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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A thousand-mile stroll in the Ethiopian highlands...
A very gutsy woman, give her that at least, and an inspiring peripatetic who took so many of the world's paths less traveled. She's written books on her travels in the Andes, Madagascar, Siberia, and other exotic locals. But she first gained fame for riding a bike, leaving her home in Ireland, starting at Dunkirk, and following one of the traditional overland routes into...
Published on 25 April 2011 by John P. Jones III

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9 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars On a Mule ANYWHERE you like
Anybody reading this book would NEVER visit Ethiopia. It is no more than a synopsis of getting from A to B. Interaction with the local populace is miniminal and when she does disdain to describe the "locals" it is usually in a negative or deregotarory way.
In terms of history and descritions of places this is a light weight book that describes the Timkat festival in...
Published on 5 Jan 2004 by Robert Della-Sala


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A thousand-mile stroll in the Ethiopian highlands..., 25 April 2011
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
A very gutsy woman, give her that at least, and an inspiring peripatetic who took so many of the world's paths less traveled. She's written books on her travels in the Andes, Madagascar, Siberia, and other exotic locals. But she first gained fame for riding a bike, leaving her home in Ireland, starting at Dunkirk, and following one of the traditional overland routes into India - alone, in 1963. Her book on the trip is Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle. Not that long thereafter, the lure of the remoter lands of the world called again, and she undertook the subject of this book, a solo walk with a mule in Ethiopia, for 1000 miles, during the first three months of 1967.

In the Prologue, she quotes Edward Gibbon on Ethiopia: "Encompassed on all sides by the enemies of their religion, the Ethiopians slept near a thousand years, forgetful of the world by whom they were forgotten." And that is precisely the "charm" of Ethiopia for the traveler, if not the residents. It is quite different from all the surrounding countries, and, like Burma, in many ways an immense open-air museum. In the highland area of the country, the elevation ranges between 6,000 and 15,000 ft, overall a salubrious climate. She started her journey in the Red Sea port of Massawah, in what is now Eritrea. She did take a truck up to the highlands, and supplemented her walking with a plane ride and a journey in a Land Rover. She covered all the core sites of historical interest in the highlands, which include the steles at Aksum, the former capital of Gondar, Lake Tana, which is the headwaters of the Blue Nile, and Lalibela, with their famous churches carved out of solid rock.

She is a reasonably astute observer of the people and the natural world. Injara and wat (the bread and stew) are the unique culinary staples of the country. The Coptic (Christian) clergy are dominate and the author notes that there are 70,000 of them, compared to only 70 doctors. Confirming my own experience with them, Murphy says: "It is unfortunate that so many tourists get their only impression of the highland peasantry from meeting priests as such places as Aksum, Gondar and Lalibela. Donald Levine has remarked with restraint that `though there are devout and kindly men among them, the Ethiopian priests have never been particularly noted for their moral qualities.' Exercising less restraint, I would add that the highland priesthood seems to attract the worst type of highlander- or rather to breed him since the priesthood is mainly hereditary."

Concerning the practice that transcends religion, but is rooted in the area of the Eastern horn of Africa, what Murphy describes as the excision of the clitoris, (now more properly referred to as female genital mutilation) she discusses that the women are generally "less responsive" than European or American women, and she drolly says: "`Ethiopian men don't know the difference, but in fact they're biting off their noses to spite their faces.' Which observation tempted me to amend the old saying, but since it seemed best to keep the conversation on a scientific level I resisted the temptation."

In the Epilogue she concludes with the remark: "A traveler who does not speak their language cannot presume to claim any deep understanding of the Ethiopian highlanders." And that is part of the problem with the book: it is a travelogue, with numerous incisive anecdotes, but without an overall conceptual structure. Bluntly, she did not seem to do her homework before arriving. Furthermore, I was disturbed that she always had to rely on "the kindness of strangers"; she could never saddle up her own mule, but had to rely on some man that she just met! And she must have caused significant anxiety in officialdom: an unaccompanied white woman traveling in a fashion that is not in a culturally acceptable fashion; a whim that had to be suffered until they got her safely out of their area of responsibility.

I enjoyed five days in the highlands, in 1984, visiting many of the same areas, though Aksum was off limits, and Lalibela had just fallen to the Tigre People's Liberation Front. Ethiopia IS a fascinating country, and Murphy's account is a highly recommended introduction. Due to the shortcoming above though, I'd give it only 4-stars.

(Note: Review first published at Amazon, USA, on November 26, 2010)
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, 30 Oct 2000
By A Customer
This is one of those travel books that help you understand a place and the people living there before you go. It's also a great book to curl up with in an armchair before the fire. If you can't travel, this is the next best thing.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, 20 May 2003
Compelling account, in her usual down-to-earth style. I read it because I wanted to know about Ethiopia, but at times woried that I was learning more about the author. By the time I got to the end, I realised that in fact I had absorbed a great deal about Ethiopians, which I hope will help me when I go there.
Murphy's trip is a bold endevour - she sets off each day with the mule, and with no idea of where she will stay. Most nights she arranges accomodation with people she comes across, and depends on them to help her load the mule next day. This made me think hard too: most of the people she stayed with were very poor, and sharing thier meal with Murphy can not have been easy for them. But then maybe she offered cash even though she doesn't mention it - and then again, as she points out, at that time, cash meant little in most of the places she visited.
Anyway, it made me think, and provided an insight into the culture and circumstances of rural Ethiopia - at least at in the '60s.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In Ethiopia with a Mule, 30 Mar 2011
Along with a few other books I read Dervla Murphy's journey in Ethiopia as part of my visit to this country. Her account took me into the soil, the hills, the air and the people more than any other. The necessity and companionship of the mule added to the interest. As with her other travel books I felt Dervla Murphy would have made the journey with or without the journal writing along the way. It is unselfconscious and self effacing. At the same time it provides a warm regard and understanding of these very independent people. I recommend.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another Dervla classic!, 8 Nov 2012
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Always a compleeing read. I may not want to undergo travelling in the same way as Ms Murphy but her exploits always make good reaing and give an insight into how the rest of the World live.
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9 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars On a Mule ANYWHERE you like, 5 Jan 2004
Anybody reading this book would NEVER visit Ethiopia. It is no more than a synopsis of getting from A to B. Interaction with the local populace is miniminal and when she does disdain to describe the "locals" it is usually in a negative or deregotarory way.
In terms of history and descritions of places this is a light weight book that describes the Timkat festival in less tha 2 pages and hardly mentions Axum and Lalibela.
Having recently returned from Ethiopia one seriously wonders if the author ever stepped foot in Ethiopia at all.
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In Ethiopia with a Mule
In Ethiopia with a Mule by Dervla Murphy (Hardcover - 1 Jan 1990)
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