18 June 2018

Ethiopia: How Modern China Embraces the Old One in Tourism - a Travel Story

It was almost mid night; the twinkling starts in the skies of Addis had all the potent to evoke a feeling on spectator as if the skies were full of puncture allowing the lights above it to pour down hastily.

Unluckily, I was not able to enjoy that moment for long. My trip to Beijing via Ethiopian was approaching and I had to check out as early as possible.

Passengers on board were mostly Chinese and Ethiopians, but who would have thought of seeing Chinese cabin crew on duty. I bet nobody would have!

Chinese hostesses dressed in Ethiopian traditional costumes were busy of ensuring travelers comfort. "Just perfect Ethio-China combination," I thought I said it to myself. Most amazingly, an Ethiopian man seating next to me replied.

"Really impressive!"

It was colorful and zenith of beauty. It all made me to compensate what I missed in the skies of Addis, shall I say, I got it again on-board Ethiopian, shining hostesses.

The most impressive part of the whole night, however, was the combination and cooperation between Ethiopian and Chinese cabin crew members.

Hiring Chinese ladies carry a meaning beyond easing communication for Chinese passengers using Ethiopian airlines. It is truly an illustration of the growing ties between Ethiopia and China cemented with the frequent exchange of high level visits and the increasing travel between the ordinary peoples of the two countries. In fact, the hostesses are not the only Chinese people engaged in Ethiopian works. Chinese experts are in every nooks and crannies of Ethiopia working round the clock to back the grand development initiatives which Ethiopians are toiling to realize in all life spheres.

Chinese beauty in Ethiopian traditional dress, is so marvelous! The only way to see such beauty is to have a glimpse on Ethio-Djibouti railway project. Just like a Chinese hostess dressed in Ethiopian cloth. The railways project exactly depicts the great Ethio-China combination where a Chinese train cruises on Ethiopia soil.

If you are wondering what I am taking about. It is the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway built by Chinese company on Ethiopian soil. In fact, China, unlike its geographic distance is more nearer to Ethiopia more than any time before.

After almost 11 hours of flight we reached at Beijing's clear sky in Midday. Beijing International airport is unbelievably huge with state of the art technologies and facilities. It is a stark manifestation that the second largest economy is going through rosier period of astronomical growth.

Indeed, the airport has already hosted thousands of Ethiopians entering China for training, scholarship and business purposes, including me and the rest of 27 compatriots. But I can imagine that the number could have risen so dramatically due to Xiplomacy scenario, a word coined for the increasing diplomatic activities by the Chinese President Xie Jinping.

On our arrival at the Airport, we were welcomed by two friendly and smiling girls who are in their mid twenties who would also later guide us for on a month long seminar. That was the moment that I decided I would not have to worry or have any inkling about my visit to Chicken alike China. In fact, the history and the characters that the Ethiopian and Chinese people share have made our stay in China more enjoyable and adaptable.

Ranging from having ancient civilizations to own alphabet and calendar the two countries have many things in common besides the current socioeconomic relations, the preservation and conservation proves more strong in china though.

That is where I tried to ask myself: What is it that China has, but lacking here? During my 30 days stay I had traveled by bus by bullet train and by flights and stayed at some of the finest Hotels. But my intention is not to describe everything that I saw and I did because my purpose is not to tell the events in chronology, it is of my best interest to attempt to touch upon some points that we Ethiopians, Africans could learn from some of the remarkable achievements of China.

China is fond of construction. It is home to sophisticated infrastructural facilities, roads after roads railways after railways and buildings after buildings. Its cities rather seem a display of skyscrapers.

From what I have seen it has become clear to me that the Chinese government is throwing its full weight to the expansion of infrastructural facilities. Everything is in order and in place. New construction is everywhere; cities are emerging bigger and bigger and modern and modern. Its skyscrapers and high rise buildings can serve as tourist destinations as well.

Cities like Shanghai and Guangzhou see so many domestic tourists on any weekdays. Most striking is that, China might be building its future but at the same time the country is effectively embracing its past tradition, which is also a reminder of the older China.

But Again, China is more than its concrete and remarkable infrastructural facilities. One of the main things that caught my attention was their respect to past tradition and history and how they played into the modern China construction.

Though the people are pretty the same with ours, the Chinese are more known for their respect to their centuries old history and traditions. However, beyond the magnificent and must see heritages,the most important thing that attracted outsiders is the way the current generation manages and preserves its past history and heritages. In China everything amounts to a valuable heritage and the people pay a great respect to the path their country has come through.

Often patriotic inspiration is proven by wearing clothes or huts depicting the flags of one's nation but in China the best way to understand how Chinese people love their country is to see the millions of Chinese people visiting their national parks, cities or museums in thousands in every weekdays.

Unlike the trend in other countries, tourists in China are not a foreigner but a Chinese man or woman who visits his or her country's heritages.

In fact, except far fewer foreign tourists, thousands of Chinese from all walks of life flock to their national parks, museums and other must see sites every day, every hour. Chinese people love to visit places in groups and enjoy along the ways. According to sources domestic tourism has increased 10 per cent annually over recent years - and contributes to an estimated four per cent of the country's GDP.

China has proven that tourism is not solely about preserving and showing past traditions or heritages as it is. The country has successfully integrated the past history with the existing one by building magnificent man-made infrastructure that would exalt tourism potential of the country.

It includes lakes, rivers, statues and skyscrapers, high speed transportation and others. While countries stumble to preserve their heritages where their valuable heritages are crumbling by centuries of rain ,wind and other natural and manmade disasters, China is coming up with new tourist enticing values besides the well preservation/conservation effort it attaches to its old heritages.

Tourist destination sites are well furnished and equipped with modern facilities. As a tourists, one does not only enjoy his or her visit of the heritages but also the way the heritages are organized and arranged. The mode of transport inside the parks and the order and the peace add remarkable and give unforgettable experiences for an outsider.

On the other hand, on several occasions, on our ways to different cities, I observed China's respect to its prominent leaders and successfully engaged its political figures into its tourism packages.

Equally important, at the heart of the Chinese tourism is Chairman Mao Zedong. From the young faced, Mao Zedong statues are located at Orange Isle, Changsha, Hunan, China to Shaoshan's in Hunan province, celebrated as the birthplace of Mao Zedong , every trail of Chairman Mao Zedong's is well preserved, kept and remembered, just to say the least.

In fact, beside the big ones, statues of Mao are everywhere including in private cars, taxes and buses shops and even hotels. Yes, Chinese really love their supreme leader.

What also special about Chinese tourism are the benefits it brings to local community. Local communities living around historic places or natural heritages are well involved and represented in the sector.

One of the best examples is the local communities dwelling along Zhangjiajie, a city in the northwest of China's Hunan province. The city is home to the famed Wulingyuan Scenic Area and incorporates protected zone high rise mountains and jungles and wonderful views. And there is harmony between the site and the communities.

Their culture is the best sold product in terms of souvenir and musical performance presented to visitors along the route of the scenery.

Everything relevant in Chinese culture and history is well preserved either in museums, secondary sources or in other forms. But again, China is not only about the heritages, it is also about the hospitality of the people.

What really impresses everyone along the tourist destination sites is the welcoming face he or she receives from Chinese people. Chinese people know how to make you feel like home with all the good smile including our Chinese staff guiding all the way us.

Chinese people also know how to make you feel as celebrity. 'Can I take a picture with you' is the most popular question a foreigner usually asked. And when they take a picture, they embrace you as much as they embraced their old histories and traditions. China surely fits to the list of the great wonders of the ancient world.

Hope reader would not ask me what we Africans could learn from China--African and China are equivalent in population size, the latter with 53 and plus countries. But the former effectively mobilized its people towards success. And the magic bullet to the achievement is clear. They respect their history, culture; they preserved their age-old traditions, they work hard ... and upon this they regained their greatness which Ethiopia is positioned well in doing so.

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