Skip to main content

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.

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. :-)

Thanks for reading. If you liked, share it. You can leave your comments below. 


Popular posts from this blog

Why do people vote for Cruel Leaders?

An Installation at the Berlin Nineties Museum commemorating victims killed  while trying to escape across the Berlin Wall. Despite it's cruelty, the Nazi regime rose to power and remained popular promising solutions to the  numerous problems Germans faced in the 1920s and 1930s. Why do Kenyans, or any other electorate for that matter, vote for cruel politicians or so-called leaders? The common argument is that the voters are ignorant, or were “misled” or had “no option”. But this is not true. People know who and what they are voting for. People intentionally vote for cruel politicians especially when the voters form part of a majority - clan, tribe, race, nation, class or other majority. It is not that they do not know the politicians are cruel. They simply assume that the crue

Kenyan products: The art of punishing your consumer

This post was written in 2011. Facts may have and indeed have changed - but the conclusion has not.  Dormans instant coffee tastes better than Sasini instant coffee. Ramtons electronics are manufactured for Kenya's Hypermart Limited, yet maintain a high product quality Peanut butter used to taste so good, but you could not afford it on the pocket money that you got back in school. A few years later, you have your first real job and your first "disposable" income. You buy your first real tub of peanut butter, probably the first in your life. You feel proud that Dominion peanut butter is manufactured in Ruiru, a town that you visited in your campus days to withdraw your pocket money, it was the nearest bank ATM to your campus.  This was before Equity bank became a mainstream bank and decided to open an ATM in your campus, and before M-Pesa meant that you

Beers in Kenya: A sober opinion

Note: This is a dated post and has since been mostly passed by events. SAB Miller beers including Castle and Peroni are no longer widely available in Kenya after their exist. Sirville Brewery was bought out by Brew Bistro before being permanently shut in a tax dispute. Kenya is a land of milk, honey, beaches and taxes. I have penned, or is typed, a newer post here .  Peroni - One of the best beers in Kenya. Did a taste of canned and bottled Italian, and bottled Tanzanian I like the tangy flavour and body in Tanzanian Peroni. The can is close. Heineken drinkers will like the Italian one.  I have had a short beer swigging stint in my life. It has however been long enough for me to share my opinion of Kenyan beer. Interestingly, over the course of sharing such opinions with other drunkards connoisseurs,  I have found that we all have different views as to what beer is the best, which one makes you too drunk, or which one gives one free, extra hangover for every hangover you get

How I lost my phone to Nairobi's best con man

Moi Avenue, with a view of the point where I encountered Nairobi's best con man, and parted with my phone A good con requires the highest level of cooperation from the victim. *** I lost my phone on Friday evening, some time between 6:40 p.m. and 7:10 p.m. I know the time because my receipt indicates I was served at Ukwala Supermaket, Tom Mboya at 6:32 p.m., on the 26th of February, 2016. Given I'm a brisk walker who avoids crowds, it should not have taken me more than five minutes to get to the area around the Tom Mboya statue on Moi Avenue,  just opposite the Hilton. My habit of avoiding crowds is what led to what became a tragic decision, to walk along the road and emerge at the bus stop next to Ambassadeur Hotel, rather than walk along the pavement. It is here that I bumped into the villain, Nairobi’s best con man. He was running, kicking a plastic bottle along the road. He said something to me that I didn't catch, to which I responded with a “


Well, it has been quite a while since I last posted anything here, or even visited this blog. Yet another proof that the blog is quite boring that it does not warrant my visiting it. As for me not updating it, I could have blamed the numerous blackouts, or even blamed the alcohol(proliferation of Chang’aa in Kenya). But here is a perfect reason that I was not blogging. See, I come form a very green area in Kenya called Mwingi. O.k. , I now admit that it is a dry area often plagued by drought , but the area is quite green due to the continuous rains in Kenya starting last November. In case you are wondering, neither drought, rain or lush greenery is to blame for my failure to blog. A more closer fit would be the constitutional system of the country. See I come from Mwingi south , a constituency that was once split from Mwingi constituency. Before the split, Mwingi constituency had its M.P. as Kalonzo Musyoka , the country’s V.P. Kalonzo Musyoka is still the M.P. for Mwingi North. Rec