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Danakil Ethiopia: Scorched earth
March 1,2015

A sickle-shaped machete is draped across his waist, a Kalashnikov slung over his back and his teeth are filed to points. The man standing in front of me is from the Afar, a tribe known for their ferocity, a tribe that has historically castrated upon capture, a tribe given to ancient enmities. And the guide wonders why I don’t want to sneakily take his photo?

“Quick. Quick,” urges Yegerem. “Don’t ask.” Exasperated. “They will only say no.”

Yegerem takes my camera, takes the photo, hands it back. Exasperated. Again.

And well he might be. But I’ve read the foreign affairs travel advice (ours, Australia’s the Brits’, Canadian, German, anywhere you like says basically don’t go, the people are fierce). I’ve already seen too many revenge towers, none of which are ancient artefacts but living records of scores to be settled. And I know that in 2012 five tourists were shot in the head by local gunmen though the who, what, why of it is still a mystery.

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