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To Eritrea and Ethiopia – Retracing a Victorian Expedition

To Eritrea and Ethiopia – Retracing a Victorian Expedition

In 1868 the British government mounted an extraordinary bid to rescue a clutch of European hostages in the Ethiopian highlands. They built a Red Sea port, then a railway across the coastal plain, and finally imported 44 Indian elephants and commissioned 26,000 local people to serve the soldiers and carry their heavy guns into the heart of Africa.

A hundred and fifty years later, author, playwright and script writer John Pilkington has been following their route, partly on foot with a donkey, and has been comparing Eritrea and Ethiopia – then and now. He found today’s people spirited and charming, living in dramatic and extremely challenging lands.

It was history and adventure combined!

On his return he said, “The walking part of the trip was one of the most difficult I’ve ever done. In both countries, ox-ploughs and mud-and-thatch houses are the norm over wide areas, and these would have been familiar to the soldiers who marched through the Abyssinian mountains all those years ago. But towns like Gonder and Lalibela are a joyous mix of ancient and new. If you haven’t been to this part of the Horn of Africa, you’re missing a treat.

“As always, I took lots of photographs, and have put the best of them into a new presentation which will be ready in October 2018: To Eritrea and Ethiopia: Retracing a Victorian Expedition. The presentation will generally last an hour, but I can make it longer or shorter as you wish. I’ll provide all the equipment, including a choice of big screens.”

If you’d like to make a booking with John, please email him direct at You can also read more about this topic and other talks on his website.