It turns out that on the road between Addis Ababa and Awassa is the centre of the Ethiopian community. I told the driver to make time for a brief visit.
The Rastafarian movement began in Jamaica in the 1920s and 1930s as what has been labeled a "messianic religio-political movement." The most famous "Rasti" is the reggae musician Bob Marley. It is a loose association with no structured organization--more a way of life than an organized religion.
Why in Ethiopia? Because they believe that the former (and deceased) Ethiopian Emperor Hailie Selassie (1892-1975), is divine or a prophet, the spirit of Jesus Christ to guide us today (so I was told). The movement is a mixture of Jamaican culture and pride in their African heritage.
The Ethiopian community here exists in four compounds, only one of which I visited--very basic and rudimentary. The group's lack of structure means that a person`s Rastafarian identity is based on certain personal practices rather than a communal or organizational identity.
The practices? They may surprise you--wearing your hair in dreadlocks, vegetarianism, abstinence from alcohol, and, yes, the ritual use of marijuana.
Here are a few photos from Ethiopia:
Cobblestone streets and walkways: The government has mandated that many streets and walkways be made from cobblestone rather than asphalt. Why? It is cheaper, lasts longer, and all the construction money remains in the local community (unlike the large asphalt paving companies). I managed to see cobblestone in a number of towns that we passed through.
Housing Upgrade: In many villages we would see a traditional house (round `hut`) next to a more 'modern' designed house (still mostly mud structure). It was explained to me that as a family has more income they will build a new home next to the traditional house without dismantling the latter. I observed this pattern throughout many villages as we drove through the southern region.