When I told my mother about my plan for working/living in Ethiopia, a solemn look came over her face. After an eternity of silence, she simple shook her head and said, “Well, now what are we going to do about getting you married?”
Fret no more, Mom. I found love in Ethiopia…with Merti Jeju.
Merti Jeju is a charming wonder hidden amongst the mountains, just south of Addis, adorned with babbling creeks and beautiful boulders.
After visiting Ethiopia’s state-owned farm, in the lowlands of Merti Jeju, where they grow everything from mango to corn to grapes, we ventured up the mountains in search of the local Agricultural Development Office. What we thought was going to be a 7 kilometer drive, turned into 30 kilometers up a mountain.
No complaints, here, as the emerald backdrop had me wanting to jump out of the car and belt out, “The hills are alive…”
Lucky for Biniyam and Tom, I restrained myself from doing my best Julie Andrews impression.
Mesmerized, I couldn’t help but think that these hillsides must be perfect for grapes…
- The elevation is about 1000 meters higher than the state-owned farm below, making it about 10° cooler.
- The soil is rocky and fertile; there is a good amount of both sunshine and rainfall.
- There is plenty of available land and access to water.
And did I mention the ridiculously spectacular views, perfect for sitting on the back of our winery’s porch, sipping a glass of Ethiopia’s best Chenin Blanc?
I’m pretty sure pink, cartoon-like hearts came popping out of my eyes and Celine Dion was playing in the background.
Is this it? Could this be Ethiopia’s Wine Country?
I sure was sold, but what about the farmers?
Come back tomorrow for part II, when my commitment issues arise…