This photo shows several glasses of tej, the locally-produced honey wine
TOP CHOICE – Pelican Wine House             WINE BAR
Open noon-midnight  Mon-Fri, 9am-midnight Sat & Sun
A chemistry degree from Bahir Dar University led owner Yordanos into a life of wine and she now makes her own honey, date, mango, apple and grape varieties.  You can pair them with burgers and chips from her sister’s kitchen.  It’s easy to find; head past the post office and then south 500m from the university gate.

This was the entry in the most recently published edition of Lonely Planet’s guide to Ethiopia, Djibouti & Somaliland which led to one of the best nights out we had during our trip!  As was our wont, with us all being first-time travellers to this part of the world, we turned to the guidebook for inspiration as to where to eat and drink.  On this particular day, we had already had a good lunch, so we weren’t looking for food, but we were keen to try the locally produced honey wine known as tej.  The Pelican Wine House seemed to fit the bill!

Contrary to the description in the guide, the Pelican was not easy to find!  We located it on the map, but translating that to its actual location on the ground proved to be a problem.  It was extremely dark and our head torches were ineffective in picking out all of the trip hazards on the dodgy pavements!  We decided it was safer to walk on the road!  We asked several people on the way.  Those who purported to know of the Pelican all seemed to think we were going in the right direction, but it still remained elusive.  Eventually, we acquired a local ‘guide’ in the form of a small boy, who led us down an even darker street until we arrived at the bar!  We knew we were in the right place as there was a painted sign on the wall which gave the name of the place and a list of all the different wines on offer.  Despite this, our arrival caused some consternation amongst the locals who were packed into the small room.  It seemed as though we were the first ‘faranjis’ who had ever been in the place!
After lots of sign language, we thought we had got our message across as we were ushered into a back room and found stools to sit on.  However, it seemed as if they wanted us to drink Fanta or Sprite!  No amount of gesturing could make the waitress understand that we wanted to try the wines the bar was famous for!  After a few minutes of getting nowhere, she produced an English speaker to act as our interpreter.  Benedict was clearly half cut, but he was our only hope!  With his help, we asked about each of the wines in turn, only to be told that they didn’t have them.  It turned out that Yordanos had moved to Canada some time before our visit and the bar no longer offered these beverages.  There was a chance that they could make us some mango wine if we’d like to come back in a few days!  In the end, they did find us some home-made grape wine (so, that’s wine, then!) – we ordered a couple of bottles and invited Benedict to join us.  The cloudy pinky-orange liquid tasted terrible and was clearly still fermenting in the bottle, but, somehow, we managed to finish it!  We discovered that Benedict, in his sharp white suit and stylish hat, was a singer, so he entertained us with some beautiful Ethiopian songs, as well as his very limited English repertoire! 
Having drunk the home brew, we were still keen to try tej.  Benedict offered to take us somewhere where we would be sure to find some.  So, with a cry of ‘Take me to the tej’ from one of our party ringing in our ears, we set off through the streets of Bahir Dar with our drunken guide! 
After a few false starts, we found ourselves in a tej bet.  These are local drinking houses, specialising in honey wine.  They never have signs outside, so you need someone who knows where they are, to show you.  They are the haunt of men.  It’s OK for women to go in them, but they should keep a low profile!  The tej is fermented using a local shrub known as gesho and is served in small flasks called birille.


When we arrived, the place was packed and the entertainment was in full swing with traditional music, singing and dancing.  We were found seats and given some tej.  Mark and I had already tried it in Addis and found it too sweet for our palates, but some of our group thought it was delicious.  We all agreed, though, that the entertainment was great!  At one point, there was a comedian and we were clearly the butt of some of his jokes, but it was all good-natured.  Some of us joined in with the dancing, much to the amusement of the locals, and a good time was had by all.  It was the kind of authentic experience which gives real meaning to our travels.
Home made grape wine!!


Benedict and us!
Local dancing

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