Abyssinia Revisited: Letters from Lalibela

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IAS Publishing, May 3, 2019 - Travel - 168 pages

Whatever happened to Abyssinia?

Home to some of Evelyn Waugh's Remote Peoples in the 30s, it has morphed into present-day Ethiopia. To what extent would Waugh still recognise the Abyssinia of old in the Ethiopia of today? As a result of a chance remark, Laurence Impey, expecting to live in contented retirement, found himself volunteering to spend three months teaching English in Lalibela. For centuries a remote and revered place of pilgrimage, Lalibela lies at the heart of Ethiopia's history and culture. What was it like for a septuagenarian to be uprooted from his 21st century creature comforts and conveniences and transplanted into a society still little touched by the industrial revolution, let alone the internet age? This collection of dispatches conveys something of the challenges, surprises and delights he encountered. Writing home to friends and family, he records aspects of his daily experiences: donkeys rather than cars; hands rather than cutlery; jerry cans rather than taps; chalk and talk rather than technology. But these dispatches also highlight the significance of faith and family in a pre-consumerist society, and the value placed on education, "the key to life". This is a book of curiosities, heart-warming observations, and personal reactions to the alien and exotic culture he found in Lalibela - a book to charm, to entice and to give cause for reflection

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