The officer looked at me sitting by the door and said “Follow me.” And I did, not knowing where I or the other 18 members of our tour group was going. We followed the officer right into the office of the President of Ethiopia in Addis Abba, Ethiopia, who was sitting at his desk.
During our visit of the Presidential Palace, we were totally surprised when we were invited to visit President Girma W. Giorgis. He greeted each one of us individually and a photographer snapped our photo. After the personal greeting, we then sat in chairs right in front of his desk and began our 25-minute chat with him.
President Giorgis started the visit by leaning forward on his desk toward all of us and said, “What’s up?” We all roared at his comment. No one then spoke, so I told him we loved his country.” Then, he received a short call on his white phone, finished it and asked where we were from and the answer was, “USA” and one replied, “and one from Canada.” Our tour director then explained that we were an Abercrombie & Kent and Kibran tour and that we would “advertise to all that Ethiopia is a unique country from other African countries.”
One of our tour ladies said she was in Ethiopia in 1967 and she was wondering about the roads and airlines. President Giorgis said there were highways everywhere now and airline services provided to all major cities. “Next we are concentrating on schools, he said “and currently we have 24 universities and we are planning for 31 as that is one way of preventing poverty, President Giorgis said.
A gentleman in our group asked the President what was his biggest challenge as President and he replied, “Meeting people like you.” Again, we all roared. Next, I asked if he had been to the USA. “Yes to the USA,” he said but he didn’t remember how many times. And, I have been to Ft. Worth, Dallas, Austin and Houston-NASA Texas with Lucy.” He had to show his photo wearing a Texas Stetson hat, and his cowboy sculpture on his desk. President Giorgis was traveling with Lucy, the world’s oldest and first hominid (erect walking) skeleton that was found in 1974 about 60 miles from Addis Abba, Ethiopia.
Then his attendants and service ladies came in with Ethiopian coffee and cookies and each one of us was served following the President. As we enjoyed the fresh brewed Ethiopian coffee, we noticed the President had a replica of the Arc of the Covenant with 2 gold lions guarding it on the coffee table in front of us. It is Ethiopia that claims to have the Arc of the Covenant.
Finally, Mr. Giorgis was asked his age and how many grandchildren he had. He replied and that he is 89- years-old, has been married for 63 years and has 5 great-grandchildren. That information led one of our men to reply, “You have to be a very good diplomat to be married for 63 years.”