an important role in both recent and ancient human migration events.

“In particular, the inference of timing and location of admixture with populations from the Levant is very interesting and is a unique example of how genetic data can be integrated with historical data.”

The scientists acknowledge that there are uncertainties about dating, with a probable margin of error of a few hundred years either side of 3,000 years.

They plan to look at all three billion genetic letters of DNA in the genome of individual Ethiopians to learn more about human genetic diversity and evolution.

Source BBC News

Beijing to share more of Great Wall with tourists

June 20, 2012

Ever-increasing visitor numbers have prompted authorities  in Beijing to ready more sections of the Great Wall of China for tourists.

The capital plans to add the Huanghuacheng and Hefangkou  sections of the Wall to the existing four parts of the fortification open to the  public following necessary repairs and renovations.

Beijing Cultural Relics Bureau (BCRB) chief Kong Fanzhi  said the already opened Mutianyu and Badaling sections of the Great Wall would  also be extended to cater for burgeoning visitor numbers, China Daily reported.

Mr Kong said the initiatives aimed to “better protect”  the Great Wall by “diverting visitors and reducing the load” on the parts of  the fortification currently open to tourists.

According to the bureau chief, Beijing has invested millions of yuan into the repair of the Wall,  which he says is buckling under the weight of mass domestic and international  tourism, particularly on weekends and during holidays.

Making matters worse, a rising number of tourists are climbing  parts of the Great Wall closed off to the public, causing further damage to the  Chinese icon.

Despite this burden, BCRB Department of Preservation  director Wang Yuwei said most of the 60 kilometers of the Great Wall in the  capital had been kept in “good condition”.

No date has been set for the opening of the new sections,  the bureau said.

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that the Great Wall of China is nearly two and a half times the length it was widely believed to have been.

According to local media, in its recent survey report,  the State Administration of Cultural Heritage deemed the wall to be 21,296  kilometres (13,233 miles) – much longer than the previously estimated 8,852 kilometres  (5,500 miles).

Yan Jianmin,  office director of the China Great Wall Society, said the sizable  discrepancy had arisen as previous estimations had only referred to Great Walls  built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

“But this new measure includes Great Walls built in all dynasties,” he  said.

In related news, archaeologists working on the latest dig  at the site of the  Terracotta  Warriors in Xi’an have said the project has unearthed more than 300  important artefacts including tools, weapons, parts of chariots, twelve pottery  horses and most notably, around 120 more warriors.

The third dig to take place in the museum’s number one pit in Xi’an,  capital of Northwest China’s Shaanxi province, began in 2009.

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