Letter from Paul Norheim: The View from My Window(s)


This is a letter and collection of photos from regular TWN reader Paul Norheim that I thought deserved placement on the blog. — Steve Clemons
Hi Steve,
I’ve just returned from a seven weeks’ vacation in Ethiopia. Inspired by your (and Andrew Sullivan’s) “A View From My Window” theme, I took some photographs from different hotel windows and terraces while staying in several hotels during my travels to different parts of the country.
Most of the pictures turned out to be crap, but here’s a handful that I liked while viewing them on my PC monitor back home. Hope you like them too…
The first two pics are from one of the seven crater lakes inside and surrounding Debre Zeit, a town 45 km from Addis Ababa where my parents worked as teachers for 9 years during the 1960’s and 70’s, and where I spent much of my childhood:
paul norheim 1.jpg
Dreamland Resort, Lake Bishoftu, Ethiopia.
paul norheim 2.jpg
The third one is also from my former home town, but from a newly built lodge nearby another lake:
paul norheim 3.jpg
Debre Zeit, Ethiopia.
The next two photos were shot in Awasa, a town by a lake with the same name in the Rift Valley, Southern Ethiopia. I spent a couple of days there in an old, rundown hotel, and while on my way back to my room after a swim one day. I discovered this monkey sitting right outside my window. You may call it a variation on the View-from-my-window theme…
paul norheim 4.jpg
The View From My Window. Lake Awasa, Southern Ethiopia.
The next photo is taken from the same window/terrace – this time me watching mother & child in a tree just outside my room:
paul norheim 5.jpg
Lake Awasa, Southern Ethiopia.
The last picture is not taken from my hotel window, but from right outside the walls surrounding the old Muslim City of Harar, Eastern Ethiopia – not far from the Somalian border. In Harar not only the dogs, but also the hyenas walk freely around in the streets. They even have a “Hyena Man”, who feeds the hyenas with raw meet every night. Feeding the Hyenas… that could also be a political metaphor….
paul norheim 6.jpg
Hyena man. Harar, Eastern Ethiopia.
And that was it… Hope you enjoyed the pictures. I certainly enjoy your blog!
Paul Norheim


24 comments on “Letter from Paul Norheim: The View from My Window(s)

  1. article writing says:

    so pretty monkies!!!so brave boy!!!


  2. WigWag says:

    “But WigWag, there is perhaps an even more amazing place than Axum: a later capital of Abyssinia called Lalibela, named after a king, where a huge complex of rock-hewn churches were carved out and decorated in the 12th or 13th century.” (Paul Norheim)
    I certainly envy you, Paul; getting to spend so much time in such a fascinating country is a real privilege. I’ve read about Lalibela; it sounds beautiful. I’ve also heard that Gondar is a fascinating place. Perhaps after your next trip to Ethiopia you will take some more photographs that Steve will allow you to publish at the Washington Note. Even better, maybe you could do some guest posts from there. I think that would be very interesting.
    Africa doesn’t come up too often at the Washington Note (with the possible exception of Egypt and to a lesser extent Somalia). Your insights into Ethiopia (and Eritrea) would be most welcome and fascinating.


  3. Carroll says:

    Great pictures!
    I think I recongize one of the hyenas.


  4. Paul Norheim says:

    “After invading Granada, he burned it…”
    Compared to big and tough guys like him, people like Loughner,
    Manson and Jack the Ripper seem almost charming.


  5. JohnH says:

    Thanks, Paul. If you decide to come West, I recommend Nicaragua (avoid Managua). Friendly people, cheap prices, relaxed atmosphere without the commercialism of Costa Rica. You can even learn a little American history, specifically about William Walker, the archetypal filibusterer, who was trying to secure the country for Cornelius Vanderbilt, who wanted to build a canal.
    After invading Granada, he burned it, dug a hole in the the town square, buried some of the ashes, and covered them with a plaque that said, “here was Granada.” His house is a few blocks away, now a gift shop, its original owner largely forgotten, but memorialized in the museum next to the town square.
    Vanderbilt never got his canal. But at least back then America’s aims were not obfuscated by a vast public relations industry trumpeting freedom, democracy and human rights.


  6. Paul Norheim says:

    JohnH asked: “Paul, do you recommend Ethiopia as a tourist
    destination for someone who does not like to visit overly
    gentrified, excessively commercialized places?”
    Ethiopia could be the perfect place for you, John. There was a
    significant drop in visitors after the violence related to the
    elections in 2005 – and then a steady increase. But it’s
    nowhere near the amount of tourists you see in Kenya,
    Tanzania, or Zanzibar. In Harar, the ancient Muslim town where
    the famous French poet Arthur Rimbaud lived for many years
    as a trader, I saw five or six tourists. 11 years ago, I saw two.
    And it’s relatively easy to travel in the country too. The Chinese
    built roads are mainly excellent. When I arrive at the airport, I
    always say to the taxi driver: “Baro Hotel, Piazza!” 15 minutes
    and 5$ later, I’m at the hotel, where I am greeted as a family
    member. It’s a small, not-luxurious, but conveniently central
    hotel where you pay 8$ a night (but you can also pay 5-8000$
    at Sheraton if you so wish). From there, I can visit restaurants,
    bars, shops, swimming pools, bookshops, and all kinds of
    music clubs.
    At Baro there are usually a dozen travelers at any given time.
    The youngest I met this time was a 19 year old Brit who had
    travelled by bus from Cape Town; the oldest a 72 year old
    Flemish fellow (“I’m NOT Belgian, I’m Flemish!”), who’s been
    everywhere selling and buying his antique stuff – he even
    managed to get captured by the Taliban in Kabul in the 90’s.
    Ethiopia is not the first destination for backpackers; it’s often
    almost the last – meaning that most of those you meet at
    places like Baro Hotel are experienced and interesting people.
    There are also a lot of people who stay there during work in
    the country – academics, musicians, writers, painters, you
    name it… And every time i stay at Baro, I meet Francis, a
    French CD producer, who now told me that he’s asked his
    friend Patti Smith to hold one concert in Addis and one in Harar
    in April: she’s always wanted to go to Ethiopia.
    If you want to go somewhere, the friendly manager at the hotel
    will always know how to get there. As for the most famous
    “historical route” in the north – Axum, Lalibela, Gondar, and
    Bahir Dar (at Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile), there are
    daily flights, so transport is very easy. There are also daily
    flights to several places in the east, west, and south.
    You can always jump on a cheap bus in any direction from
    Addis Ababa; or you can rent a 4×4 with a driver from several
    travel agencies. All in all, transport is easy and there are plenty
    of hotels everywhere. And except for your ticket from the US,
    prices for meals, rooms, and almost everything else are almost
    ridiculously cheap.
    Don’t go to Ethiopia if you want to see lions or elephants.
    There are almost no such animals left in these days; in that
    case, Kenya, Tanzania, or South-Africa is the place to visit.
    But if you are interested in history, and want to see a place
    with a distinct character populated with proud and friendly
    people with a distinct culture – in music, food, language, habits
    – different from anywhere else in Africa and elsewhere, then
    Ethiopia is an extremely fascinating country. There are also
    some mountains (the Semiens and Bale) great for trekking, and
    the Danakil desert, the lowest place on earth, with an alien
    landscape in psychedelic colors.
    Enough PR.
    (As a side note, the Americans have a military base in Dire
    Dawa, an hour’s drive from Harar – not far from the Somalian
    border. A Swiss hotel owner there, a Christian who speaks
    Somali fluently, told me that the Muslims in Harar have not
    become fundamentalists like in Somalia; they are not exposed
    to the constant flow of Jihadist propaganda, and continue to
    live side by side with the Christian part of the town,
    cooperating with them in the local government, like they have
    done since Haile Selassie’s father, Ras Makonnen, was a
    governor. Islam is a rather relaxed affair there, just like the last
    time I visited the town).


  7. questions says:

    Wait, you mean they don’t eat tofu? Fugeddabout it!
    I’ll stick to Bach! And the one measure of the Moonlight Sonata I can fake!


  8. Paul Norheim says:

    “Feeding the hyenas” as a political metaphor… I guess I
    should mention that I mailed the letter to Steve last
    Thursday – before the tragic event in Arizona, and the
    subsequent national debate in the US about whether
    certain politicians and political entertainers in radio and
    TV are hyena-men and -women. I think they are, and that
    there are many hyenas lurking around in US towns and
    suburbs, provided with raw meat on a daily basis from
    these dubious characters. Whether they also fed young
    Loughner, or he got rabies, independent of these people,
    remains to see…
    On a more concret level – POA, yes there have been
    attacks. Right after I visited Harar the first time, 11 years
    ago, a woman was severely maimed in her hut when a
    hyena attacked her baby. At that time, I once stood 7-8
    feet from a hyena looking for food around a waste
    container. Two dogs approached the beast and started
    barking, and the hyena backed off immediately. They
    gathered on a football field nearby at nighttime ( they
    were invisible at daytime): sometimes a could count a
    dozen of them down there from my hotel window.
    Normally, they wouldn’t attack grownups like me, but if a
    12 year old boy or girl had walked through the streets
    alone the way I did around midnight, it wouldn’t be wise.
    I think I was sitting 4 feet from the hyenas when I took the
    picture above, but I doubt it was dangerous. The hyena
    man knows these creatures; he has given each of them
    (obscene) names, and they’re used to the occasional
    tourists coming to watch him feeding them, or feeling the
    thrill while feeding the beasts themselves with raw meat
    from their hands. It’s a win-win situation: The hyenas get
    a free dinner, the tourists get their pics, and the hyena
    man gets money from the tourists.
    I’ve seen the hyena feeding before, and I am not very
    enthusiastic about this business. I basically came there to
    document with my camera that my brother, who was with
    me in Harar this time, actually fed the hyenas – thus
    helping him prove to his 13 year old son back home that
    his father is a very brave man.
    It’s basically a tourist thing in Harar, and has been so since
    the 60’s. But I guess it originated in an intention to
    accommodate and please these nasty beasts, to avoid that
    they attacked their children and old folks. I agree with you
    that the effect is probably the opposite of what they
    intended: it attracts the animals, and give people a false
    sense of security.
    Feeding the hyenas is probably never a good idea, neither
    in the realm of political metaphors nor in real life.


  9. Pahlavan says:

    I can’t help but echo my initial thought as soon as I saw the last photo. “I dare the hyena man to walk into a pack of Iranian born members of the Israeli cabinet with a bucket of raw meet by his side”
    Thanks for sharing these profound pix.


  10. Paul Norheim says:

    To all the commenters: thanks for your generous words!
    I think the View-From-My-Window concept is a good one;
    just like the photos of Steve’s dogs, it brings a welcome
    break, a moment of tranquility into the often heated
    debates on a political blog. It also reminds us that there is
    a world beyond leftwing-rightwing arguments, Middle East
    crisis, election campaigns, and AfPak strategies.
    I was in Axum in 1999; just a short stay – it was during
    the Ethiopian-Eritrean war, and the only foreigners I saw
    were Russian advisors (in Southern Ethiopia, I saw Israeli
    pilot instructors too). My passion for photography actually
    started 5 years ago – around the time when the quality
    and prices of digital cameras had reached an acceptable
    level. And yes, Axum is indeed a very interesting place,
    and the obelisks are impressive. As I’m sure you know,
    Axum was the capital of the Aksumite Kingdom, one of the
    significant powers in a period when also Persia, the Roman
    Empire, China, and later also the Byzantine Empire, were
    the great powers of the day. Axum became a Christian
    state in the 4th century, and got it’s own scripture, Geez –
    a south-Semitic language still used in the coptic church
    today, and from which the official Ethiopian language
    Amharic, as well as Tigrinya (spoken in the north and in
    Eritrea today) developed. It was also the only written
    language used in the Ethiopian administration until the
    middle of the 19th century.
    Next winter, I have the opportunity to stay in Ethiopia for
    3 months (and yes, DonS: the “eternal winter darkness” in
    Norway is clearly a motivating factor!). I think I will revisit
    Axum then. There is a hotel in town, on a hill, where you
    have a nice view of the obelisks – I think it could provide
    the potential for an interesting “View-From-My-Room”
    photo. We’ll see…
    But WigWag, there is perhaps an even more amazing place
    than Axum: a later capital of Abyssinia called Lalibela,
    named after a king, where a huge complex of rock-hewn
    churches were carved out and decorated in the 12th or
    13th century.
    A couple of pictures of the stunning architecture, as well
    as some interesting historical info, is found here:


  11. Cee says:

    oops Taurus.


  12. Cee says:

    I hope the buyers know about weapons. When I was looking at handguns, the owner told me that I’d be better off something else….like a Targus. He said they aren’t really easy for women to handle. He also said they jam.
    Also, Bibi is taking advantage of our distraction with Sistah Sarah.
    From TPM
    Before Sarah Palin posted her Facebook provocation this morning accusing the media of committing “blood libel” for connecting some of her statements to the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), that phrase was being batted around by the conservative media.
    Andrew Brietbart used the phrase in a tweet last night (though it’s likely Palin’s video, posted in the early morning hours Wednesday, was filmed before that tweet).
    “Blood libel” popped up in a Wall Street Journal op-ed by professor and Pajamas TV host Glenn Reynolds. “Where is the decency in blood libel?” he wrote on Monday, Jan. 10.
    Adam Graham of Renew America was the first to use the phrase in reference to the Tucson shootings, according to a search of Google News.
    But the very first reference to “blood libel” in the wake of the Tucson massacre came from political consultant Jon Henke, who used the phrase on Twitter the same day as the shootings, according to Google’s realtime search.
    Reaction to Palin’s use of the phrase, which refers to the Middle Age anti-Semitic accusation that Jews killed Christian children and used their blood in ritual food for Passover, was — like all things Palin — mixed.
    A Jewish Democratic political consultant told Politico it was “absolutely inappropriate.”
    “The blood libel is something anti-Semites have historically used in Europe as an excuse to murder Jews — the comparison is stupid. Jews and rational people will find it objectionable,” said Hank Sheinkopf. “This will forever link her to the events in Tucson. It deepens the hole she’s already dug for herself.”
    But Reynolds defended his — and her — use of the phrase in an e-mail to Ben Smith. “I am of course aware — and I imagine the very pro-Israel Palin is, too — of *The* Blood Libel from medieval times, but one sees false associations with murder called *a* blood libel without reference to that,” Reynolds wrote.
    The National Review also says the phrase is more common than people think.
    Given that Palin is a strong supporter of Israel, it’s likely she knew the history of the phrase. Even a quick Google search would have turned up this Wikipedia entry as the first result.


  13. PissedOffAmerican says:

    I wonder, could Netanyahu be insane?
    Just a day after shitting in Hillary’s hand, he now wants the United States to ratchet up the inflammatory rhetoric directed at Iran, and make credible military threat our over-riding strategy, above and beyond the sanctions, that are already harming the Iranian street, while leaving Achtungainthebad undeterred.
    He spits in our President’s face, shit’s in the outstretched hand of our Secretary Of State, and now he wants us to pledge the lives of our young men and women in service to a cause, (the security of Israel), that is exagerated, propagandized, and highly instrumental in further radicalizing the Global Muslim community, (as well as being completely and utterly unfeasable, as we are already over-extended militarily in the Middle East).
    Lets send that sack of shit a few more billion dollars, shall we?
    He might need the money to finance a false flag event that will leave us no choice but to go to war with Iran. Ask the Liberty crew if these Israelis are capable of such a thing.


  14. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “My last visit–places in the ME where I was the only American”
    Gee, why’d ya spend that kinda money? I can think of three or four communities right here in Central Cal where the odds are you’d be the only American.


  15. JohnH says:

    Paul, do you recommend Ethiopia as a tourist destination for someone who does not like to visit overly gentrified, excessively commercialized places?
    My last visit–places in the ME where I was the only American.


  16. PissedOffAmerican says:

    I can’t imagine being face to face with a hyena like that. They are truly fearsome animals.
    I’d be interested in knowing if there are many attacks, and if small children dare venture out when the hyenas are prowling. I question the wisdom of teaching a band of hyenas that man is a direct source of substenance.
    On another note, I see the citizens are speaking out here, loud and clear, about how they react to all this “gun control” posturing and politicians that are capitalizing on a tragedy. There’s some irony to be found here, is there not? Keep talking, gun control people. It really underscores how much the citizens disagree.
    America Glock Pistol Sales Surge in Aftermath of Arizona Shootings
    By Michael Riley
    Greg Wolff, the owner of two Arizona gun shops, told his manager to get ready for a stampede of new customers after a Glock-wielding gunman killed six people at a Tucson shopping center on Jan. 8.
    Wolff was right. Instead of hurting sales, the massacre had the $499 semi-automatic pistols — popular with police, sport shooters and gangsters — flying out the doors of his Glockmeister stores in Mesa and Phoenix.


  17. DonS says:

    . . . but maybe if I lived in the land of eternal winter darkness it might push my adventuresome index up a notch or two.


  18. WigWag says:

    These pictures are great, Paul. You are an excellent photographer. Next time, if you’ve ever been there, it would be very interesting to see some shots of Axum. I’ve read that the monumnets and the obelisks are really something to see.


  19. Cee says:

    Nice photos. Since I was attacked by a Green Monkey that I wouldn’t feed I don’t even like to see them on TV. LOL!


  20. DonS says:

    Travel is great though sometimes hard. Our daughter is off to India with 2 friends next week. We are not as advernturesome in our destinations, so I admire Paul that. And the interesting pics.


  21. questions says:

    Wow! Once I master some Bach, I’m going into the hyena-feeding business!
    (By the way, Steve, Yves Smith makes space every day for the “Antidote du jour”. It’s a great practice, hint, hint!)


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