The tiny village of Neakutoleab came into view as I left the Monastery Church of Neakutoleab. Music wafted down from the top of the hill. “Want to go see what’s happening?” my guide asked. “Absolutely,” I said. I struggled up a steep dirt path to a concrete house painted in brilliant primary colors and rounded the corner to the front door. A group of men stood outside, sipping local brew and dancing to the music. Their Sunday-best suits were draped with the white gauzy shawls that Ethiopian Orthodox Christians wear to church and their heads were bound up in turbans made from the same material. “It’s an Ethiopian wedding!” my guide exclaimed.
Before I knew what was happening, the joyful men dragged me inside and presented me to the bride and groom. The young couple wore navy blue capes over their gauze shawls, and jewel-studded bronze crowns sat upon their heads. They welcomed me with broad smiles and motioned for me to sit down at the head table with them. The young girl in this photo, who was responsible for distributing fresh-baked bread to the guests, shyly handed me a piece. I took a bite and stopped, surprised. “It’s like Injera, only thicker,” I said. I had eaten my fair share of Injera, the sourdough flatbread that is a staple of Ethiopian food, but I’d never tasted this brown bread. Like Injera, it was made from sourdough, and though dense it was moist inside with a thin crispy crust. I ate every last bite, danced in my chair to the local music, and then bid the bride and groom goodby as I gifted them with 200 Ethiopian Birr to help start their life together. There is simply nothing better than attending an Ethiopian wedding for tapping into the culture of this amazing country.