|In our minds Ethiopia conjures images of war and famine. We remember Live Aid and the television programs about the Ethiopian hardships during the 1980's. Civil war and conflict with Eritrea (which seceded in 1991), have dominated Ethiopian politics over the past few decades. With the millenium's end the country recovers. Capitalism has replaced Marxism, democracy has replaced autocracy, and peace has replaced war after Ethiopia signed a treaty with Eritrea in 2000. We read about Ethiopian history; it's unique in Africa. This country has a Christian tradition as old as Europe. During the 4th to 6th centuries AD, it's empire stretched across the Red Sea and contemporary royalty called it one of the four great empires along with Persia, Rome, and China. It inspired early African eexploration. Portugese ships first rounded the Cape of Good Hope searching for Ethiopia, the land of Prester John, in hopes of finding an ally against Islam. Those hopes never materialized but Ethiopia remained Christian while Islam conquered the rest of North Africa. Ethiopia also resisted European colonization, the only African country never to be colonized. We didn't know any of Ethiopia's heritage and it's fun to see how far from reality our expectations have been. This place is mountanous, not desert; the weather is temperate, not hot; and the people look like an ethnic mix between Arab and African. With our guide and driver, Brook, we ride in a Toyota Land Cruiser - 4 WD required here - north from Addis Ababa into the heart of Ethiopia.