Addis Ababa Ethiopia
Addis Ababa is a city of contrasts. There are new skyscrapers stand on dirt roads and international business conferences meet next to traditional markets. You will have rural customs are preserved.
The city is growing rapidly and tourism in Ethiopia is on the rise, but many travelers still see the capital as a mere stopover. This is normally as they are on the way to more remote areas of the country while on their Ethiopia safari tours.
The hectic city can be daunting, but “Addis”, as it is known to locals, is an exciting cultural hub with plenty to see and do – and excellent food.
Where is Addis Ababa
Addis Ababa is located at the foot of Mount Entoto, at an altitude of 2355 metres above sea level. This is is one of the highest capital cities in the world. It was from here that Menelik II, who founded it in 1889 gave it the name “New Flower”. He wanted to govern his kingdom from here, but today the strategic power of Addis (as the locals call it) is felt well beyond the borders of Ethiopia.
In fact, Addis Ababa is home to the headquarters of the African Union as well as the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and other international organisations, making it one of the most important cities in the entire continent.
What to do in Addis Ababa
A Cup of Coffee
Ethiopia is known as the birthplace of coffee. On nearly every block in Addis you’ll find roadside buna (coffee) stands with the traditional coffee ceremony setup. Incense burns as a woman roasts beans. A jebena coffee pot nestled in the coals. Small cups of the dark brew are served with sugar and a sprig of rue herb; 5 birr a cup. Pull up a short stool and sit for a while.
Traditional music and dance performances, called “cultural shows”, are held at several popular restaurants. However, music lovers won’t want to miss Fendika Azmari Bet. This is a small bar and cultural club in the hip Kazanchis area. Run by dancer Melaku Belay.
Fendika is often filled with an eclectic mix of music industry folks, in-the-know locals and travellers. With a cover charge of 50 birr (£1.36), shows range from intimate Ethiopian jazz nights to multi-act traditional song. Dance extravaganzas that culminate in jam sessions. Fridays are a good bet – call ahead to confirm schedule.
Check out the art gallery in the back and the small patio on the side, where plates of barbeque chicken and rice are often on offer.
Visit Lucy at the Museum
The partial skeleton of a female australopithecine, known as “Lucy”, was discovered in the Awash Valley of Ethiopia in 1974. The bone fossils of this human ancestor are over 3 million years old, now preserved in Addis at the National Museum of Ethiopia. The Lucy display is the star attraction of the small museum. Open 8.30am-5.30pm daily; entrance is 10 birr.
A staple of Ethiopian cuisine, injera is a mildly sour, spongy flatbread made from fermented teff flour. They sometimes use additional flours, such as barley. Stewed main dishes are typically served atop injera and eaten by hand. You will be using more injera to scoop up mouthfuls of food.
The sacred city of Rastafarianism
Addis Ababa is linked in popular culture with Jamaica. Figures like singer Bob Marley to whom a large statue in the centre of Addis Ababa is dedicated, perhaps not everyone knows that the roots of Rastafarianism are in Ethiopia.
Not because the movement was particularly successful in the Horn of Africa but because of the prophecy of Jamaican writer Marcus Garvey in 1920s who predicted that a black king would be crowned in Africa and end colonialism, allowing the African people to return to the continent.
And so when Ras Tafari Maconnèn was named Emperor of Ethiopia (under the name Hailé Selassié) in 1930, many recognised him not only as the long-awaited emancipating king but as Jesus himself.
Today Hailé Selassié is buried in Holy Trinity Cathedral, making Addis Ababa the sacred city for Rastafarians all over the world.
Enjoy Art Beyond Tradition
Addis Ababa is, without doubt, the most cosmopolitan city in Ethiopia, home to 80 different nationalities and ethnic groups and increasingly open to the outside world. It is probably also for this reason that the art scene has been enjoying a period of great ferment in recent years, experimenting with modern and contemporary art but without forgetting its traditions.
So, for those that have time to spare after visiting the museums mentioned earlier, a trip to Zoma Contemporary Art Centre won’t disappoint. In fact, the zero impact building, constructed with mud and straw and curiously shaped like a large traditional African sculpture, is a work of art in itself.
As for the galleries, the Asni Art Gallery (one of the city’s first, opened in 1996) and LeLa Art Gallery are well worth a look.
Best Time to Visit Addis Ababa
Addis Ababa has a temperate and humid climate. Its proximity to the Equator means that temperatures are stable all year round. The altitude brings them down considerably with highs between 20 and 25°C and lows of between 8 and 12°C.
The summer months, between June and September, are characterised by heavy rain and so the best period to visit Ethiopia and discover Addis Ababa is between November and January. This is during the dry season, in which rain in any case remains a possibility.
|Languages spoken||Amharic, English|
|Area (km2)||527.063 Km2|