Our third and final stop was in Gonder. Gonder has been called the Camelot of Africa because of its castles. The castles look very similar to European castles. Why castles here? Because it too was once the seat of the monarchy. All three cities on our tour were once seats of power in Ethiopia. A special church in Gonder was constructed to house the Ark of the Covenant, but at some point in time it was decided not to move it after all.
Back in Addis Ababa we grabbed some delicious coffee. Oh, did I mention that Ethiopia has a wonderful coffee ceremony? Yes, an entire ceremony just for drinking coffee! The place we got the coffee was called Kaldi's Coffee. The word on the street is that this woman Kaldi tried to purchase a Starbuck's franchise. It was only fitting since Starbucks is a major customer of Ethiopian coffee. They refused her. So she stole logo, branded it with her name, increased the offerings on the menu to include delicious french fries (no sorry soggy chipsi here!), ice cream, and other tasty treats. She is doing a BOOMING business.
Since Dubai is the talk of the town these with their crazy development projects (Burj Al-Arab, The World Islands, Palm Jumeirah, Palm Deira, Tallest building in the world, indoor ski slope) I thought I might as well see it for myself. So my itinerary took me from Addis Ababa to Nairobi (saving 200 bucks to go south before going north!) then to Dubai. I cannot recommend Kenya airlines; the service was good but hardware less then great. Dubai was a mind trip after living in a developing country and then traveling through a developing country. Dubai is like San Diego - except richer, cleaner, better customer service, and people are nicer. The great American chains are all there too - Cinnabon, Krispy Kreme, Starbucks, McDonald's, Speedy's (Carl's Jr), Burger King, and more.
After spending 2 days in Dubai I finally caught my flight home with a small layover in Doha, Qatar. In the airport at Doha I had my first root beer in more than two years - there was an A&W franchise in the airport! Qatar airlines has great, amazing service. On my non-stop flight between Doha and Washington DC I had two full meals, complete with a small bottle of wine. Plus there were sandwiches and drinks between meals. The entertainment screens were loaded with plenty of movies, tv shows, games, and music - a good thing since the flight was thirteen hours! The route took us over Iraq, Turkey, Russia, Scandinavia, Iceland, Greenland, and Canada. Because of the extreme northern route, we hovered in sunset twilight for about five hours of the flight.
My luck with travel stopped at DC however. After arriving I discovered that Southwest (for my next flight) doesn't "do" transfers with other airlines. And because my flight wasn't for twelve hours I couldn't check my luggage (stupid TSA. I hope Obama does away with them). So if you are traveling internationally, do not connect with Southwest. Fortunately (or unfortunately for both of us) there was another traveler in a similar predicament with United. So we grabbed a light meal (and I had my first non-lager since I left) and sat up through the night looking at each other's pictures and comparing experiences. She had come from Nepal where she works with an NGO trying to find markets for handicrafts. I was also getting antsy about the weather. As it turned out, I was safe by about 36 hours. In seven flights (Dar es Salaam--> Addis Ababa--> Nairobi--> Dubai--> Doha--> DC--> Chicago--> Portland) on four carriers (Ethiopia, Kenya, Qatar, Southwest) through six countries (Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, UAE, Qatar, US), it was Southwest who lost one of my bags. I blame TSA though; at Dulles airport in DC, you, the passenger, are the one who must carry your bags from check-in to TSA. I had put my large backpack on the ground amidst all the other luggage, but I put my smaller duffel on a chair sitting next to all the luggage. I got it back the next day though. In Portland I was greeted by a wonderful site: SNOW!!! and ice. Lot's of ice. Even though I didn't have the proper cold weather clothes, I happily suffered through it.