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Thread: The Heart of Africa: A Visitor's Guide to Modern Ethiopia

  1. #61
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    OOC Notes:

    The aerial shot of the New City is actually an image I found online. It apparently represents how Fascist Italian city planners imagined rebuilding Addis Ababa into the center of their East African holdings. Typically fascist, it emphasizes monuments, rigidity,control, and segregation of populations and functions. The idea was to create a gleaming faux-italian modern city center for the whites and colonial government, with strictly controlled suburbs for the Ethiopians who would, of course, do all the actual work. Thankfully, they got their asses run off the continent before they could implement it.

    The postcard is actually a painting of the 1911 World's Fair in Turin, Italy. Since Italy never formed in game, and I know I had the World's Fair and Olympic events at least once (and the other fair and exhibition events many times) I figured I'd appropriate it.

    I did have two nobel winners, one medicine, one either physics or chemistry. I did indeed get the polar exploration events. While the white folks beat me to the north pole, I got the south, and rejoiced in the sheer absurdity.

    Interestingly, I also got the "search for the source of the nile" events. I sponsored the expedition, but was not successful. This is despite the fact that the source of the Nile is, you know, inside my own country. Somehow the Brits still beat me too it. How embarrassing!

    Though I'm an especially pasty Irish-American myself, I got thinking about the impact a wealthy, powerful African great power in the world might have impacted afro-american culture in the US. This was after all the Jazz Age and the Harlem Renaissance, and even in our own time line many black thinkers looked to Ethiopia for inspiration. I imagine that having a black Great Power to look to- and a population of wealthy black aristocrats and industrialists to hit up for patronage- might well have amplified this. Of course, the Empire has its own ethnic and racial lines, and the Imperial Elite wouldn't necessarily care about white/black, but with Haile Selassie as Emperor and Pan-Africanism in vogue politically (more on that later) , I imagine black American artists would find a welcoming audience in Gonder- at least until fashions change.

  2. #62
    Jalayirid Caliph mayorqw's Avatar
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    That guide sounds incredibly alive! The whole hub thing for african american jazz and art is awesome too! I can feel the jazziness and warm climate over here .
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  3. #63
    I like this style, it's unique, and people don't normally do it on this site. And they don't do it in regular Alternate History either! Of course, I am wondering if Ethiopia battled in the Great War, since you are surrounded by Colonial Possessions, and it's very impressive that you made a first world nation in the middle of Africa.

    But, how did the exploration team not find the Nile?

  4. #64
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    Apologies for another long delay. I swear, this AAR will limp to the finish line one day, likely shortly after Vicky3 gets its second expansion

  5. #65
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    Gonder's Old City

    While the bright lights and glamor of Gonder's modern New City attracts the visitor's attention, a traveler would be remiss to leave Ethiopia without exploring the historic Old City. Aside from the monumental castles of the Fasil Ghebi, there are centuries of history waiting to be discovered in the four districts of the Old City.

    The historic districts divided the old city's population by religion and class. There's the Addis Alem, or Muslim quarter. The heart of Islam in the capitol, it has enjoyed something of a renaissance in recent years, as the Muslim minority in the empire has grown and prospered. As a result many of its historic mosques have been renovated and restored, and most are open to respectful tourists. The Addis Alem is also home to some of the oldest of the old quarter's many venerable coffee shops.

    Another distinct neighborhood is the Kayla Meda, home of Ethiopia's native Jewish people, the Beta Israel. Distinct from the rest of the world's Jewry, the Beta Israel have dwelled in the Gonder region since time immemorial. In recent years the Beta Israel have reestablished ties with their distant cousins in the rest of the world, but their religious practices remain quite distinct and uniquely African. Proposals to either recruit Beta Israel to settle in Palestine, or even to establish a homeland for western Jews in the Empire have mostly failed to draw serious interest.

    The christian religious district is the Abun Bet. Sometimes called "the Black Vatican," this district of the city is the seat of the Abuna, the head of Ethiopia's Coptic Christian church. Many claim that the Abun Bet has the most churches and chapels per square mile in the world. Certainly the visitor is treated to a wide choice of places of worship, as the district is crowded with churches and monasteries, from the very new to the ancient. The Abun Bet is the best place in Gonder to experience one of Ethiopia's many colorful religious processions or festivals. It is also home to many venerable institutions of religious education.

    The final district of the old city is the Qagn Bet, or Noble Quarter. While most of the noble families have moved their primary residences nearer to court in the New City, some remain at least part of the year. Many others have been restored and opened as museums. Interested travelers can tour ancient mansions furnished in a mixture of traditional and modern styles. This is as close as most visitors will get to experiencing the life of an Old Empire aristocrat.

    The Qagn Bet is also a political hotbed. Most of the major political parties have their headquarters here, with the notable exception of the Socialist Party. While the bars and clubs of the New City are abuzz with talk of the arts, the coffee shops of the Qagn Bet are home to fiery political debate. Visitors are advised not to involve themselves in local politics, which are complicated and often controversial. One of the few things that Ethiopia's fractious political parties agree on is a resentment of foreign meddling. Likewise, should the visitor find themselves accidentally caught in a political rally they are advised to quickly and quietly remove themselves from the situation.

  6. #66
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    A Brief Guide to Imperial Politics and Government

    Foreign visitors are often confused about the structure and nature of the Ethiopian state. It often seems like a confusing mash-up of Imperial Autocracy and Constitutionalism. Imperial Ethiopia is probably the only place where Emperors ruling by divine right were enthusiastic allies of Socialists. For thirteen years, it was ruled by an Empress who was unable to vote for her own Parliament. And crossing all ideological lines are various religious and ethnic separatists and pan-African imperialists.

    The Constitution

    Ethiopians are proud of their constitution, which was first established in the reign of the great Menelik II in 1890. Under the Ethiopian constitution, the Emperor retains great powers, but not unlimited ones.


    A quick guide to Imperial Government

    The Imperial Government has sometimes been called "Prussian Constitutionalism." Ethiopians dislike the description, and they insist that Prussia has an Ethiopian Constitutionalism government. In any case, Prussia is the European state most similar to Ethiopia in many respects.

    The center of Ethiopian politics, and arguably the center of Ethiopian society as a whole, is the Emperor. The Emperor is commander-in-chief of the army, conducts foreign policy and appoints the judges and cabinet. These officials can be removed by the upper house in theory, but this power has never actually been used; Emperors traditionally dismiss offending officials before they can be impeached. The Emperor can introduce measures to the Parliament, and can issue temporary emergency decrees when Parliament is not in session.


    The current Emperor, Haile Selassie I

    The Upper House is a mix of hereditary Lords and those appointed by the Emperor. These Lords serve for life in most cases, though some only hold their seat for as long as they hold certain other offices. For instance the Abuna is entitled to appoint a representative, but when that Abuna dies his representative looses his seat unless nominated by his replacement. The resulting body tends to greatly depend on the Emperor's view of how the Empire should proceed.

    This sometimes leads to an upper house that is much more radical than the elected lower house. In his later years, Emperor Menelik II appointed numerous prominent socialists and socialist-leaning nobles, in order to gain more support for progressive social policies. This unusual monarch-proletarian alliance is a major reason that the Empire has universal male suffrage, free press and a supportive attitude towards unions. The much more conservative lower house fought most of these efforts. Menelik's daughter, Empress Zewditu tried a similar tactic to expand suffrage to women, only to fall a single vote short. The disappointment is widely believed to have led to her death in 1930.


    Zewditu I, Empress of Ethiopia.

    The lower house is directly elected by all Ethiopian citizens. However, full citizenship is not extended to most of the territories of the New Empire. Rather these less developed territories are considered to need the guidance of civilized Ethiopians, to be raised up until they can be made equal with the Old Empire. So far the only New Empire territory to be thus raised is the Principality of Nairobi.

    As a relic of its feudal past, the Empire is divided into Kingdoms and Principalities. While the old ruling families mostly remain, they have been reduced to a symbolic role outside of the Upper House. Actual power resides in Stewards appointed by the Emperor, largely comparable to a state governor of the USA. The Principality of Nairobi was created to fit this system, and the Prince is the Emperor's son Asfaw Wossen Taffari. Emperor Haile Sellassie has publicly supported raising up more of the New Empire as part of his vision of a grand pan-African state.

    Elections in Ethiopia are public, raucous affairs. The Ethiopian constitution requires votes to be cast publicly. The general sentiment among Ethiopians is that if one is too ashamed of his vote to admit to it publicly, he ought not be voting that way at all. This system has many critics, both within and outside the Empire, as it sometimes leads to harassment or even violence against minority parties. Tensions run high around election season, and we reiterate our advice that travellers avoid becoming involved in local politics.

    A quick guide to the major parties:
    The Royal Party: A long-established political force, the Royal Party tends to be moderately conservative. The name refers not to the Emperor, but rather to the lower ranking Kings of the old feudal states. The Kings party has its roots in efforts to protect the privileges of the aristocracy, but is now primarily a working and middle class party.

    The Socialist Party: The main left-wing party in the Empire, the modern Socialists actually derive most of their support from the upper classes. They advocate maintaining the Empire's generous social safety net, and are the primary voice in favor of women's suffrage.

    The Liberal Party: Once a juggernaut in Ethiopian politics, the Liberals dominated both houses in the late 19th century, and were a driving force in establishing the Constitution. Once the favored party of industrialists, the Liberals lost power in the last years of Menelik II's reign by opposing his efforts to establish the Imperial Health service and other social programs. The Emperor turned to the socialists for support, and the Liberal party never fully recovered. They advocate a rollback of social programs and secret ballots.

    The Fascist Party: A comparative newcomer, the Fascists emerged during the economic troubles of the 1920s and early 30s. They maintain that the Constitution has delegated to much power, and advocate a more autocratic government. They also call for a more assertive (some say aggressive) approach to European colonial powers. Highly organized, the Fascists have some support among the army and upper class Ethiopians who blame the socialists for a struggling economy.

    The Reactionary Party: A more extreme version of the conservatives in many respects, the Reactionaries (or as they call themselves, Restorationists) call for a return to power for the old hereditary aristocracy. They want Kings and Princes to regain control of their realms, and for the upper house to be restricted to those of noble birth. They have a persistent following among some of the old elite.

    The Communist Party: A tiny fraction of any of the others, the Communists consider the Socialists traitors to the revolution. They advocate a complete overthrow of the Imperial family, along with the aristocracy, the church and the economic elite. They consistently draw up to 2% of the vote, and are notable primarily due to outbreaks of violence between their die-hards and members of the other parties.

    A Jacobin movement was once powerful, but after an attempted rebellion in 1905 led to mass bloodshed few Jacobins remain.

  7. #67
    I just love the style you have here, even if it does always leave me wanting more historical information (and perhaps a slightly more neutral point of view? )

  8. #68
    Jalayirid Caliph mayorqw's Avatar
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    Poor Zewditu. Please continue with the AAR though!
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  9. #69
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    Quote Originally Posted by mayorqw View Post
    Poor Zewditu. Please continue with the AAR though!
    Historical note, irl Zewditu was a highly conservative Empress who fought reforms tooth and nail. In my Ethiopia, most of the key reforms were instituted by her venerable father, so she let the status quo stand on them. Her taking up the cause of womens sufferage seemed to fit. After all she was a woman of power in a male dominated world. Asserting women's equality would make good political sense.
    I did indeed come witin one vote of womens lib before a rise in right wing parties in the upper house sank my hopes.

  10. #70
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    Cool AAR, well written.

    You wouldn't happen to be in the travel business, like selling trips to Africa?
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  11. #71
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    I like the "one vote short" tidbit, truly stuff of legend.
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  12. #72
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    Informal poll, which would be more interesting from here:

    #1 A trip down the Blue Nile to Khartoum. Would include the story of my early wars v Egypt, and Mahdist rebellion

    #2 A trip south to Nairobi, city of adventurers and big game hunters. Would include the start of the Scramble for Africa.

    I fully intend to do both eventually.

  13. #73
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    #1
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  14. #74
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    One!!!!!!111!!!!!!1
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  16. #76
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    Sacred Waters: Lake Tana


    South from the bustling capitol is the sacred and serene Lake Tana. A natural and cultural wonder, it would be criminal for a tourist to pass through Ethiopia without stopping to gaze on the peaceful birthplace of the mighty Nile.

    The Lake Tana area is largely undeveloped. In local tradition, the area is often associated with the Garden of Eden, with the Blue Nile identified as the river Gihon. Natural beauty and tranquility has made the Lake a refuge for those seeking God, as its proliferation of monasteries attests. The Lake was formally made a National Park by order of Empress Zewditu in 1916, her first act as Empress.

    Most visitors to the area stay in the resort town Bahir Dar. As little as 30 years ago this thriving town was only a handful of huts in a sea of papyrus reeds. But as rail travel from Gonder became cheaper and easier, the Lake Tana area became a favorite getaway from the heat and noise of the capitol. Today Bahir Dar is a quaint, though highly touristy, community, popular with Ethiopian honeymooners and foreign visitors alike.

    Lake Tana's most famous attraction is the dramatic Blue Nile Falls, or as they are known in Amharic Tis Abay, the smoking water. The falls are highly seasonal, sometimes drying to a trickle in the dry season or growing to over 400 meters wide in the rainy season. June to September is the best time of year to see the falls at their peak, though heavy rains can also make traveling more difficult and uncomfortable.


    Blue Nile falls at its height of flow

    Blue Nile falls deserves the attention it receives as the dramatic birth of the mighty, historic Nile. But the lake it drains is equally worthy of a visit. Lake Tana is wide but relatively shallow, and home to unique species of birds, fish and other wildlife. Spread out in its 2,000 square kilometers are 37 islands and 20 Coptic monasteries. Monks and island dwellers can still be seen poling across the still waters in traditional papyrus boats called Tankwa. These can be hired for sightseeing excursions, if one prefers their slow pace.


    Islanders returning home in their Tankwa

    For the less patient, or those who doubt the Tankwa's seaworthiness, power boat tour operations are abundant in Bahir Dan. Typically around 90 minutes, these boat tours are an excellent way to get a good view of the many beautiful, historic monasteries and fishing communities. These monasteries are the burial places of countless prominent Ethiopian Saints, Kings and Emperors. Most are not open to the public, but the picturesque Beta Mariam church is. Rebuilt in the 19th century in traditional style, the Beta Mariam's thatched roof and bamboo floors echo an earlier era of traditional, simple holy places. Already popular with pilgrims and tourists, the Beta Mariam gained new fame when it was chosen as the final resting place of Empress Zewditu. Deeply pious, Zewditu was drawn to the sites modesty and tranquility. Her grave is marked by a plain, modest headstone.


    Beta Mariam

    The Coptic Priests of Beta Mariam welcome pilgrims and visitors alike. There is no charge for entry but a donation of 20 Ethiopian Birr (roughly $2) is customary. Priests offer guided tours in multiple languages, explaining Coptic religious practices, demonstrate the unique musical instruments and other sacred objects used in their services, and offer interpretations of the churches' murals. Many of these are clearly influenced by the surrounding lakes, illustrating Christ and his apostles living and fishing along the Sea of Galilee.


    Draft of Fishes, one of the murals of Beta Mariam

    The church also has a modest collection of antique Coptic religious books, and a small bookstore which sells books on local history, Coptic spirituality and traditional religious jewelry. Photography is allowed, but touching the artifacts, books, or murals (or, for that mater, clergy) is not.

  17. #77
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    i wonder how they deal with the mass of pilgrims these days.
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  18. #78
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    Gojjam: Conflict and Triumph

    Following the curving Blue Nile as it makes its long turn south and west brings us into the Ethiopian Kingdom of Gojjam. Historically one of the strongest and most independent of the empire's constituent kingdoms, Gojjam's tranquil cattle ranches and small towns hide a long and often violent history as the frontier between Ethiopia and Sudan.

    Among the many conflicts Gojjam has seen, the most important to Ethiopia's history is probably the Egyptian Invasion of 1836. The ruler of Egypt, Khedive Muhammad Ali I, was attempting to make Egypt into an independent modern power. Seeking to secure resources (including fabled gold mines) to fuel this ambition, he sent Egyptian troops into the Sudan in the 1920s, annexing it as a territory of Egypt. In 1936 Ali decided to expand his empire, seeking to control the entire course of the Nile from Lake Tana to the Mediterranean.

    At the time, Ethiopia was in the midst of the Zemene Mesafint, or the Age of Princes. For nearly a century the Empire was divided amongst feudal warlords, with weak emperors serving as figureheads to be raised up or deposed by whatever prince was most powerful. At the time of the Egyptian Invasion, that prince was regent Ras Ali II of Gojjam. Ali was a powerful warlord and competent politician who was nevertheless never fully able to suppress his rivals for control of the Empire.

    To their credit, Ras Ali and his principal rival, Dejazmach Wube Haile Maryam put aside their differences in the face of the foreign invasion. The combined arms of the two great warlords, along with their vassals and retainers, gathered at Ayshal in Eastern Gojjam to block the advance of Khedive Muhammad Ali's army, commanded by his son Ismail.

    The two armies were evenly matched in terms of numbers. But the Egyptian troops had begun to modernize. They were a standing force organized on European lines, armed principally with flintlock muskets and bayonets. By contrast, the Ethiopian troops were feudal levies. Their equipment varied, but mostly consisted of foot soldiers armed with spears and shields, with some sporadic matchlock muskets. The core of the army was mounted nobility, who would charge headlong into the enemy ranks armed with swords and shields.


    Arms of an Ethiopian noble killed at the Battle of Ayshal. Uncharacteristically includes an imported pistol

    At Ayshal the better equipped Egyptians utterly destroyed their medieval opponents. Cavalry charges inflicted heavy casualties, but the fractious and disorganized Ethiopian nobles were unable to coordinate their attacks to exploit hard-won openings in the wall of Egyptian bayonets.

    Virtually all of the Ethiopian high nobility, including Regent Ali II and Dejazmach Wube Haile Maryam were killed or captured, and the puppet Emperor Sahle Dengel was captured. The Emperor was forced to acknowledge Muhammed Ali as "Lord of the Nile" and grant him all the territory of the Blue Nile region as far as Lake Tana. Thousands of common soldiers were taken captive and sold as slaves. Many of these were forcibly taken into the Egyptian army as Jihadiya, slave soldiers, and stationed in lower Egypt and Syria.

    Today, this catastrophic event in Ethiopian history is marked by a simple granite obelisk in the town of Ayshal. The modest monument belies the importance of the Battle of Ayshal, which set in motion Ethiopia's dramatic transition from fuedal kingdom to modern Empire.

  19. #79
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    Well, if there's no setbacks, how do you know anything's wrong?

    Sad that it must happen that way but it does.
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  20. #80
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    I was wondering how you managed to hold back Egypt as Ethiopia, it's always good to see defeats and failures in a history-book (or a travel pamphlet, in this case) AAR.
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