King Jafir the second.

Most people know something about Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. One of his titles was King of kings. This is no reference to the Biblical title of Jesus whom Christians call King of kings, although Haile Selassie was an Orthodox Christian. The word king is defined as a noun meaning ‘a male sovereign or monarch; a man who holds by life tenure, and usually by hereditary right, the chief authority over a country and people.’ In many countries, however, there can be multiple kings. The term here is used to define a life-time position of authority over a group of people. Thus in Haile Selassie’s time there were many who were called kings. I, for instance, in southern Ethiopia have sat at a meal between the Buna king and an American Ambassador acting as the co-translator from the Buna king’s language to Amharic and then by me from Amharic to English. The king was there all powerful over his tribe even though by that time Ethiopia was a so-called democracy.

One of the kings under Haile Selassie was King Jafir II. His father King Jafir I introduced Islam into the Oromo people in the Jimma area of Ethiopia. The story as told from the Muslim and the Christian sides varies and isn’t of relevance to this article.

King Jafir II was born in 1861 and reigned as king 1878 to 1932. His palace although made out of mud still stands and is a major tourist site near Jimma. Unfortunately it is beginning to crumble.

Jafir photo
The king was a big man said to be over 7 feet tall.
Jafir window
The open window is suitable for the average sized person; the closed one was specially built for him to look out over his kingdom!
Jafir collage
On the left you see an Ethiopian teenager sitting on Jafir’s chair. In the centre is his super-duper king-size bed. And on the right a double minaret-ed mosque which is just outside the palace.
IMG_3078 copy
The outside of the palace. It has many rooms in part at least because he had many children. I have not been able to find a family tree for him but as a Muslim he was entitled to as many as four wives and many important people had even more.
IMG_3075 copy
Children’s rooms were upstairs and the courtyard below for their pleasure both for personal involvement (eg in swordsmanship) and for watching various contests and acts.
DSCF2056 copy
Overlooking Jimma city from the palace. Jmma is one of the larger Ethiopian cities.
DSCF2064 copy
Jafir was king of a very fertile countryside – famous as the homeland of coffee.

I enjoyed my visit there.

Dominic Cartier.


Old photos from Ethiopia.

I cannot boast of being a good photographer. Here are a few photos from the past with a bit of explanation. The first photo was taken through an airplane window. The smokiness is real in that without electricity every home has an open fire, and picture was taken early in the morning.

IMG_3482 copy
Ethiopia has 70 percent of the mountains found in Africa.  The highest is Mount Dashen at 4543m (14930 feet). It also has one of the lowest and hottest places in the world. The Danakil depression is 125m below sea level.
rock church Lalebella copy
The north is also famous for its 11 churches, hewn out of rock. The place is called Lalibela, where an Ethiopian Emperor of that name set out to restore the region to Christianity after a Muslim invasion. The churches are outstanding, being of a single piece of rock! Some believe that English knights, fleeing from Jerusalem during the wars there, helped in the building. This is maybe supported by the inclusion of the English Tudor rose in so many of the carvings. Others say that, at night time, angels came and helped in the building.


IMG_3540 copy
There are seven monasteries of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church on Lake Tana from which the Blue Nile starts its journey into Egypt. Above is an example of the multitude of paintings painted  in typical Ethiopian style. They are found in abundance in these monasteries. Not in this painting which is of an angel watching over Mary and her Son but interestingly you see amongst the many paintings  two saints whom most of the churches don’t recognize. Kidus Pilatus (St Pilate) – sainted because he was the only one who sought to have Jesus released, when he was being tried before His crucifixion. Another called the Cannibal Saint, who supposedly loved eating human flesh but has been sainted because he gave a glass of water to a thirsty girl. The story is that Mary put her hand on the scales when he was being tried after his death.
At filling station copy
I don’t think they make the horses drink petrol, but these little carts are a very common form of transport in the countryside. Although the car per population ratio is low the car accident per number of cars is very high. One of, if not the highest, in the world.
Accident 1 copy
On a straight open bitumen road. Note the rocks placed to warn motorists. It doesn’t help if you are just topping a hill and the rocks start just over the top!  See lake Shalla in the distance – the deepest lake in Ethiopia. Its depth is 257 metres and its area 12X15 km.



A few pictures from the past.

I’m sick of cataloging this afternoon. So here are a few pictures from the past, none medical.

David & Nancy
50 + yrs ago. He’s now a grandfather



school yard-S
25 years ago. The school where one of our adopted children attended Solomon – the third teenager
bridge building
Built to safety standards. We eventually got to drive over this bridge! 10 years ago
Government housing
The house provided for us at one place. My wife went home while I lived around the workers whom I paid to have it fixed. 25 years ago.
govt housing 1
One of the bed rooms.

And so it goes on. But enough for one day.

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

An introduction to Life in Africa

African sunsetAfter obtained my higher surgical degree I spent six months in India before going to Africa. Like a good boy I was up to date with vaccinations and all those necessary things before I left for India. I was ready for my life in Africa!
We flew along the Arabian coast line at the same speed as the day was starting – travelling East to West. All the way the sun shining on the cliffs was magnificent. Flying into Addis Ababa was green and so much like Australia with all the gum trees. Our two young boys were able to stretch out and sleep all the way from Karachi, which was bliss for us.

The landing was smooth; the passage through Immigration was not. Well, it was for my wife and the two boys. They were allowed through, were met by the mission heavies and taken to where we were to stay, whereas I was arrested. I was put into quarantine because my cholera injection was one day over the six months expiry time. All my arguments fell on deaf ears. My wife and the boys had had no problems in entering as they had joined me in India several months into my stay there and had their shots just before they left.In the quarantine station  I met a Greek (I think) doctor who agreed with my very logical argument that the injection is not 100% effective and the six months is not exact to the day. He gave me a booster injection and sent me to where my wife and children were.
While not being usually very tearful, having been told that I would be sequestered for six weeks, she was crying buckets full. Tears rapidly turned to joy.
We had a few days to acclimatise before we were due to head south to the place I was to work. We had needed to buy five years clothes, kitchen stuff, linen etc.  The two growing boys would need a lot of extra clothes. Things were very different in Africa 55 years ago and few things were available in the shops. Hospital expected requirements had to be ordered 6 months ahead of their needed date. We had planned to stay for 5 years. So, although we flew, 16 boxes had been sent ahead by ship.
We had to go to many offices over a couple of days to get it through customs but we were not charged duty. Foreign workers were very welcome at that time. There were 300 doctors for 30 million people and few of the 300 were trained surgeons.
Ten days after arriving in the country we were taken down to the hospital in which I was to work. There was a leprosarium with 700 inpatients plus an outpatient service. Many lepers had moved into the surrounding area as we were the only leprosarium in the southern region. There was also a 30 bed general hospital with an outpatient service with an average attendance of about 100/day. There was one doctor, 5 trained nurses and many national workers, including a number of trained dressers. Some other time I might say how we managed it all. I was to replace the one doctor who was leaving in 2 weeks on a years break.
We arrived at 3 in the afternoon. The doctor’s wife gave us afternoon tea. The doctor had some emergencies which he wanted me to see – as they needed surgery immediately!
We got home for supper at midnight having seen a number of patients and performed 3 operations. Two of which I recall – an urgent Caesarean Section and a bowel resection on a 16yo girl with a large mass obstructing the right side of her colon.
That was the start of a marathon run lasting several years.

double use of OR 2

Please don’t comment on the masks. I had operated on the patient seen in the background and was just preparing something on the second patient – a child – he too was asleep. Due to lack of staff to watch people adequately we sometimes ad even 3 patients in the OR. One being operated on and the others(s) being observed. From the greyness of the sideburns I can tell this was in my second trip. On the first trip – no grey, then white sideburns, then eventually all white! (I cut the kid out of the picture as he was not appropriately dressed).

Continue reading “An introduction to Life in Africa”

Border Crossings 3 and after….


Have you ever paid a bribe? I think that I have, even if accidentally.

Some years ago I took 2 nurses and a fitter and turner with me to Benin. I was going to help  in a mission hospital there and they came with me for experience and short term service. Our trip took us through Rome then down to the Ivory Coast and across into Benin. The others were all young and had never been overseas. The French name of Ivory Coast is Cote d’Ivoire and the capital is Abidjan. The language of the country is French. The others of my group knew no French – I knew a little. On arrival there the airport authorities took all our passports and disappeared behind closed doors. Continue reading “Border Crossings 3 and after….”

Border Crossings 2


Border patrol areas in busy airports are often very very busy. Before you get to the Immigration point you have to deal with check-in points, luggage control and frequently jostling crowds.

We have a racially complex family. I was overseas in a country where my adopted son, daughter in law and grand daughter had all been born. My son was now an Australian citizen. His wife had never left her home country but had a visitor’s visa to go to Australia, while they awaited a resident one. Their young baby had an Australian passport granted because of her father’s citizenship. It was just before Christmas and we were to travel home together.
Tickets were all in order and, as we thought, all our documentation was in place. We expected maybe a little trouble at the ticket counter as Australia puts visas online but not in passports, which doesn’t always work in developing countries because of internet issues. We had no trouble there and our luggage was through. So expecting no trouble we went through to Immigration.

As the leader of the pack I went first and having done a bit of explaining passed through expecting no trouble for the others. The wife with a foreign passport but a correct visa came through – surely every thing was OK. The husband with his Australian passport came through. Their daughter, my granddaughter, with her Australian passport was not allowed to come! Having been born in Ethiopia there was no stamp in her passport authorising her to have ever been in her country of birth. No arguments prevailed and we decided that I would go on and they would back track through the procedure. It seemed unreasonable to leave the baby alone on an Immigration desk.
The troubles hadn’t ended. They got their tickets back and were permitted to use them at a later date when all had been sorted. Getting their luggage back was not as simple, however. They were on one side of the Immigration line and their luggage was on the other. It took a lot of negotiating by my son to get permission to cross that line.
Then he had to pass through customs luggage control to get back into the country of departure. He had some Australian things which had been taken in with him when he had entered about two years previously and they demanded duty on them. Sometimes officials are short on common sense.

i had Christmas at home with family. With some difficulties sorted out, they joined us about a month later. There is more to this story to be added later.

Dominic Cartier

Border Crossing 1

water jpg

The border between Benin and Niger is the Niger River. It is about 400m wide and there is a separate Immigration post on each side of the river. Luggage examinations were held in the open with the locals watching all that went on.

Let me tell you how and why I got there.

I was supposed to fly into Niamey, the capital of Niger, from Parakou in Benin. The plane never arrived and as my trip was strategic I had to travel by local taxis. I was allowed to sit in the front seat and enjoyed the trip –  except that there was a hole in the side of the petrol tank of the taxi. The presence of the hole was not revealed in my contract of carriage, which was in fact only an urgently arranged verbal agreement. The driver was able to put in about 10 litres and then drove on until the fuel was about to run out, when another aliquot was added. So, having left about midday, we  staggered along arriving  at the border at dusk. The taxis had legal limits in which to take fares – one group was allowed to drive to the border, a second across the bridge; a third group was allowed to drive in Niger.

On the Beninois side Immigration ‘spot’ not everyone one was inspected – only one was, and I, maybe because of my distinctively different colour, was chosen. (sometimes bing a foreigner is a help, sometimes it’s not). My case, having been laid on the ground, was opened and I had to take out everything and place it on the ground. Every item was ‘oohed and ahhed’ by the watching crowd. There was no duty to be paid, so I repacked the case, got into a taxi, and arrived in Niger.

I think that you can guess what happened. The previous examination was replicated. Still there was no duty to be paid and I headed towards the next taxi area where there was only one taxi present. Approaching the driver, I asked how much to go to Niamey. Previously I had been told the cost was 1250CFA. He quoted 2500CFA, so I told him that I knew better. He told me that I was correct, but, pointing to a ramshackle place a few hundred metres away, told me that he was the last taxi going that night, and that I could choose that ‘hotel’ or pay the 2500. I chose the latter, was given a front seat again. We arrived about midnight. The place where I was to stay had given me up as a lost cause but found me a corner in which to bed down.

Benin 2

Dominic Cartier