In southern Ethiopia, in the heart of a landscape dotted with wild coffee trees and enset (false-banana tree) plantations, sits the town of Yirga Alem.
Just over 250 km from Addis Ababa, Yirga Alem is in itself somewhat unremarkable, but is home to one of Ethiopia’s best accommodation options, Aregash Tourist Lodge, and acts as a fine place from which to explore this little-known part of the country, well away from the more popular visitor circuits.
Heading south from Yirga Alem – and around 10km before arriving in Dila – are the remote and rarely visited ancient rock carvings of Manchiti, where around 3 millenia ago a large herd of stylised cattle were carved into the sheer rock face.
Further on, near the town of Dila, are two of southern Ethiopia’s most interesting and important stelae fields. While the stones at Tututi are larger – some reaching upwards of 7.5 metres – the stelae at Tutu Fella are all the more impressive for their often intricate detail.
Further south still, is the Yabelo Wildlife Sanctuary, where alongside the rare endemic Swayne’s hartebeest, other rarities include Stresemann’s bush crow and the white-tailed swallow – neither of which are found anywhere else on earth.
In March 2017, the Ethiopian government announced the construction of a large integrated agro-industrial park in the town, which is expected to bring crucial jobs and modern facilities to the region.