The Blue Nile, Ethiopia’s inspiring waterfall

The Blue Nile, locally known as Abbay, is the major tributary of the great Nile River, the longest river in the world. It is a waterfall located in the northwest of Ethiopia near the city of Bahir Dar. Known in Amharic as Tis Abay (the Great Smoke), it is one of the country’s top natural attractions and the most dramatic event on the Blue Nile’s journey from its source at nearby Lake Tana to its confluence with the White Nile in Khartoum, Sudan.

At their most impressive during the June to September rainy season, The Blue Nile Falls consist of four separate streams that come together into a mass of water 400 meters wide as they thunder uninterrupted from a height of 45 meter. The Blue Nile Falls, one of East Africa’s most impressive waterfalls, rainbows frequently arch across the spray at their base close to the main viewpoint.

According to documents, the mysterious Nile was long hidden from Western geographers and explorers. It was not until the expeditions of such great travelers as Bruce, Burton, and Speke that the secret of this Grand River which had fascinated, and eluded, even the ancient Romans and Greeks was revealed. It was then confirmed that the White Nile originates in East Africa’s Lake Victoria, while the Blue Nile pours out of Ethiopia’s Lake Tana.

Although the Nile Quest has attracted emperors and explorers alike since Antiquity, after the sources of the Nile were discovered the majority of studies have focused on hydrology and not on cultural and religious aspects of the river. The secrets of the Nile sources and their mysteries have from the dawn of civilization attracted philosophers, emperors and explorers, and the search for the source of the Nile, was a big quest in antiquity onwards to the nineteenth century. However, despite the importance of the river Nile since antiquity, very little research has been conducted on the cultural and religious aspects of the Blue Nile in general and the source Gish Abay in particular.

The Blue Nile flows generally south from Lake Tana and then west across Ethiopia and northwest into Sudan. Within 30 kilometers of its source at Lake Tana, the river enters a canyon about 400 kilometers long. The Blue Nile located about 40 kilometers downstream of Lake Tana.

Known locally as Tis-Isat- ‘Smoke of Fire’, the Blue Nile Falls are the most dramatic spectacle that the whole Nile system has to offer. It is only a five-minute drive from the lakeside town of Bahir Dar across the Blue Nile Bridge, to the spot where the famous river flows out of Lake Tana. Falls best approached from Tis-Isat village, a market settlement of the Amhara people who live in this area farming crops like wheat, sorghum and teff.

On leaving the village the footpath meanders first beside fertile open fields, and then drops into a deep basaltic rift spanned by an ancient, fortified stone bridge. After about a thirty-minute walk, a stiff climb up a grassy hillside is then rewarded by a magnificent view of the falls, breaking the smooth edge of the rolling river into a thundering cataract of foaming white water.

Hence, the waterfall is an impressive sight, especially during the rainy season. Shimmering rainbows and a mirage of floating spray add to Tis Abay’s considerable attraction. Visitors to the Blue Nile Falls can reach the waterfall via two different hiking routes. Both routes allow you to return by simply retracing your steps; but many visitors choose to combine the two to create a circuit. The full circuit is approximately five kilometers in length and takes around 2.5 hours to complete with plenty of time allocated for taking photos and admiring the views.

Ate the end of the rainy season in August and September, it is most impressive. Conversely, the driest time of the year (late January to March) sees the waterfall reduced to little more than a trickle and visitors often find the experience underwhelming.

If you travel during the rainy season the waterfall’s spray can soak everything within a kilometer radius. Although most people choose to go to the Blue Nile Falls on a day trip from Bahir Dar, Blue Nile Camping is an exciting option for those that want to extend their visit with an overnight stay. The lodge offers pre-pitched tents and traditional mud-and-grass huts located right next to the waterfall. This gives visitors a chance to experience rural Ethiopian life in the most beautiful setting imaginable.

Other attractions in the surrounding area include Lake Tana and Bahir Dar itself. The lake is the largest body of water in Ethiopia and the source of the Blue Nile. It’s known for its natural beauty, rich bird life and historic island monasteries. A cultural center and capital of the Amhara region, Bahir Dar has wide, palm-lined avenues and breathtaking lake views that make it one of the prettiest cities in the country.

The Ethiopian herald June 4,2020


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