Thursday, 20 August 2015

A Kenyan in Addis Ababa (Part 3) - Going Out

Merkato - "Africa's largest 'open air' market? 
This post continues from Part 1 and Part 2

For shopping, Merkato is a much better option compared to Churchill Avenue. Addis residents call it the biggest open air market in Africa. Contrastingly, a more fitting description would be a collection of malls, a much larger version of Eastleigh, but a less congested and cleaner one. The malls each have stalls which deal in a variety of items,  from paintings and other artefacts, to leather goods,  to imported hardware from China.


Some of those missing from Mengistu's reign of red terror.
Image taken at the Red Terror museum
If looking to shop for textiles,  then Shromeda is where you should be headed to. Buying textiles around the Central Business District might see you paying as much as 10 times what they cost. Note the distinction between various textiles - there’s handmade scarves and machine woven ones, same to fabrics. There’s also pure cotton fabrics and synthetic ones. If unsure,  ask the merchant before you buy,  most will point out the difference.


Besides Merkato, a visit to the Holy Trinity Cathedral at Arat Kilo is highly advised. It does cost 100 Birr, so plan for that. The Orthodox Church has been at the centre of Ethiopia’s culture and the state. It is at the Orthodox Church Museum (behind the church) that you can have a short history of Ethiopia, dating all the way back to the 15th Century.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

A Kenyan in Addis Ababa (Part 2) - The "University Girls"

Addis Ababa's Light Rail system runs through the middle of a street.
The electrified light rail is still under construction, though mostly done
This post continues from Part 1. 

The residents of Addis are friendly too. On my first day, I did meet a guard at a hotel, who later offered to show me around. Among the places he suggested, was this place where some “University girls” were holding some "dancing ceremony". He added, that Ethiopians being Orthodox Christians, were about to go on a sex, alcohol and meat fast, hence the importance of this “ceremony.”

I had some suspicion that I was being sold to sex, but my guide insisted that this was not a sex sale. Just dancing University girls. We did end up in some nondescript compound, and into a house. There was sort of a sitting area, with a radio system, low benches and tables, and grass sprinkled around the floor. Grass sprinkled around the floor is an Ethiopian tradition that indicates you are welcome to a place.

It was about 5 PM,  and the hosts seemed not to be expecting any visitors at this time. My guide disappeared down some corridor into the back to call them. In marched a troop of light ladies, a good number wearing vest tops. I could have sworn they were all chosen on the basis of the massiveness of their breasts. The typical woman in the streets did not have as large a pair, which raised the question of the odds of about 6 of them being in one place.

It also hit me that I was a client, which was confirmed when about 2 men walked in - probably the pimps. The ladies insisted I seat and have coffee, and they would dance. I was apprehensive, after an experience I once had in Istanbul. I insisted I needed to get back to my hotel to work, which had some truth in it. This is despite the fact that they had switched on some music and started dancing.

Friday, 14 August 2015

A Kenyan in Addis Ababa (Part 1)

Addis Ababa,Churchill Avenue, with the canon somewhere in the middle of the roundabout.
Note the construction in the background.
Addis is a delightful city to visit!
Ever woken up in Nairobi, or anywhere else in Kenya, and felt that you should have woken up in Addis Ababa? Thankfully, you can do something about it, if you are a Kenyan .


Not many Kenyans know that you can travel to Ethiopia in a whim - you do not need a visa. To top that, travelling to Ethiopia is quite cheap - it can cost as low as KSh. 19,000 for a return flight, if you book early, and about KSh. 27,000 normally. Of course the low prices are on Ethiopian Airlines - who have about 4 daily flights between Nairobi and Addis Ababa.


On my inaugural flight to Addis (well,  I have transited through Bole airport before), I happened to meet someone who was travelling on a Kenya Airways flight to the same city, and who their flight had been delayed by 2 hours. Thankfully, my flights on Ethiopian left in time and arrived early.


If flying any of the two, unlike South African Airways, be warned that you will not be allowed to use your phone in flight - even if you just want to listen to music or read some ebook. They however do allow laptops,  tablets (aren’t this just giant phones?) and I think ebook readers. I carried some magazines.

As we started the landing descent, I looked out and wondered why we were still flying over a patchwork of black and green farmland. Being August, a rainy season for Addis Ababa, the black was mud and the green were recently planted crops. There were also lots of visible waterways, small brown rivers and the art they made as they deposited their brown, silty water into small lakes.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Here are the "goodies" that President Obama brought to Kenya

Taking a selfie with his sister Auma Obama at the Safaricom Indoor Arena.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
While we had extensive details about Obama's motorcade, we discovered
way late that he has a sister. Some are yet to discover her name is Dr. Auma,
however, we all know his car is christened "The Beast".
The United States President, Barack Obama,  made the first tour to Kenya by a sitting US President. During the trip,  there was a consistent theme in the media about Obama bringing “goodies”, though much focus was placed on his motorcade and other theatrics.

State House has released some details on the goodies that Obama brought. A good number of them are not the tangible goodies we may expect, such as new,  black roads,  or new,  gleaming railways. There’s however some aspect of that.

It is a mixed bag of goodies, some heavily skewed towards US interests, but a good number are to our interests. They especially focus on the space of human development that is often ignored in the pursuit of physical development in this region. Thus,  there is a theme in human rights,  and especially those of women and girls,  and an overall objective towards increasing the value and quality of people in Kenya,  and in Africa.

Some  of the agreements involve several African countries. While Obama only visited Kenya and Ethiopia,  the rest of Eastern and Southern Africa also did get something from the goody bag.

Friday, 24 July 2015

You can help 17 year old Linet achieve her vision. Here is how to

Since the age of 9, 17 year old Linet has been fighting to keep her eye sight.
She sits her KCSE  in 3 months, but first needs to undergo eye treatment in India.
You can  contribute to her KSh. 1 million medical fund through M-Pesa PayBill 573666

Linet Muthoni is 17 years old. She is a high school student and sits for her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams at the end of this year.


Like every other 17 year old,  Linet is looking forward to a bright future where she can play her role in making Kenya a better country. She however needs your help to make her dreams come true, and for her to literally see her future.


You see, Linet has had a medical history of acute allergies in both her eyes.


The allergies have been so severe that she started wearing glasses at the tender age of 9 years. In a quest to lead cure these allergies, Linet has been to more than her fair share of doctors and hospitals.