Thursday, October 2, 2014

What i did not know about Ethiopia (The Barefoot Runner)



I read a book about the Ethiopian Abeb Bakila, the barefoot marathon runner, whom under his belt honorable achievements being the first African to win a golden Olympic medal and the first athlete in history to win two golden medal.


Apparently, there is another book narrating Bikila's life, written by a foreign correspondent Tim Judah. the later do not portray Abebe as the saint shining brightly out off Rambali's papers. the Ethiopian champion was described through Tim's memoir as arrogant and selfish who encountered a non poetic death contrary to what have been characterized very elegantly by Rambali. Click here to see a review on the gardian

After reading Paul Rambali vividly written book about the life of marathon champion Abeb Bikila, you feel that you have learned a lot about a country full of agony, pride, beauty and extremely vulnerable people. encountering Ethiopians here in Lebanon made it easier for me to grasp the root of the cultural aspect. though it is true that the events of the story happened in the sixties, yet you can have a glimpse about the historic background of Africa in general and Ethiopia in particular. if anybody read about Beirut in the sixties and live among us in 2014, a sense of understanding will relate the poles apart behaviors, frustration and attitude.

Ethiopia was annexed by Mussolini in the thirties and suffered from a disastrous two warfare which chemical weapons were used to destroy the barely army Ethiopians so dignifiedly held. A failed atrocity however since the African army led Ethiopia to win eventually after a modest support from westerns, in particular USA. Haile Selassie I was the chief commander of the second Italio/Ethiopian war. He was the king, the lion of Judas, portrayed in Rambali's book as an arrogant king striving for modernization, a ruthless dictator and a grouchy old man while i have read that Rastafarian assumed him as the Messiah. in any case, the similarity between what was written in Rambali's book and other papers was the collateral relationship between Abebe and the king of kings.

In the sixties, Ethiopia was still a feudal ruled by aristocratic class called Rass, which means in Amharic and in Arabic "The Head". they were responsible of different regions and they were authorized along with the central army, to collect taxes and rule. However, Ethiopians were constantly under the threat of starving, suffering from severe droughts. I'm still searching and reading about what exactly paved the way for the crack down of the Solomonic dynasty which resulted that Haile Selassie I be the last of its kind. for sure the social and economic situation have a lot to do with the uprisings, beside the Rass reckless behavior in suppressing the people. yet, back then, Africans along with others were not ready to undertake drastic changes. They were highly religious people (Christian Orthodox) and substantially superficial. They believed that the king is divinely chosen. it is unlikely that Ethiopians outcast their kings without an organized and systematic tackling. the end of the Solomonic dynasty relates many dimensions yet to be uncovered.

My learning about different cultural is ongoing. Ethiopia is one of the marvelous cultures that i enjoy discovering. Having Endless discussions about Ethiopia with a native, migrant worker, Salam have taught me that i probably know about Ethiopian history, not culture, more than she did. i will add any interesting information i found to my blog.

I thank my friend Sahar for introducing me to this amazing book (barefoot runner) that opened the door for a whole new world to explore.