2020 will be a year to remember not just because of coronavirus, but for being the first time I visited "real Africa". I had been to Morocco before, but that doesn't really count. This time it was different."Why Ethiopia?"

I was  hired to shoot a video assignment in South Africa and Mozambique for one week and decided to treat myself to an extension trip afterwards. 

I could have gone anywhere in Africa -a vast continent rich with possibilities. But, with only one week to do it, I chose Ethiopia above all other places.

It was neither the most obvious choice nor the easiest; but it was the right choice, and the only one that I seriously considered. 

In the lead up to this trip, I must have had a dozen people ask me: "why Ethiopia?"

The question was invariably charged with a sense of incredulousness. What they meant to ask was "why visit a country best known for its poverty?"

And, to some extent, it's an understandable question. It's true that the last few decades have not been kind to Ethiopia. Despite a short-lived economic resurgence within the last decade, Ethiopia has faced more than its fair share of hardship.

But a country is far more than the constituent events of its recent history, and Ethiopia is a prime example of this. 

You see, what many people don't know is that there may be no place on earth with a more valid claim to the title 'birthplace of humanity' than Ethiopia.

For many people, "ancient history" evokes images the pyramids of Egypt and pharaohs, the Roman empire or budding civilizations of the Tigris and Euphrates.

The oldest of these dates back a mere 10,000 years -a blink of the eye compared to Ethiopia's role in the story of humanity. 

Ethiopia has been continuously inhabited by modern humans for at least 195,000 years and, before that, by pre-humans dating back at least 5 million years! 

It is this connection to the origins of our species and incredible depth of history that has enchanted me since I was a kid. 

What's more, the site where the oldest-known fossils of modern humans were found (linked above) is also home to one of the world's most remote and intriguing tribal cultures: the Suri Tribe.

While little is known about the history of tribal peoples in Omo Valley, a region of Ethiopia near the border with South Sudan, one thing is for sure: they are  descendents of the first humans and relics of a time that reaches deep into heart of who we are as a species.

Their language, customs and traditions date back to the dawn of time itself and many continue to live their lives just as they have for millenia.

It was this connection to the dawn of our species that called to me. THIS is "why Ethiopia". 

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