Where & What is Uthiopia?

Utopia (Yo͞oˈtōpēə). An imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect. The word was first used in the book Utopia (1516) by Sir Thomas More. synonyms:   paradise, heaven (on earth), Eden, Garden of Eden, Shangri-La, Elysium.

Ethiopia (Ītyōṗṗyā). A republic in northeastern Africa on the Red Sea; formerly called Abyssinia. In classical antiquity the term was loosely applied to all of the lands beyond southern Egypt.

Uthiopia (yo͞oˈthiōpēə). A portmanteau word, a toponyme for the land of Prester John, John de Mandeville, &  the blood line of Solomon where the lion of Juda roams and Herodotus’ troglodytes now make their abode in condominiums.



Uthiopia is also about:

Ethiopian people(s)

Ethiopian culture(s)

Ethiopian vernacular(s)

And of course, Fat Tailed Sheep


Uthiopia is inhabited by Yves Marie Stranger

When not talking up Abyssinian ponies, or setting up new equestrian trekking routes, I work as an French – English – Spanish – Amharic interpreter and translator in Addis Ababa where I’m the head of interpreting and translating at PSITS, Ethiopia’s foremost language services and events company.

I have worked on the books Portraits controversés d’un prince éthiopienBaghdad Arts DecoAddis Ababa, the city and its architectural heritage, and on the recent Un Train Africain/የባቡር ወጎች/African Train by Hugues Fontaine, to which I also contributed a chapter. Ces Pas qui Trop Vite s’Effacent is about travelling in the Cévennes of the south of France in the footsteps of Robert Louis Stevenson.

What’s Uthiopia all about? Uthiopia is about Ethiopian cultures and languages –  and also fat tailed sheep, horses and culture shock – of the Abyssinian variety. You can read the first post if you like, which tries to set out what it’s all going to be about. Or check these posts out:

Tintin in Ethiopia

The real story of Kaldi

Tergum, or, lost in translation

The language of the birds

Sew yellem

Abyssinia Dreaming

To boldly go where Ferenjis have gone before

That said, as a work in progress, don’t expect Uthiopia to adhere too strictly to the guidelines that are set out in that first post – and if you sometimes think Mr Stranger takes a slightly cavalier attitude to cultural analysis, I’m afraid you’d be right – short cuts in the highlands work rather well in the absence of fences. And besides, how could I be accused of getting on a high horse when Abyssinian ponies are just so, so short? But believe you me, they’re hardy, and they still do provide excellent perspectives.




logo for Yves Stranger 1Equus Ethiopia is no more (you can read here about why we closed the business) but you can still ride in Ethiopia. You can go horse trekking in the Bale Mountains, or in as yet undiscovered Lephis Forest, just an hour from the shores of Lake Langano (find info on Roots of Ethiopia and read our post about the place here). Another beautiful place to ride is on the Afro-Alpine Menz Plateau (here is info and here is our post about the mule riding you can experience there).

You can also read a more general historical perspective on Abyssinian Ponies on our About Ethiopia and horses page.

If you would like to hire someone who really knows about the local ponies, Equus’ guides have six years experience in horse trekking (and carried out the training in some of the places mentioned above). They speak English and know what foreign travelers’ expectations are when it comes to riding.

The horse riding in Bale, Lephis, and the mule riding in Menz is truly fantastic – the landscapes are grandiose, the people the kindest you could meet and the local ponies are sturdy and good hearted – but you should understand that the horses are  ponies pulled off the mountain side and equipped with  rustic tack (except for Lephis, where they have comfortable McClellan). This may not be the kind of horse riding you are used to.

Equus Ethiopia’s guides are probably the best horsemen in the land – they can choose horses for you, make sure they get the proper food and are safely equipped (they also have access to good international standard horse trekking tack) – so get in touch if you are interested – or would just like some info about horse riding in Ethiopia.

For riding in Addis Ababa itself check out the Addis Ababa Equestrian Society, or go to Jan Meda next to Arat Kilo, or visit the new Balderas stables in CMC .

The Italian, French, German and British Embassies also have stables and riding facilities. Rules on who can use them may vary and you should contact the embassies directly.


Farewell Equus Ethiopia  / A photograph by Nicolas Henry





Uthiopia will occasionally use Amharic script in its posts, especially when trying to define what Ethiopia is all about. As in the posts 10 words that define Ethiopia. If your browser has problems with this (if boxes and squiggles appear) you can install a free Amharic font from here.

Utopia in Ethiopia