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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.



The Holy Trinity Orthodox Church,
probably Ethiopia's most important establishment.
You will come to learn that the Ethiopians had invented an alphabet and were already doing some form of writing more than 500 years ago. At this museum, you will also learn of the tight knit relationship between Ethiopia’s emperors and the Orthodox Church. Items here include cloths woven from silver and gold, to Bibles hand written on animal skin(parchment). An interesting item is an Olympic model, given by a female athlete whose name I can’t remember. The medals stands out from the other items in the museum based on its age.


As an indicator of how important the role of the Orthodox church is in Ethiopian culture, my cabbies would kiss a church when we got in, or perform the sign of the cross every time we drove by one. The Holy Trinity Cathedral also plays hosts to a number of pilgrims, in addition to tourists.


The church grounds host the graves of important Ethiopian personalities, including that of the previous Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi.


Your history lesson continues at the “Red Terror” museum. Kenya's education system once featured some Ethiopian history (not sure if it does nowadays), and it notably had a gap between Emperor Haile Selassie’s rule and that of Zenawi. The gap is best explained by the exhibition of Mengistu Haile Mariam’s government, which oversaw a regime of terror,  where thousands were killed,  tortured, and many more fled.

A good chunk of Ethiopia’s diaspora include those who fled during Mengistu’s Derg reign of terror. It is this same regime that is responsible for the famous Ethiopian famine of 1984.


When it comes to food and drink, you will happily note that Addis Ababa is way cheaper than Nairobi. A beer and large pizza will cost you less than half of what they would cost in Nairobi. There are lots of local eateries that offer Ethiopian food,  or wood oven pizza. You should give these a try.


Injera and Shiro
I did try injera and tibbs (lamb tibbs which had some Ethiopian name). Tibbs are strips of meat,  which come in a sauce (this one can be very oily in some restaurants). I would have said much, but I was served a cold meal and I was too hungry to get that warmed.


Injera with shiro, which is some sort of thick soup (curry?) is another option, but for this you will have to be shown how to properly eat injera. You spread it out and place the food on top of it,  and cut off pieces.


Now, I would have been more adventurous had a blackout meant that I couldn't trace the few restaurants I had been shown along Mickey Leland Street. I decided to give a try to the thatch roofed Ethiopian restaurant I had been shown up the street, but with the caveat that it did have “raw meat”. Unfortunately, it was beyond packed,  plus it seemed sitting arrangement was in groups around low tables.  A lone eater would stand out like a full moon in a starry sky.


St George Amber,
and sparkling water (glass bottled, quite affordable)
Ethiopian beer can be had in a variety of joints, from seedy joints by the roadside, to clubs whose clientèle is best described as a cocktail of Africans,  Europeans and Americans. The many foreigners of Addis seem to prefer St. George Amber, though I went for the cheaper and hop-ful St George Beer. The Amber would be close to a Sierra Amber in Kenya (not sure if Brew Bistro have an Amber). The St George will be close to WhiteCap,  but obviously better.


They do have Heineken, which is brewed in Ethiopia as are all beers here, and a limited variety of  spirits, including Bacardis, Johnnie Walkers,  Jameson (standard) and some exotic ones including Stolichnaya Vodka, and a few other whiskies. These will be cheaper than you would find in Kenya.


For all I know, there is CocaCola here.
Street scene in Merkato
Now, I wish I had more information about non-alcoholic drinks, but I have been avoiding processed drinks for quite a number of months. On that spirit(my first pun?), didn’t even give these a glance - but from what I saw in shops in terms of agro-processed stuff, there should be a variety in Addis.


If you are looking to go out, Old Canada, also on Mickey Leland street, is one such joint. This is place to go to if you are looking to dance, rather than to make conversation - it is a club, not a bar. The clientèle here will be likely close to just foreigners(but residents) - both from within and without Africa. It also gets packed as the night goes by.

Travelling around Addis at night, you will notice that most roads in the city are well lit.


Hard liqour price list at Caravan Hotel
You could try other places along Mickey Leland street, though some do have their mix of sex workers.


For things to see or do around Addis, Trip Advisor is a good place to start. Most hotel staff will suggest animal parks, which seeing there are as many back in Nairobi, may not be of interest (though scenery outside Addis may be a plan if you have the time).


One odd thing about Addis, is that I interacted with more foreigners than locals. The city is a host of well educated and intellectual Africans, drawn from both Ethiopia and other countries. Remember Addis is the host of the African Union and other Pan-African organisations, which explains why you are likely to meet a Guinean and Cape Verdean(turns out this is in Africa too) in this city.


At some point, having coffee in one of the restaurants, there were a bunch of white families, then I,  and some Nigerian were the only African clients. The city’s higher spending power seems concentrated more among foreigners and less among the locals,  for the moment.


Add caption
Addis Ababa is what I would call Africa’s most underrated city. I may have been only to a handful of African cities, but based on what is said about cities in the continent, you hardly hear about Addis. It is a city “brimming with opportunity”. From a mixed, skilled, young African wide diaspora, to manufacturing potential of a number of raw commodities, to infrastructure, the country is waiting to take off, if not already on the runway taxiing for a take off. One can also draw quite a number of parallels between Kigali and Addis.


I’m told the Ethiopian government regularly draws 5 year development plans, which are adhered to almost religiously. This contrasts with Kenya’s “some-time-in-the future” Vision 2030, whose progress is hard to track with the current government. Vision 2030 also seems open to any massive real estate project, as if suffering from a scarcity of originally planned projects. Coincidentally, the Lamu Port and Lamu -South Sudan - Ethiopia Transport corridor(LAPSSET), which seeks to open a second transport corridor in Kenya with links to Ethiopia is a key Vision 2030 project.


Ethiopia has the potential to make it to Africa’s top three economies, if access issues are tackled. Investors though might need the help of a local consultant as there are quite a number of requirements that one needs to be aware of.

Postscript:
Are Ethiopian women the most beautiful women in Africa?

Depends largely on your definition of beauty. If it is light women, yes. 

If it is the actual definition of beauty, you will find that a good number of the Ethiopian population do have the looks. It is not that the ladies are more beautiful than those in other countries, but that a larger percentage of the population is more likely to be described as beautiful. So beauty still remains much a thing about what the beholden see.

One other advantage that plays well to the Ethiopians is their figures - their build seems to settle around a figure that would be the envy of most of us.

A thing I'll tell you about Ethiopian ladies, they definitely have the best smelling hair. I was unable to get much detail about what makes their hair heavenly. Perhaps, a reason for you to travel to Addis on a fact finding mission. :-)

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