Also known as "roof of Africa"(the Roof of Africa) because of its high altitude, the Simien massif is the highest plateau in northern Ethiopia. Its highest point is the Ras Dashen to 4550 m. The highlands range in altitude from 3000 to 4500m and, although living conditions are difficult, they are populated with countless villages and hamlets, and cultivated up to around 3600m. Snow falls regularly during the rainy season, between May and September.
Map of Simien National Park
It was inscribed in 1978 as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because it is the refuge of extremely rare animals such as the Baboon Gelada (pictured below), the Simien foxon Abyssinian wolf or the Walia Ibexa kind of ibex that is only found in this area.
The landscapes are very spectacular because of the erosion, offering vertiginous peaks of more than 1500 m of difference in level and incredible points of view.
The highlight of the Simien massif, and Ethiopia, is the Ras Dashen at about 4550m of altitude.
Population of Simien. The mountains of Simien are far from being deserted since 250 000 people live there! We crossed hamlets up to 3700 m high! There are few big villages in Simien. Indeed, the totality of the population lives from a subsistence agriculture intended to provide for the needs of the family. Surpluses, which are not very important when they exist, are sold in the local markets. Food agriculture requires very scattered dwellings, from 2 to 5 huts, around which the fields are cultivated or the animals are grazed, thus forming a mosaic of small systems living essentially in autarky. This is how the smallest plateau, the smallest terrace or the smallest promontory is inhabited and cultivated.
The children of Simien. With an average of 7 children per family, Ethiopia is a very young country like any country in full demographic boom. In the city as in the countryside, children are omnipresent. In Simien, they are the sentinels of the field. Indeed, they are the ones in charge of guarding the herds! They also carry out many missions such as fetching water from the source. This difficult task is often done by young girls... In short, children are everywhere and the mountain resounds with their cries all the time, giving a nice atmosphere to the hikes. We also often see them selling local handicrafts, cold drinks or coffee.
Music from Simien. Ethiopian traditional music is rich and varied. In the highlands, the musical culture is carried by the AzmarisHe is an itinerant musician reminiscent of our ancient minstrels. He plays a very rudimentary instrument, a kind of lute with 1 string and 1 bow, called Masenqo (pronounced "Massineko").
Visit the Simien - tourism. The best way to discover the Simien National Park is, as usual, hiking and trekking. The offer of local agencies, the National Park and European tour operators is abundant, varied and of high quality. A trekking in Simien does not require very important physical and technical qualities. The key to success lies rather in the acclimatization to high altitude since the classic trekking circuits navigate between 3000 and 4500m of altitude. That is why most of the proposed tours include, for the first 3 or 4 days of your stay in Ethiopia, visits to Addis Ababa, Lake Tana (source of the Blue Nile), Gondar or Lalibella. Indeed, as soon as you arrive in Addis Ababa, you are at 2500m of altitude, acclimatization can start. Some tours are also offered in 4×4 vehicles, a track crossing the entire park. Other groups ride mountain bikes, as the plateau terrain and the earthy soil are ideal for mountain biking. mountain bike.
Online resources :
- site of the Simien National Park
- page dedicated to the Park on the UNESCO website
- page dedicated to the Simien on Wikipedia
- page dedicated to theEthiopia on Allibert-Trekking.