Ethiopian Souvenirs

December 19, 2012

By Gabrielle.

The other day, I had some beautiful light shining through the windows, so I gathered up the souvenirs I brought home from Ethiopia and had a little photo shoot. I thought it might be fun to do a show-and-tell for anyone who is curious. (Ulterior motive: I thought it might change how some of us think of the Brand of Ethiopia.) Alas, I don’t have shopping sources for any of these items, so if you love them, put a trip to Ethiopia on your travel wishlist. : )

This wasn’t actually a tourist-y trip, so we only had a few minutes of shopping here and there, but I love what I brought home! The first things I picked up were three embroidered toys. A multi-color ball with the amharic alphabet, a pink rhino and a camel.

Oscar adopted the rhino. Betty hangs the camel on a corner of her bookshelves. And June adores the embroidered ball.

Next up in our show-and-tell, a small book of scripture. It’s about 4.5 inches square and covered in leather. The pages — which are also made of animal skin (instead of paper) — are hand painted, and the whole thing folds accordion style.

I’m really drawn to this depiction of Mary and Jesus. So beautiful!

Can you tell I liked taking pictures of the little book? It truly is exceptional.

The bible was a souvenir for Ben Blair, but these little creatures were for me! Aren’t they adorable? They’re hand-carved and they really roll. I guess technically they could be for my kids, but I have them displayed on the living room bookshelf because I think they’re handsome.

Next, we come to Ralph’s gift. I thought it would make a great (fierce!) movie prop.

The detailing in the leather sheath and the rust-colored wire on the tip are just stunning. In my experience, picking out a souvenir for a 15-year-old is tricky. But Ralph was very pleased with this one! It sits high on a shelf in his room — out of reach of little hands — and it has indeed inspired some movie-making.

Now it’s time for the jewelry. I wore these bracelets every single day from the moment I bought them until weeks later when it was too cold for short sleeves. They’re super lightweight and really lovely. Olive received a wooden bracelet as well.

This cross was a gift from one of our guides in Addis Ababa. I love wearing it — and when I do, it reminds me of the trip. (And also, our conversation about religious jewelry.) I picked up something similar for Maude.

These beads were the last thing I bought — and they’re my favorite of the bunch. There are two strands, and I know I over-payed, but I’m the absolute worst at haggling. (No seriously, I’m the worst.) These beads are heavy and gorgeous and feel like they’re a million years old, and they make me feel like a million bucks when I wear them.

I’d love to hear what you think! Would you have picked out the same things if you were there? Does anything stand out to you from among my picks?

P.S. — I also came home with lots of scarves!


In October, I spent a week in Ethiopia at the kind invitation and expense of The ONE Campaign, a nonpartisan, advocacy organization dedicated to the fight against extreme poverty and malnutrition, particularly in Africa. ONE works to convince governments to invest in smart programs that save lives. While there, I was with a group of parenting bloggers to observe how the organizations for which ONE advocates are effecting real change in Ethiopia.

ONE doesn’t ask for your money, just your voice. If you’re moved by anything you read or see here, or on the ONE blog, please consider adding your voice, and join ONE.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 MamaChristy December 19, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Well, a trip to Ethiopia is out of the question at the moment, but perhaps this is a good reminder to look to the small and handmade as gifts.


2 allysha December 19, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Those are all so beautiful! I love the little embroidered animals!
I’m glad you got to go on this trip. I have loved learning about Ethiopia through your experiences.
Lately, I’ve been thinking fondly of what a nice person you are. Just wanted you to know. Have a good day, Gabby.


3 Diana December 19, 2012 at 1:11 pm

I was just thinking of the animals with wheels the other day. Seeing everything again just transports me back. And is that Muya fabric they’re on? The really soft throw?


4 Jeannine December 19, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Gabby, so beautiful. I loved (on the bus) seeing everything you and the others bought in that made dash of shopping and running out frantically to buy similar. And man, I’m so glad I did. I love my wooden bracelets and the carved wooden animals. What an incredible journey.

And I was thinking the same thing as Diana. Muya? :) xo


5 Sharon @ Discovering blog December 19, 2012 at 2:28 pm

These are all so great! I especially love the zebra on wheels. I have a deep love for those tiger horses.
That small bible is so unique – I can imagine how beautiful that must be to hold in your hands.


6 Mom101 December 19, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Oh Gabby, just this morning I opened my “open this bag at Christmas time” bag and discovered those beautiful little zebra rolling toys we both found. Also some coffee, some necklaces…it put such a smile on my face and memories just flooded back.

I will never forget you racing back to get other women those wooden bracelets, and the sellers rallying 4 different guys at the market to scour all their stalls in about 2 minutes flat to bring you everything they had.

I still wish I had thought to get Nate that knife. That was some knife, Gabby!


7 Sara @ What About Sara December 19, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Such beautiful items! Thank you for sharing. :)


8 Elizabeth T. December 19, 2012 at 3:40 pm

wonderful – when my sister and I were there a couple of years ago we were wishing there were more to buy in the way of souvenirs! She got some cool posters at a tourism office, and a horsehair flyswatter like the priests carry. We also both got Obama T-shirts in Amharic. I got several painted religious items – parchment and wood – I couldn’t resist the little big-eyed flying-head angels. I also got a couple of scarves, a silver hand cross and a tiny cross pendant.


9 michelle twin mum December 19, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Oh I love that little bible, beautiful – I want one. I have some gorgeous pictures in the same vein and on the animal skin.

Just yesterday I finally bought cushions to go in my Muya covers and they look divine. I feel a post coming on!

Happy Christmas beautiful lady. Mich x


10 marie December 19, 2012 at 4:34 pm

the animals on wheels ! so lovely. they make me want to get wood and carving tools and start right away producing a whole safari (i have no idea how to but it makes me wish anyway).


11 julie December 19, 2012 at 5:18 pm

I especially love the cross. It looks so rustic and inspiring.


12 Kate The Great December 19, 2012 at 7:16 pm

I gotta tell you, I love those metal beaded bracelets the best. And I’ve been inspired by your love of the industrial.

This summer, we took family pictures at a park while we gathered for my little brother’s wedding in Albuquerque, NM. We’d just finished the group shots, and the photographer asked for scenery ideas for more intimate group shots. I suggested the huge corrugated pipes of the arroyo, and everyone looked at me like I was crazy.

But Gabby? They came out gorgeous! And it felt dangerous and a little thrilling to be conscientiously defying the “ditches are deadly; stay away” campaign, even when we were smart about it and knew what it hadn’t rained in the mountains for several days and wasn’t about to.


13 Martha December 20, 2012 at 4:01 am

Lovely things!
If anyone is planning a visit to Ethiopia and wants to buy the fabric balls and toys they can be found at the Misrach Centre, near Sidist Kilo in the centre of Addis. And I would recommend a wonderful jewellery shop in Addis which uses Ethiopian styles but beads from other african countries too. Also lots of scarves:
Another wonderful scarf shop is The Former Women Fuelwood Carriers Association near Shoromeda (market) up towards Entoto Mountain in Addis.
I have never seen the animals on wheels before they are so nice!
(I live in Addis, these are three of my favorite shops).


14 Isabella April 14, 2016 at 10:05 am

I would love to know more. We are going to Ethiopia at the end of the month. I ADORE this bible and I love the embroidered animals. Any suggestions are much appreciated!


15 Grace@ Sense and Simplicity December 20, 2012 at 6:32 am

Such lovely souvenirs. The little bible is gorgeous as are the beads. I’m the worst at haggling too – it’s just not in my nature so I totally sympathize. Wouldn’t the pictures in the bible be pretty Christmas cards if you took a photo of them and had cards made or photocopied and hung on the wall at Christmas.


16 Zoe December 20, 2012 at 8:27 am

Wow, this was fun to see as we can came home with some of the same lovely things!… the soft ball, a beautiful accordion book of Scripture, and a similar zebra and lion — which we’re giving to our girls for Christmas as decorative items for their room.

I adore the beads you bought. I bought a similar wood bracelet but I like yours better. Sorry we didn’t run into each other over there. When we were out and about — which wasn’t much once we took custody of the girls — I looked around hoping to spot your group somewhere. Did you make it to Mekelle? We spent a really special day up there since it’s where our girls are from.

Happy Christmas!


17 Jane December 21, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Everything here is gorgeous but I love, LOVE the wooden bracelets and particularly worn in combination – brilliant!


18 Dressing ivana December 21, 2012 at 4:40 pm

So cute!


19 dr oz garcinia March 23, 2013 at 8:32 am

There’s definately a lot to learn about this topic. I like all of the points you made.|


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