National Geographic : 1965 Apr
Soothing his cattle with song, a Beni Amer herder at Tessenei near the Sudan border plucks music from a five-string krar. Melted butter holds hairdo in place. Myrrh and frankincense lade camels plod ding to Aksum's market from the barren east. Foreign factories made the road-build ing machinery. Like all country Ethiopians, men of Tigre shoulder sticks; they use them to ward off roving hyenas at night. Could we find the emperor's great weapon? Taking off from Combolcia, where Mussoli ni's Fascist invaders built a good airfield dur ing their five-year occupation, our helicopter whirled away for a mountaintop that Ethiopia has tried hard to forget. People of the roadless mountains beneath us apparently had never seen a helicopter before. They fled their tukuls as we passed above. Herd boys ran in circles and covered their heads with blankets. To avoid frighten ing others, we flew as high as possible. Because our map was inaccurate, we had to land time after time to ask the way. Some times we looked nervously into the muzzles of rifles when we emerged from the aircraft. Once an entire village hid in the gorges. After ten minutes the women came to us, fell prostrate, and kissed our feet. Lacking an in terpreter, we never found out why they did 564 this, but I think it was a gesture of welcome to people they considered of high rank. The village women brightened at the picture of a cannon we drew in the dust and pointed to the next amba. And there we found it. It was not the long gun we had expected, but a monstrous howitzer, perhaps two-and a-half feet across the muzzle. It lacked a car riage, and I doubt if it weighed 70 tons, but the giant was so heavy it had sunk several inches into the hard earth. I can confirm its self-destruction. The firing chamber was badly split. The bronze muzzle bore the marks of two rifle bullets and a can non ball. Back in Addis Ababa, we planned a week of rest. But then Hapte Selassie sought us out at the Ras Hotel. Like Getachew Desta, this energetic head of the new Ethiopian Tourist Organization is no relation to the Emperor.