I’m a carnivore!

African sunset

Whenever my wife asked what I’d like for my first meal when we arrived back in Australia, my answer was invariably pork chops and ice cream. Not on the same plate, of course, but, in the early days,  we didn’t get either in Ethiopia. As far as ice cream was concerned, after some years, there was one place, as you turned right at Mojo (about 80 km) to go to Shashemane, where an Italian guy sold gelati from a caravan. Years later there was a spot on the right side of the road as you drove out of Addis, where you could get several different kinds of ice cream; now there are places all over Addis and it is also available in most major towns.

Pork chops were off the list because neither Orthodox Christians nor Muslims eat pork. You couldn’t even get bacon. Because of the growing Chinese influence there are now a few places in Addis where you can buy pork, but it is still not a common meat and to many an absolute ‘no-no’,


You could buy beef which was hanging outside the butcher shops. The butchered halves hung there for all to see. The animals were killed early in the morning and it was good to get there early before there were too many flies. You could point to the piece of meat you wanted and they cut it off. You needed to cook it well, preferably in a pressure cooker. It seemed as if most animals were killed after a long life of pulling a plough!

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Chickens (doro) were bought live. They were highly prized as meat. They were in the local custom killed in, to me, a rather gruesome way by sawing through the neck. We, as you probably know, kill them by placing their necks in a convenient place and with a swift swing of an axe chop off their heads, before hanging them up to drain out their blood. Again by local custom the bird is cut into eleven pieces and made into a very spicy meal. The favoured person is usually handed a piece called, when translated, the horse-rider, the meat on the breast bone.

chickens to market

If you wanted sheep meat you went to the market and bought a sheep. You could never buy lamb or mutton or hogget at a shop. You took the sheep home and killed it and prepared the meat there. African sheep don’t look like ours in Australia. They look like goats, but whereas goats ears and tails go up, those on sheep hang down. Goat meat also can be bought on the hoof, in the same way.

Being brought up in the south of Australia, in our childhood and youth, when not eating rabbit, we ate sheep, usually labelled lamb. On the farm they were aged by their teeth, in the shop by the butcher’s choice.


One weekend we decided we’d like some sheep meat. So the teenagers who were living with us  A house full of teenagers.  and I went to the local market on the Saturday afternoon and after a lot of haggling bought one. As a white person we financially suffered racism. Everything was a bit dearer for us. So I sent the boys out to suss out the best prices. I fooled myself if I thought this would work as I was well known in the town, as was the fact that the boys lived with us!  I personally had no intention of killing it. Ato (Mr) Kassa, our gardener could do that on Monday, I knew that he’d be happy to do that for a share in the meat as a gift.

roadside market
This is a roadside market in Addis. Ours was held once a week as a major event in a square a hectare or so in size and people came from all the neighbouring towns.

Here I ran into an unexpected hurdle. Sheep are not kept outside in countryside Ethiopia, they sleep in the house, I think for fear of thieves or hyenas. At any rate, in the evening we tied it up in the garden but it didn’t like that at all. It baa-baa-ed to the point of driving us near to insanity. We had to end up clearing a space in the inside laundry, and inviting him in. After that peace reigned until…..

Monday when he was dealt with by Kassa. He was a very tasty and the much enjoyed centre of a number of meals.

Interestingly, the intestine is a favoured piece of the kill and locals make it into nice spicy dish. Kassa and his family enjoyed it as part of his gift. On the whole I don’t like tripe.

Dominic Cartier

A photographic interlude

vultures & storks
Vultures and Maribou storks on the road near an abattoirs.
lake Abiya
Lake Chomo
Lake Abiya

These two lakes are at Arba Mintch. Arba Mintch means forty springs. There were many more springs than forty. It is the only place in Ethiopia where we were prepared to drink the water straight from the tap. The two lakes are separated by a narrow strip of land and there is a creek running between the two. Yet their surfaces are about a metre and a half different. Abiya is higher than Chomo

A moonlight meal
A pleasant meal, on a moonlit night looking over the lakes at Arba Mintch.

Dominic Cartier

Bites 2 – continuing the list.

Monkeys – we didn’t see a lot of monkey bites. There are of course many different types of monkey. In one place where we lived there were dozens of them. We had a lot of bananas but, against what we expected, they rarely ate them. They loved our guavas. There was a large tree abutting the back of our house. They would steal as many as they thought they could hold, run along the roof ridge and, no doubt accidentally, dropped some as they ran. Those dropped would clatter down the tin roof into the gutters; which was annoying, particularly at night! They would sit on the window looking through the bars, and you wondered who was looking at whom!

Who’s watching who? -At our kitchen window.

Guereza monkeys, brilliant with their black and white colours, leaping from tree to tree were gorgeous to watch. Staying for a break at the one of the Rift Valley lakes we saw lots of those monkeys with ‘painted’ backsides. They were thieves, watching carefully and awaiting the moment, they’d jump down and steal food from your table or even your hand.

Hyenas – people think that these are only scavengers, but they are prepared to attack living animals or humans. They can cause rabies. At night time our workers would not walk alone. There were always at least 2 or preferably more of them and armed with dullahs (heavy sticks) when walking outside..

The two cases which stand out in my mind are of two boys who came in (at separate times) both having been scalped. (photos below the ‘more’ line) The bone on the top of their heads was laid bare over many sq cms. You cannot graft onto bare bone. We had to drill multiple holes through the outer table of the skull, being very careful to not go right through the inner table of bone. The tissue in the centre of the bone (the marrow or medulla) granulated out through these holes and when it had covered the bare bone totally we could skin graft it. Both boys eventually did well even if they were prematurely bald, and needed to wear protection to protect their grafted skin from trauma and the sun. Thin (split) skin grafts don’t become normal skin again.

Wild boars (called kekero there). With their long tusks and bites they could tear skin and do a lot of damage. We had some that visited us daily in our garden. They learned how to turn on the tap in our back yard using their tusks – in order to get a drink. I wouldn’t have minded if they had only thought to turn them off. The locals told us when we arrived at that University that rhinoceroses came every afternoon. They got it wrong. We never saw a rhino but daily had boars visit us.



Crocodiles  are very common in the Rift Valley lakes. Crocodile teeth tear the skin and shatter the bones. We saw a lot of their bites as the people fished from very flimsy balsa wood boats.


Hippopotamuses- I clearly remember a number of hippopotamus bites, all very dramatic. The story of one boy is fascinating. The villagers were short of meat and decided a hippo would be good meat. Half the village got behind him and half on the other side; many with spears. Those at the back began to drive it forward. It began to move. The others were ready. The hippo saw them; didn’t like what he saw; began to charge at full and frightening speed. The villagers fled but this boy slipped and fell; the hippo was on him. The villagers killed the hippo and probably enjoyed the meat. The boy was brought to the hospital. He had a big gash on his chest, exposing but not breaking his ribs and a cut slicing his left buttock in two and the cut extending to the back of the knee. It was deep enough to expose the sciatic nerve, over a long segment, but did not divide the nerve.

We didn’t like getting too near hippos – they charged at you.

Another hippo bite that comes to mind is when a woman was leaning over near the edge of a lake doing her washing. A hippo came up behind her and bit her buttocks from top down laying them as if it they were an open purse. Fortunately  it was mainly skin and fat and was repaired fairly easily.

Dominic Cartier

Some hyena bite medical pictures below the line Continue reading “Bites 2 – continuing the list.”

Bites 1 – garden and domestic

These are some of the ones which came into our back garden and  who could turn on taps!

We all get bites at some time or other.

Insects bite are probably the commonest and they cause lots of problems. There are thousands around the world who die every year from malaria. The enlarged spleens which they often get make them more prone to getting ruptured spleens from traumatic episodes. There are also other nasty mosquito spread diseases. Ticks also bite and they can cause a variety of diseases. Scorpions –  their stings cause severe pain but usually not much else. Young children may get worse reactions as a few varieties are venomous. Injecting directly around the site with morphia gave the quickest and best results. You quickly had very happy customers. The above almost always cause medical diseases although there can be complications requiring surgery, and I’m a surgeon – so I tended to deal with bigger mouths and more traumatic bites.

Snakes – Their bites are not consistent in how they behave; that is they are either venomous or non- venomous, and there are a variety of venoms. The non-venomous just give you a nip without poison – scary but these are really a fairly minor issue. The venomous ones  have a variety of ways of causing major problems. Among them are neurological problems, bleeding diatheses, tissue death, allergic reactions, kidney failure. It is nice if you have specific antivenins available depending on the type of snake, but our patients tended to arrive late, and antivenins are much better if given early. The polyvalent antivenoms which we held in stock were not as good at any rate. The major problems we saw were of tissue damage with massive swelling needing splitting of the skin to relieve pressure, and often cutting away the dead tissue. Amputations were occasionally necessary, but more often we could cover the dead areas with skin grafting. Continue reading “Bites 1 – garden and domestic”