The Blue Nile River May Be The Heart of Ethiopia

We may see Ethiopians as a prideful people, perhaps with some cause. They were one of only two countries the Europeans could not colonize. [Liberia is the other country. It became a drop off location for freed American slaves, a complicated story]. In 1896, Ethiopia defeated the Italians at the Battle of Adwa when the Italians tried to colonize them. Later, however,  the Italians occupied the country from 1936 to 1941 as part of the World War II madness.

Biblical roots

Ethiopians are also proud of the Blue Nile which begins in Ethiopia. In national lore, the source of the Blue Nile was the Gihon, one of the four rivers that flowed from the Garden of Eden.

One of the country’s oldest national origin stories also connects to the Old Testament. The country claims the Queen of Sheba as its own. The story goes that she had a child by Israel’s King Solomon. Their son, Menelik, became the first of Ethiopia’s Solomonic Dynasty that continued through Emperor Haile Selassie who revolutionaries deposed and killed in the 1975. When Menelik became an adult, despite his father’s wish that he become the next King of Israel, he fled to Ethiopia. He took with him the Ark of the Covenant—the cabinet which contained the tablets of the ten commandments given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. Menelik stored the Ark on an island in Lake Tana—into which the Gihon flows (and from which the Blue Nile flows out). Later, Ethiopians moved the Ark to Aksum, where people believe the Ark remains to this day.

Another legend is that Mary and Jesus stayed a night on that same island near the head of the Blue Nile River during their flight from the Holy Land to Egypt.

Ethiopia soil created fertile Egypt

Ethiopians might also pridefully say it is their earth, through the sediment of the Blue Nile, that created Egypt’s fertile empires. For centuries, the Nile River had caused conflict between the two empires. And while many people may know of the Egyptians’ dynasties, fewer might know of the Ethiopian’s. And, it was the Ethiopian that overcame the Egyptian when they battled face to face. 

In1875-1876, the Egyptians went to war with Ethiopia. Isma’il Pasha, the Viceroy of Egypt, was determined to capture the entire Nile River area. He built a huge army, including recruiting European and American officers. Striking from what is now Eritrea, the invading Egyptian forces met the Ethiopian army at the Battle of Gundat, and later at the Battle of Gura. In both instances, the lesser known Ethiopian army destroyed the more modern. 

The Nile River—Egypt’s essential life-giving waters—was Ethiopian born and it would stay that way.

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Scott Douglas Martell is a writer, teacher and coach. His most recent novel is The Hyena Man, an African romantic suspense. His blogs often focus on Ethiopia and Vietnam, world traveling, and counseling for a more joyful life, with topics such as brain health and spiritual awareness.

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