From weapons of war to great coffee
By Amber Henshaw
BBC News, Mekele
In Biblical times they said “turn your swords into ploughshares”, now in northern Ethiopia a tradesman is bringing the saying into the 21st century.
In his workshop in Mekele, just 200km from Ethiopia’s border with Eritrea, Azmeraw Zekele is turning burnt-out shells into cylinders used in coffee machines.
Most of the shells are leftover from the war between the two countries which took place between 1998 and 2000.
The workshop is made up of three quite small ramshackle rooms that lead from one to another with sunlight coming through the gaps, but it is a hive of activity for Mr Azmeraw and his six staff.
“The shells were dropped in Ethiopia during the war with Eritrea. They were dropped so people hid them in their homes and now they sell them,” Mr Azmeraw says.
He uses old mortar shells which stand about one metre high and were used during the conflict for his coffee machines.
He cuts off the pointed ends, seals them and puts holes into the aluminium cylinder. The cylinder channels the water, coffee and milk.
He told me he got the idea nine years ago when he was doing maintenance work.
“I saw some shells for sale being sold for a different purpose and I studied them.
“They were used for washing clothes or crushing things. After studying them I came up with the idea of using them as a cylinder for a coffee machine.”
Coffee is a major export from Ethiopia and plays a big role in life.
After meals, the traditional coffee ceremony allows family and friends to get together to share news and discuss the issues of the day.
Coffee shops are also popular.
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