Ethiopia: Part 2

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Day 3

I’m just coming out of the woods after my first bout of food poisoning. I’ve actually been pretty impressed by the resilience of my body, although I’m still a little tender. Today we’ll be at the conference, and then later take a tour of the city including a climb up Entoto Mountain, and visits to the National Museum, an Ethiopian Orthodox church, the ‘Merkato’ the old city.

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(This is part 2 of 6. The other parts are: 1 (here), 3 (here), 4 (here), 5 (here) and 6 (here).)

Last night, we went to an Italian restaurant where Bill Clinton, the Jolie-Pitts and President Carter had all been. They sat us in this small room already and only occupied by an Irish couple and their small Ethiopian child. The couple were not the first we’ve met who are here going through the adoption process, through in their case this ordeal has already lasted 8 years. They’re finally near their court date with this little baby boy, and because of these delays have been living with him in the orphanage for the past few months. There are 6 million orphans in Ethiopia, most of which are found left at churches and mosques.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Day 4

I leave Addis tomorrow afternoon to fly to Nairobi to meet Krysta’s friends, Lucy and Ryan, at their house near the UN. On Saturday evening I will meet the full safari group. Then it’s on to the wilds of the world, the field of hyenas and the land of sand mites.

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Yesterday was my last day with Paul, and also the tour! What an experience. I’m so glad we did this, because it gave us a really different perspective on the city. We drove up to the highlands around Entoto Mountain, where we passed women carrying cantilevered eucalyptus bundles on their shoulders down the muddy, Alpine-looking roads for sale at lower altitudes. Eucalyptus doesn’t only grows up at these slightly higher altitude, but the city is devoid of arable land so this seems to be the spot to get your own. Also to be seen climbing up and down the mountain were herds of goats and religious pilgrims, as it’s a sacred mountain with many monasteries, churches, and the site of Menelik II’s palace.

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From the top of Entoto

Women carrying down fresh eucalyptus

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We went to a museum at the top of the mountain, which consisted of cases of weird things: old, monastic wares (crowns, personal items, photos); Bibles written on horse skin in Amharic*, random Olympic medals donated by the winning athletes (though a quick search betrays that this was by no means an extensive collection as there were only about 3 of the 38 on display), processional, decorative umbrellas, strange walking sticks that you’re clearly intended to balance your chin on, and Ethiopian currency from across the years. So basically, a haul of relatively unrelated Ethiopian wares. The air is much clearer up here because of all the eucalyptus – referred to as the “lung of Addis Ababa” – and although no better off than city dwellers, the desperation is slightly less palpable. It seems that slums exist because the poor left the more rural areas in search of work, but found themselves reserve labour.

*Amharic is the oldest living, written language still in use (throws back to 100 BC) and the second-most prevalent Semitic language in the world, after Arabic. Another little fact for you: the Ethiopians observe a different calendar than ours, so it’s actually 2004 in Ethiopia. Seriously. There are 13 months in this calendar so at the moment they’re 8 years behind and will continue to trail off. I asked our driver if this is widely adopted and he laughed at me and said of course.

We also went to the National Museum, an orthodox church, and the ‘Merkato’. I don’t know what I was expecting, but the Merkato was dismal – cluttered, chaotic, full of staring, shoving people and cars careering their way through the muddy roads, leaving plumes of exhaust billowing behind them. We were literally the only foreigners I saw. While we walked around, the driver stayed in the locked car to make sure our stuff was alright, and even though he was blatantly sitting there watching guard, there were constant attempts by passers-by to open the doors and grab our visible bags. Not altogether too surprising, really.

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Our last evening, Paul and I went to another traditional, Ethiopian restaurant with all the rites and rituals, singing, dancing and performance. This one was called 2000 Habesha and was quite similar to the first, though had a few different things to offer like their own “tej,” which is homebrewed honey wine (not the best pair for spicy tibs, let me tell you) and a coffee + popcorn course to end the night.

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6 thoughts on “Ethiopia: Part 2

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