Meet the Tour Operator: Yohannes Zeleke

Yohannes Zeleke is a man of many hats, including the one above. (Photo by David Cogswell)

Travel Pulse


When you hang with somebody, when you get down, travel around, eat meals together, hike around, discuss, argue, dance, drink, sing, laugh and various other things, you don’t often think about the initials after people’s names. But in truth Yohannes Zeleke, a member of the party that traveled to Ethiopia on the recent NTA Product Development trip, is a Ph.D.

As remarkable as those initials are, it’s one of the least interesting things that comes to mind about Dr. Zeleke. He is an anthropologist, an archaeologist with decades of digs in Europe, Asia and Africa under his belt. He’s an author. He’s a research associate with the Smithsonian Institution. He’s an alumnus of the University of California at Berkeley, The Russian Academy of Sciences and St. Petersburg State University. He teaches anthropology at the American University in Washington DC. He’s the president of the Mid-Atlantic chapter of the Africa Travel Association and he’s a tour operator.

The problem is where to begin. Any attempt to sum up his multi-faceted existence would fall short.

Yohannes Zeleke’s own long, winding journey began at Gondar, where he was born in one of Ethiopia’s largest cities and the site of Gondar Castle, a cluster of impressive stone structures built in 1636 by King Fasilides.

Growing up in Ethiopia, the site of the earliest known human fossils, as well as the Gondar Castle and many other sites of historical and religious significance, it is perhaps not surprising that he would have followed the courses of study of archaeology, anthropology and history.

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