Ethiopia (November-December 2013)

Korem to Tenta (7): From Magdala to Tenta

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To see the map of the trek with the plot of the waypoints in another tab, click here.

To see the waypoints in Google Earth, click here.


Magdala is an important historical site in Ethiopia. In April 1868 a battle was fought there between Abyssinian forces led by King Tewodros II and British/Indian troops led by Robert Napier. Following a series of misunderstandings between Tewodros and the British Consul in Ethiopia, Tewodros had imprisoned the consul together with other British subjects. In response, the British sent an army and eventually defeated Tewodros at Magdala. Refusing to be taken prisoner, Tewodros committed suicide on April 13, 1868 (Easter Monday).


I was initially confused by what actually forms the site of Magdala. I expected a single amba, but there are two, separated by a high saddle protected by steep cliffs. The locals refer to the two ambas as Magdala, which makes sense since it would have been easier for Tewodros to defend both of them together rather than just one. In fact, one of the bronze cannons brought by Tewodros lies on one of the ambas, while the places where he committed suicide and was buried lie in the other ambas.


The first photo below shows the first amba as it is seen coming from the north. The second and third photos show the second amba as it is seen from the first. The saddle between the two ambas is visible on the left side of these two photos. The cliffs surrounding the second amba are more impressive. Overall the scenery is spectacular.


Although the two ambas are separated by a rather short walk, we spent one night on the first amba (Camp 11) and another one on the second (Camp 12) before going to Tenta, the end of the trek. This gave me enough time to ′′explore′′ both ambas.




The first amba is relatively highly populated.


Its main ′′attraction′′ is a bronze mortar strangely nicknamed Sebastopol. This cannon of almost 7 tons was brought by Tewodros across the highlands to defend Magdala. It is said to have been built by Tewodros′ hostages. A replica is located in the centre of a roundabout at Tewodros Square in Addis Ababa.


Another attraction of the first amba is the gorgeous scenery around it.


The second amba is dryer and only sparsely inhabited.




The amba supports a small pond (the ′′Magdala Lake′′!) of brown water used by animals. There is also a source of cleaner water running from a surrounding cliff 50m below the top of the amba.


The place on the amba where King Tewodros committed suicide (left), its grave (center), and its portrait (right).


Perhaps living on top of the amba gives to its people a sense of superiority. In any case, locals seem to greatly enjoy the views and often walk dangerously close to the cliffs...





... especially at sunset.




On our way down from the second amba toward Tenta, we saw many baboon monkeys (left) and more great scenery (right).


A last view of the two ambas. The first amba is the one in the middle of the photo, the second is the one on the center-left.


Arrival in Tenta around noon (left). This small town is rather bleak, but boasts a relatively impressive statue of Ras Mikael of Dessie, a local hero. Ras Mikael was born a Muslim, but later converted to Christianity. His son Iyasu became king of Ethiopia in 1913, but was deposed a few years later in a coup masterminded by Ras Tefari (the future Haile Selassie). In response, Ras Mikael led an army to reinstate his son. But he was defeated at the battle of Segale on 27 October 1916 and was held captive for the rest of his life.


That was the end of the trek. A car sent by Solomon Berhe had arrived in Tenta earlier that morning and was waiting for us. We drove to Bati for the Monday market (just like me, Gebru and Gebrehiwet also wanted to see the market), via Gishen Maryam, Dessie, and Kombolcha.


Other sections of the trek:

-             Korem to Camp 2

-             Camp 2 to Camp 4 (Muja)

-             Camp 4 (Muja) to Camp 6

-             Camp 6 to Camp 9

-             Camp 9 to Camp 10

-             Camp 10 to Magdala

-             Magdala to Tenta


Return to main Ethiopia November-December 2013 webpage