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Ethiopia: Semien Mountains

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The most extensive mountain ranges on the highlands are the Simien Mountains, which lie directly north of Gonder and rise to the fourth highest peak in Africa, situated about 100km north of Gonder to the east side of the Axum road.  The Simien Mountains is one of Africa’s largest rages, studded with at least a dozen peaks topping the 4,000m mark. Other notable heights include: • Mounts Biuat (4,437 m) and
• Abba Yared (4,460 m)
 These comprise Ras Dashen (also spelt Ras Dejen), the highest point in Ethiopia and the fourth highest peak in Africa.
 The western side of the range, excluding Ras Dashen, was designated as the Simien Mountains National Park in 1969, and the entire range was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. The major attractions here are spectacular scenery. Besides, you will have the opportunity to see three of Ethiopia’s four endemic large mammal species in the area: • The Walia Ibex,
• Gelada Baboons and
• A few Ethiopian wolves
.
The Semiens are remarkable as being one of the few spots in Africa where snow recurrently falls.
Despite their ruggedness and altitude, the mountains are scattered with villages linked by tracks.

 Historically populated by Ethiopian Jews (they are also called ‘Beta Israel’ meaning the House of Israel), who after frequent attacks by the zealous Christian Emperors in the 15th century pulled out from the province of Dembiya into the more defensible Semien mountains. First talked about in the Monumentum Adulitanum of the 4th century AD (which portrayed them as “inaccessible mountains covered with snow” and where soldiers walked up to their knees in snow) The occurrence of snow was indisputably witnessed by the 17th century Jesuit priest Jerónimo Lobo. Although the later traveler James Bruce claims that he had never seen snow in the Semien Mountains, the 19th century explorer Henry Salt not only documented that he saw snow there (on 9 April 1814), but gave details the reason for Bruce’s failure to see snow in these mountains — Bruce had ventured no further than the foothills into the Semiens. The area is access is by foot or mule. It would be unrealistic to set aside fewer than four days to see the Simiens (including travel to or from Gonder); six days – or even longer – would be betterAlthough the ideal way to explore the Simien Mountains is over several days hiking or trekking, the new road into the national park makes a full-day trip from Gonder a realistic and more and more popular tour. A more inexpensive alternative is the half-day trip to Kosoye viewpoint 32km from town along the Simien road.

Keywords: Gonder, Simien Mountains, Axum road, gelada baboon, Walia ibex, Ras Dejen,

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