A day in Addis Ababa

Trip Start Sep 29, 2010
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Trip End Oct 17, 2010


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Flag of Ethiopia  ,
Saturday, October 9, 2010

The plane took an unplanned detour to the resort town of Zanzibar, Tanzania before going on to Addis which cause us to be about 3 hours late on arrival. This is common in Africa because the unreliability of aircraft and they worry less about schedules and traveler inconveniences.  There were some unhappy customers at the Ethiopian Airlines desk on arrival!  I was not at all upset in that it allowed for a couple of more hours of sleep than I had expected.  We arrived around 9:00am and I was finally allowed entrance to a land I had long dreamed of visiting. 

To describe Ethiopia as being unique is an understatement.  It could be likened to a strange combination of Egypt and Kenya and in some ways India all rolled together.  Unique in culture, food, people and history.  The people may be the most physically attractive on the continent.  Tall and typically long limbed with the most pleasant skin color that defies description and warm spirited to any visitor.  The poverty in Addis is not as strong as in East Africa and the city is a lovely jumble of concrete buildings and clean streets. 

I found a decent little hotel for $6.00 and went off to explore the capital of this ancient and historic land.  My first stop was the Mercato or Market, the biggest in the world.  It was a mass of buildings that stretched for blocks where almost anything could be found.  I wandered the streets for a while with a self-appointed guide who would not leave me for any reason, so I took his lead and spent time in search of a small traditional coffee pot that would serve as a reminder of my short trip to this unique city.  Coffee is the one thing that had drawn me years before to desire to travel here.  The Ethiopians take credit for the discovery of coffee and the sharp, acidic Ethiopian Harrar coffee been makes one of my favorite cups.  After a short search I found the right size clay pot and began to haggle on price.  My white skin causes prices to rise, but I am not easily swayed.  Haggling is one of my God given gifts and a skill I enjoying practicing.  The price began at nearly $10 and by the time we were finished we had settled at around $2 which I deemed the best I would be able to get and close to the African price.  My guide offered to take me through the maze of public transportation that has no signs to indicate direction or destination.  I was desiring to go the national museum where the ever famous "lucy" skeleton was on display.  After a 40 minute commute we arrived at the museum where he departed and I offered him about $4 for his time and willing trouble.  I felt it was fair because he had asked for $15, which I am sure he would get from most tourists and it also saved me the same amount on what I would spend in taxi fair if I were to go on my own. 

The museum was typical of African museums, in need of repair and lacking in real historical information, but it was still a museum and I was happy to explore for an hour and a half.  It was nearing 2:30pm when I finally stopped for lunch in a little place that held no English speakers.  I pointed at someone's table and indicated that I wanted what they were eating and used the universal word coffee to get what I wanted.  It was one of the great traveling moments, great food among simple, unassuming people in the middle of their everyday lives.  It was as if I had traveled back in time a hundred or more years and were sitting where food, culture and people had changed little if any.  It was what makes all the hassle of travel worth it for me!

I went back to my hotel and took a nap, got a much needed shower with hot water and set off to explore some more and find a traditional Ethiopian restaurant that had been suggested by the hotel on the north side of the city center.  The walk took about 40 minutes, but it was just what I was hoping for as my last meal in Addis.  When I went in there were only Ethiopians and no tourists… always a good sign but there was nowhere to sit but with another party of diners.  I was warmly invited to sit with two middle aged men and they  exhibited the warm hospitality of which Ethiopia is known.  I came to discover that one of the men was a curator and historian at the national museum I had visited earlier in the day.  They attentively guided me through the proper selection of food and etiquette of eating as an Ethiopian.  It was a great experience due to the kindness of these two men and I will fondly remember that time as one of the best travel experiences of my life.  After a 21/2 hour meal it was time to get to the airport for my 9:30pm flight to Mumbai and another night trying to sleep on a plane, my fifth on this trip.
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