Addis Ababa

last day in addis: makush art gallery, st. george cathedral & the ethnological museum

Thursday, November 1:  On my last day in Addis, Ed has to go to work at the embassy all day.  He arranges with his guard to have a friend of his drive me around all day for around $35.  The guide, whose name I’ve now forgotten, is such an easy-going and likeable guy, I end up having a great time.

He begins by taking me to the Makush Art Gallery.  I’m determined to buy a piece of Ethiopian art.  Yesterday morning, while I was twiddling my thumbs at the embassy, someone told me this is the place to go.  I find out very quickly that Makush is an upscale gallery and the prices are quite high.  This trip hasn’t cost me much money and I still have $200 left in my budget.  I end up spending all of it on two pieces from this gallery.

Tossing my two paintings into the back seat, we drive through the streets of Addis, teeming with dusty and obviously poor residents wearing colorful but mismatched clothes.  The streets are dirty and slightly chaotic.  Corrugated tin stalls line up along every street; people are trying to eke out a space to make a living.  It seems there is no rhyme or reason to the layout of this city.  There seems to be no center of town.  It’s just urban sprawl everywhere.

We arrive at the octagonal St. George Cathedral, conceived to commemorate the 1896 defeat of the Italians in Adwa.  It was commissioned by Emperor Menelik and was dedicated to Ethiopia’s patron saint, St. George.  With the help of Armenian, Greek and Indian artists, the cathedral was completed in 1911.  It’s neoclassical style contrasts sharply with the colorful murals inside.

Adjacent to the cathedral is the museum with its large collection of ecclesiastical paraphernalia including crowns, hand-held crosses, holy scrolls, and the coronation outfits of Empress Zewditu and Emperor Haile Selassie, both of whom were crowned here in 1916 and 1930, respectively.  Sadly, we’re not allowed to take photos in the museum.

Next we drive to the Ethnological Museum, set in Haile Selassie’s former palace, and surrounded by the lush grounds of Addis Ababa University. Right outside the entrance to the museum is a spiral staircase that leads to nowhere. The Italians placed one step here for every year that Mussolini held power, beginning from his march to Rome in 1922. The symbol of the Ethiopian monarchy, a Lion of Judah, sits atop the stairs, a symbol of the eventual defeat of the Italians by Ethiopia.

the spiral staircase to nowhere

the spiral staircase to nowhere

the entrance to the Ethnological Museum

the entrance to the Ethnological Museum

Ethiopian artifacts and handicrafts are displayed in the order of the human life cycle, beginning with Childhood with themes of birth, games and rites of passage, followed by Adult themes of beliefs, traditional medicine, war, hunting and even pilgrimages.  Death and Beyond showcases burial structures and tombs.

hunting in Ethiopia



Also preserved intact in the museum are Haile Selassie’s bedroom, bathroom and changing room.

On the 2nd floor is some amazing religious art, especially diptychs, triptychs, icons and crosses.

In another cave-like room sits the collection of musical instruments, put in the dark to preserve them from the ravages of light and to showcase them in an ethereal way.

We eat lunch at the Lime Tree Restaurant.  After lunch, my guide convinces me to try the wheat grass juice.  It doesn’t sound very appealing to me, but he assures me it will improve my health considerably.  I try it and am surprised to find it’s actually quite delicious.  And I have to say, I feel much better for the rest of the day, and throughout my long overnight trip back to Muscat. 🙂

Categories: Addis Ababa, Africa, Ethiopia, Ethnological Museum, Makush Art Gallery, St. George Cathedral | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

holy trinity cathedral & dinner at loti

Wednesday, October 31:  The ornate Holy Trinity Cathedral is believed to be the second most important place of worship in Ethiopia, after the Old Church of Saint Mary of Zion in Aksum, according to Lonely Planet Ethiopia & Eritrea.  It also contains the huge Aksumite-style granite tombs of Emperor Haile Selassie and his wife, Empress Menen Asfaw.

Holy Trinity Cathedral

Holy Trinity Cathedral

The cathedral is a mixture of international styles and boasts a copper dome, slender pinnacles and interesting statues. Inside are some grand murals, rich stained glass windows and two imperial thrones of ebony, ivory and marble.  In one of the large murals, Emperor Haile Selassie stands in front of the League of Nations asking for help against the Italian occupiers.  They refused to help, except for Mexico, which became a long-lasting friend of Ethiopia.

Click on any of the photos below for a full-sized slide show.

In a cemetery surrounding the Cathedral are the remains of ministers who were killed by the Derg in 1974.  Other remains include patriots who died fighting the Italian occupation from 1935 to 1941.  Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935, killing 275,000 Ethiopians with illegal mustard gas and bombing.  In 1936, they captured Addis Ababa, and Emperor Haile Selassie fled the country. At that time the King of Italy was made Emperor of Ethiopia.  Ethiopian patriots played a major role before, during and after the liberation campaign, which ended in May of 1941, when the emperor and his men took over Addis Ababa.

In the museum adjacent to the Cathedral, where we’re not allowed to take pictures, are gold crosses, intricately filigreed chalices, and beautiful books of doxology in Amharic and Arabic.  We see a beautiful mosaic icon of the Virgin Mary donated by Haile Selassie, as well as a mosaic of Haile Selassie wearing all his medals.

After our explorations of Addis, we head back to Ed’s house where we relax a bit.  Later, we go to an excellent French-ish restaurant called Loti.  The restaurant has a lovely ambiance,  with pressed leaves and dried flowers decorating the walls, a colorful poinsettia and artsy plates.  We have some red wine and munch on crackers made of oats, barley and sesame seeds, dipped in a delicious guacamole dip.  I order tilapia assay: tilapia with cabbage, peppers, tomatoes, carrots and potatoes.  For dessert, we indulge on pumpkin pie with ice cream.

me at Loti in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

me at Loti in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Click on any of the images below for a full-sized slide show.

The owner, Mani, walks around to greet all the patrons.  She tells us she studied in the U.S. on a USAID scholarship and she’s proud of her education.  She’s created a beautiful restaurant and is rightfully proud of her achievement. 🙂

Mani, the gracious owner of Loti

Mani, the gracious owner of Loti

Categories: Addis Ababa, Africa, Ethiopia, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Loti Restaurant & Bar | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

lunch at the lucy gazebo restaurant & the national museum of ethiopia

Wednesday, October 31:  After we drive down from the Entoto Mountains, we head for lunch at the Lucy Gazebo Restaurant, attached to the National Museum of Ethiopia.

the entrance to the National Museum complex

the entrance to the Lucy Gazebo Restaurant

The outdoor Lucy Gazebo Restaurant is lush with tropical plants, decorative sculptures and Ethiopian art.  I start with carrot soup and then eat a delicious chicken avocado pizza with tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms and cheese.

Next door, the National Museum of Ethiopia houses one of the most important collections in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Lonely Planet Ethiopia & Eritrea.

entrance to the National Gallery of Ethiopia

entrance to the National Gallery of Ethiopia

Statue outside the museum

Statue outside the museum

Haile Selassie addresses some young men.

Haile Selassie addresses some young men.

The paleontology exhibit on the basement level showcases the extinct sabre-toothed cat Homotherium and the huge savannah pig Notochoerus.

part of the paleontology exhibit

part of the paleontology exhibit

The most interesting things are the two amazing casts of the 3.2 million year-old Lucy, a fossilized hominid discovered in 1974.  One lies prone in a glass case and the other is standing. Her small frame is a reminder of how small our ancestors were.

According to one of the museum’s curators, the real bones, which are normally preserved in the museum’s archives, are currently on tour in the USA.   Lucy’s tour begins at the Houston Museum of Natural History; after Houston, she travels to Seattle, Boston and back to Houston.  Lucy’s pilgrimage is designed to let the international community know Ethiopia’s importance to the history of humans.

Lucy was discovered in a dried-up lake near Hadar in northeast Ethiopia.  This new species, called A. afarensis walked on two legs, which overturned earlier theories that our ancestors only started walking upright after they evolved larger brains.

When I walk into the basement, one of the museum’s curators is opening the glass case that contains the casts of Lucy’s prone bones. He takes one of the finger bones and hands it over to a group of young men who want to borrow it.  This group is making a film showing primates’ connection to humans through Lucy and they want to borrow the cast finger bone for their documentary.  This seems quite crazy to me, as I cannot imagine a curator at any museum in the USA taking out a piece of an exhibit and handing it over to someone to “borrow!”

The center of the ground floor of the museum showcases a collection of royal paraphernalia including Emperor Haile Selassie’s enormous carved wooden throne.  On the walls of this central area are paintings of Ethiopia’s rulers, including Emperor Menelik, Emperor Yohannes, and of course Haile Selassie.  Surprisingly, among these emperors is a painting of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, the leader of the horrible Derg (Committee) that deposed Haile Selassie in 1974.  Their destructive rule, including the Red Terror, lasted until 1991.


the top of Haile Selassie’s throne

Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam ~ leader of the Derg

Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam ~ leader of the Derg

On the periphery of the ground floor are artifacts from the pre-Aksumite, Aksumite, Solomonic and Gonder periods.

some statues from early times

some statues from early times

On the first floor, what we in America call the 2nd floor, is a colorful display of Ethiopian art ranging from early parchment to 20th century canvas oil paintings by modern artists, including  Afewerk Tekle’s African Heritage.

one of the paintings in the art gallery on the 1st floor

one of the paintings in the art gallery on the 1st floor

Finally, on the top floor, we find a secular arts and crafts collection, including traditional clothing, weapons, jewelry, utensils and musical instruments.

Categories: Addis Ababa, Africa, Ethiopia, Lucy Gazebo Restaurant, National Museum of Ethiopia | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

back to addis: the entoto mountains and the st. raguel & elias historical church

Wednesday, October 31:  This morning we get up at 6:00 a.m. so we can leave bright and early for the U.S. Embassy.  Ed needs to do some work before we take off for sightseeing, so he brings me along to twiddle my thumbs and wait…and wait.  From the embassy, after nearly two hours of waiting, we head directly into the Entoto Mountains.

the view of Addis Ababa from the Entoto Mountains

the view of Addis Ababa from the Entoto Mountains

The Entoto Mountains, north of Addis Ababa, were the site of Emperor Menelik’s former capital.  We admire the sprawling view of the city below.  We pass donkeys carrying loads of eucalyptus, which the locals have cut branch by branch off the trees on the mountain, leading to soil erosion and deterioration of the forest. Some donkeys carry grass to sell to the locals who spread grass over their mud floors when they have guests.  Women trudge up and down the mountain carrying loads of firewood on their backs, day in and day out. Apparently aid organizations are trying to find these women other means of livelihood, but it’s obvious many women are still dependent upon this work.

Forests stripped bare for survival

Forests stripped bare for survival

Burdens of firewood

Burdens of firewood

Near the top of the mountain, we stop at St. Raguel & Elias Historical Church. Inside the church are multitudes of brightly colored paintings that tell bizarre stories. We see paintings, as we do in every Ethiopian church, of St. George, the patron saint of the country.  We see the apostles meeting gruesome deaths.  We see the devil looking quite devilish.  Ethiopia’s Christian stories are rich in legend, and these legends are told pictorially in these paintings.  We find a saint who prayed for 7 years; though one of his legs has fallen off, he does have 6 wings. We see Doubting Thomas.  We see a large painting of the miracles of Christ: here he heals a blind man, there he turns water into wine, and here he raises Lazarus from the dead.

the sign to the church...

the sign to the church…

Entoto St. Raguel & Elias Historical Church

Entoto St. Raguel & Elias Historical Church

the dome on the church

the dome on the church

one of the many beautiful paintings in the church

one of the many beautiful paintings in the church

the holy altar

the holy altar

various saints on horseback

various saints on horseback

Besides the amazing stylized paintings in this church, there is a rock-hewn church on the grounds.  The passageway to this church, covered in moss, leads to a sanctuary where early Christians worshiped.

Click on any of the photos below to see a full-sized slide show.

Categories: Addis Ababa, Africa, Entoto Mountains, Ethiopia, st. raguel & elias historical church | 3 Comments

happy birthday to me at yod abyssinia :-)

Thursday, October 25:  Once Ed returns home from work, we head out shortly to Yod Abyssinia, an authentic Ethiopian restaurant that serves foods from the various ethnic groups in the country.  According to the restaurant’s website (Yod Abyssinia Cultural Restaurant): ‘YOD’ means ‘witness or speak out’ in the Gurage ethnic group where the owner, Ato Tizazu Kore, is originally from. And ‘Abyssinia’ is the ancient name of Ethiopia and the region known today as the Horn of Africa.

Yod Abyssinia Cultural Restaurant

We walk in the dark past the international school where Ed’s sons attended school last year when they were living with him.  Now they have returned to the USA for his second year. The night air is cool and crisp.  The neighborhood’s middle class houses stand silently around us, bounded by concrete walls topped with curled barbed wire.  Many houses have round-the-clock guards sitting in little guard houses within the gates. This place is definitely where the well-off live.

the menu at YOD Abyssinia

We arrive at the restaurant, which is packed with people of every nationality.  Especially evident, and surprising to me, are the Chinese.  Apparently, the Chinese have numerous building projects in Ethiopia, including a ring road around Addis Ababa.  In January of this year, a new Chinese-built African Union headquarters opened its doors; it’s a towering $200-million complex that has been called “China’s gift to Africa.”  The new AU headquarters, a 20-story tower, is Addis Ababa’s tallest building.

the large crowd at Yod Abyssinia, with a large Chinese delegation

Chinese contractors also built the 300 MW Tekeze hydroelectric dam in Ethiopia which, at 185 meters high, is one of Africa’s tallest dams.

After the World Bank and many other banks declined to get involved in the Gibe III Dam on the Omo River, China’s biggest bank approved a loan of $500 million for a Chinese equipment contract for the project. Gibe III will have devastating social and environmental impacts on the Lower Omo Valley and the Lake Turkana region, according to International Rivers, an NGO based in California.

live performances go on through the evening

We arrive at the restaurant in the middle of song and dance performances by Ethiopia’s various ethnic groups. The Oromo, the Tigrigna, Gurage, the Amhara and other Ethiopian ethnic groups’ dances and music are included in the nightly live performance.  The performance is energetic and lively and the music has a fun African beat.  Some of the dancers move so fast, their arms and legs look like a blur.  In one of the dances, the men dancers move the tops of their bodies and shoulders in a distinct “Ethiopian” way.

more songs and dances

At one point the performers pull one of the Chinese men to the stage and place a royal robe around his shoulders and a crown on his head.  I guess the Chinese are royalty in Ethiopia now!

Chinese crowned as royalty

dancing the night away!

I love all the different traditional clothing and types of dances…

another group of dancers entertains us 🙂

Yod Abyssinia serves more than 35 varieties of local dishes comprising fasting food (made of array of vegetables) and non-fasting foods (meats).  Various type of wat, or stew, from beef and lamb, doro wot (spicy chicken stew, a rare delicacy in Ethiopia), and tibs, roasted meat, are on the menu.  Also offered is kitfo, minced beef or lamb like the French steak tartare, usually served warm, but not cooked, in butter, berbere, the famous Ethiopian red powder made of as many as 16 spices, and sometimes thyme.  All of these stews and sauces are served on injera, a spongy pancake made of a local grain called tef.  We order a sample of all of the above, except the raw meat kitfo, as well as messer, a lentil curry made with onions, chilies and various spices, and a kaledish.

me with Ed at Yod Abyssinia

An Ethiopian man comes by with a silver pitcher, from which he pours water over our hands into a bowl.  Voila!  Our hands are clean.

washing our hands before dinner

Then an Ethiopian waitress, wearing a traditional yellow dress, spoons the various wat dishes onto a platter of the sponge-like injera.  In addition, we’re served up neat rolls of injera that look like napkin rolls.  We tear the injera into pieces and use the bread as a kind of utensil to pick up bites of the various dishes.  They are delicious!

our waitress serves up the Ethiopian dishes onto the injera

my Ethiopian birthday dinner

This is such a fun evening for my birthday!  It makes up for my long day of waiting around & doing nothing.  The meal is Ed’s treat and when we return to his house, he serves up a piece of banana bread with a candle on it.  Luckily I don’t have trouble blowing out the one candle, which would be quite pathetic!  He gives me a sweet gift of a delicate monkey necklace made of coconut shell that he picked up on a recent trip to Rodrigues Island in Mauritius.

Happy birthday to me in the land of Abyssinia. 🙂

Here are some clips of the live performance if you’d like to watch the Ethiopian dancers in action!

Categories: Addis Ababa, Africa, African Union, doro wat, Ethiopia, injera, wat, Yod Abyssinia | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

taking myself along: journey & arrival in ethiopia

Thursday, October 25:  This journey, on this 57th birthday of mine, begins with a call from Chantal at midnight.  “Are you awake?” she asks.

I have been awake since 11:30 p.m. I’ve showered and am dressing in an outfit appropriate to Africa, in coral and brown and olive-green: “safari clothes” with a pop of color.  No safari is planned, but, oh well. The corduroy of the olive-green jacket should keep me warm in the cool land of Ethiopia, a land where temperatures hover around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 Celsius) every day of the year.

Gail and me at Seeb International Airport

The drive to Muscat from Nizwa is usually tedious, but with my colleague Talib, his lively wife Chantal, and their 2-year-old daughter riding along, we cruise quickly.  Words fly around in the car and time speeds by on the dark highway.  We arrive early at the airport and check in and wait.   And wait.  And wait.

Talib, Chantal and their little girl

Other colleagues are on this trip.  Gail is looking for Armenian connections in Addis Ababa. Spencer is on the same flight but will go on to Mombasa, Kenya.  Mathys is going onward to South Africa. Benjamin, a friend of an ex-colleague is also heading to Ethiopia.

Gail & Spencer, holding his yellow fever vaccine card, at the airport

Talib and Chantal have planned an ambitious trip: to Harar and Dire Dawa, to Bahir Dar and Lake Tana, and to other far-fetched places. Their itinerary includes ten-hour bus rides with their daughter in tow! Chantal’s Jamaican origins have led her on a quest to discover the Jamaica-Ethiopia connection based on Emperor Halie Selassie (previously Prince Ras Tafari) and the Rastafarians of Jamaica.  Being Muslims, they are both especially interested in Harar, an important center of Islamic scholarship in the 17th and 18th centuries.  Here Islam penetrated the Horn of Africa.

None of us have had much sleep. We are a little like zombies: tired but excited about our journeys.  It’s Eid al-Adha and we have an 9-day holiday from work.   What could be better?

We board the plane and take off at 4:50 a.m.  We fly for 3 1/2 hours, arriving over Ethiopia in the morning light.  The landscape from the air is like a rumpled patchwork quilt of golds and greens.  Mountains, valleys, plateaus and grids of farmland.  I wasn’t expecting this of Ethiopia.  Stunning.

Ethiopia from the air, approaching Addis Ababa

At the airport, my friend Ed, who is on his second year of duty at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, is waiting for me at the airport.  We depart and I leave my colleagues to follow their own itineraries.  It’s around 8 a.m.  I have a whole day ahead of me in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia that means “New Flower.”

the entrance to an embassy house in Addis Ababa

Ed thought I would be tired, so he didn’t plan to do much on this first day.  I had earlier told him I’d be too excited to sleep.  But when we arrive at his cavernous house, he says I should sleep and he must go to work.   I’m surprised at this as he told me, when I made my plans in August to visit, that he would have vacation time.  He promptly departs for work, telling me he’ll get back as soon as possible.  I figure I might as well sleep; he lives in a residential neighborhood, so where is there to go?  I sleep until about 1:00.  Then I putter around, read my guidebook, drink tea at the patio table, and kill time taking pictures of what is probably a typical embassy house.

inside an embassy house in Addis Ababa

Looking through the arched interior windows to the dining room below

the kitchen

I have no idea when Ed will return, so I take a walk in the neighborhood past an Ethiopian school as it is letting out.  Dark skinned children in sky blue sweaters swarm out of the school.   I walk through them to a German bakery, where I order a cappuccino and a chocolate croissant and sit on the patio.  I meet a boy named Teadros, who poses for a picture.

the German Bakery in Addis Ababa

where I sit at the outdoor cafe of the German bakery

cappuccino from the German Bakery

Teadros at the German bakery

As I walk back by the school, I meet another boy named Teadros, who also poses for a picture in front of his school.

Teadros at the Ethiopian school

I return to Ed’s house, where I wait.  And wait.  I sit at the kitchen table and chat with his Ethiopian cook and housekeeper, Kitay.  She is separated from her “bad” husband and has two small boys.  The gold cross around her neck, a symbol of her Orthodox Christian beliefs, matches her smile and a radiating inner peace.

Still. I wait.  Ed finally returns home at 6:30 p.m.  It’s been a long afternoon.  Very long.  Had I known he was going to work all day, I would have planned something with my colleagues and fellow travelers, Gail or Benjamin, who have been somewhere in Addis Ababa all day.

these feet are made for walking, but for today, I guess I’ll just walk on these embassy house parquet floors…

Categories: Addis Ababa, Africa, Ethiopia, Ethiopian Airways, German Bakery | 4 Comments

eid al-adha & a birthday escape to ethiopia

Wednesday, October 24: Tomorrow, October 25, is my birthday!  At my age, this shouldn’t be anything to celebrate.  After all, who wants to be a year older?  Yet.  I always believe in celebrating my birthday (hey, at least I’m still alive!) and I love to have people celebrate with me. In addition to it being my birthday, it is also Eid al-Adha in the Arab world, and so luckily my birthday coincides with a 9 day holiday in Oman.  Lucky me!

Eid al-Adha is the “Festival of Sacrifice” celebrated by Muslims the world over to commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael in obedience to God.  Lucky for Abraham, God intervened and provided his faithful servant with a ram to sacrifice instead of his son.  The actual Eid al-Adha holiday is Friday, October 26, but the government grants a week off, as does the university.

Soon after the clock strikes midnight on this 57th birthday of mine, around 1:00 a.m., I will hop in my car, suitcase in hand, and head to Seeb International Airport in Muscat for a 4:50 a.m. flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  I dread the early hour of this flight, but I’m excited about my trip.  As all of you know, I LOVE to travel!!  I’m happiest when I’m thrown into a foreign culture and left to my own devices.

I came across this quote today on Facebook.  It gives me food for thought.  I am thankful that in the last six years of my life, I have been able to do things that I used to say I would do “someday.” I am still trying to do this, as much as I possibly can, despite the fact that often I have to sacrifice a lot in this life journey of mine.

My long-time friend, who works in the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, will be my travel companion and guide.  He has been in Ethiopia for a year already, so I’m lucky to have someone who knows Ethiopia.  He has planned some fun excursions, and I’m happy to have him work out the logistics.  I can’t wait!!

So far, here’s what he has planned.  Aware of the fact that I will arrive without having had any sleep, he hasn’t planned much for my first day, even though I arrive at 7:30 a.m.  I told him not to worry, I will be too excited to sleep anyway.  He says we can go celebrate my birthday at an Ethiopian restaurant within walking distance of his house.

Early the morning of the 26th, we have a domestic flight and private tour of the 13th and 14th century rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, where we will stay overnight in the Mountain View Hotel Lalibela.  The next morning, we will go to Lalibela town’s weekly open market and then fly back to Addis that afternoon.

The morning of the 28th, we will drive 3 hours outside of Addis Ababa to Lake Langano, where we will stay two nights at an eco-lodge called Bishangari Lodge.  According to the lodge’s website: Imagine a natural retreat of outstanding beauty that combines five unique ecological zones, a secluded setting that is host to over 400 bird species, a diverse range of wildlife, spectacular array of plant life and un-spoilt biodiversity. Bishangari Lodge is less than 250 km south of Addis Ababa, situated on the shores of Lake Langano. Bishangari’s secret has been safe thanks to its inaccessibility.

The lodge has been designed on sound environmental principles utilizing solar power and biogas for energy. The lodges have been constructed using natural materials and traditional techniques, without compromising on the quality and luxury of the accommodation. It is a natural retreat of outstanding beauty that combines five ecological zones;- wetlands, beach and lake, the forest, the dry pumice rocks and the acacia shrub.

The rest of our time, we will spend exploring Addis Ababa and all the city has to offer.

According to Visit 2 Ethiopia, Addis Ababa is the capital of modern Ethiopia and gateway for most tourists, as well as the political and commercial heart of the country.  Now a city of around 4 million people, it was founded by Emperor Menelik II in 1877.

The name Addis Ababa means “new flower.” This big, sprawling, hospitable city is more than 2,200 meters high in the foothills of Entoto Mountain. Addis Ababa is one of the third capital cities in the world with high altitude, after Katmandu and La Paz. Modern buildings and wide-open boulevards stand side by side with historic churches, palaces and monuments, as well as simple country-style huts. The air is filled with the scent of flowers and eucalyptus trees, and the rich vibrancy of a city that is home to so many cultures.

Modern Addis Ababa also plays a vital role in hosting many international organizations, including the AU, ECA (the Economic Commission for Africa), and other multi-national organizations, who all have their headquarters here. Addis Ababa is as well one of the most crowded diplomatic cities of the world.

I’ll see you all when I return home on Friday, November 2!

Categories: Addis Ababa, Africa, Bishangari Lodge, Eid al-Adha, Ethiopia, Lake Langano, Lalibela, Mountain View Hotel Lalibela | 5 Comments

first stop in africa: ethiopia. {preparations.}

Friday, October 5, 2012:  I would never have thought of visiting Ethiopia.  As a matter of fact, I specifically said on my bucket list that I would go to Lebanon over Eid al Adha in 2012.  However.  With the refugees that are pouring into Lebanon from Syria now, the U.S. State Department advises travelers to stay away:

THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: The current Department of State Travel Warning advises U.S. citizens against travel to Lebanon. U.S. citizens who visit or reside in Lebanon despite the Travel Warning should be aware that there are a number of serious security concerns, and should consult the Travel Warning for up-to-date information.

U.S. citizens traveling to Lebanon should also be aware that personnel from the U.S. Embassy are not able to travel in all areas of Lebanon. In the case of an emergency involving a U.S. citizen in areas where it is unsafe for Embassy personnel to travel, the Embassy may not be able to render assistance.

In the event that the security climate in the country worsens, U.S. citizens will be responsible for arranging their own travel out of Lebanon. U.S. citizens with special medical or other needs should be aware of the risks of remaining given their condition and should be prepared to seek treatment in Lebanon if they cannot arrange for travel out of the country.

SO.  I was in a dilemma.  I debated whether I should go to Prague, which would be expensive following on the heels of my recent trip to Greece, or to Zanzibar or Sri Lanka, the destination of choice for many of my colleagues here in Oman.  Finally, my long-time friend, who works at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, suggested I come to Ethiopia.

That was that.  I promptly bought my ticket, which will depart Muscat early the morning of October 25 (happy birthday to me!).  I’ll stay in the country for 8 days and depart Addis late on Thursday, November 1, arriving back in Muscat early in the morning of Friday, November 2.  This is the Eid Al-Adha holiday in Oman; the same holiday during which I went to Jordan last year.

Now, I am reading up on Ethiopia in Lonely Planet Ethiopia & Eritrea.  The more I read, the more excited I am becoming.  It’s amazing how little I knew about this country in the Horn of Africa. I am learning about the Kingdom of Aksun, the Queen of Sheba, the coming of Christianity and Islam, the Zagwe Dynasty and its rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, the Ethiopian Middle Ages, the Muslim-Christian Wars, the rise and fall of Gonder, Emperor Tewodros, Emperor Yohannes, Emperor Menelik, Emperor Haile Selassie, and the Italian occupation.  I still have more history to read, and I look forward to learning more about this country about which, I’m embarrassed to say, I’m generally clueless.

This is my first trip ever to Africa proper.  I have been to Egypt, which is technically in Africa, but is considered to be more a part of the Middle East.

When I started to think about going to Ethiopia, I read on the State Department website that as a U.S. citizen, I could get a visa for $20 at Bole International Airport.  After returning home from my vacation in the US and Greece, I checked the website again.  This is what I found:

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: To avoid possible confusion or delays, travelers are strongly advised to obtain a valid Ethiopian visa at the nearest Ethiopian Embassy prior to arrival. This is a necessary step if you plan to enter Ethiopia by any land port-of-entry. For example: travelers wishing to enter Ethiopia from Kenya at the land border at Moyale must obtain an Ethiopian visa first. Ethiopian visas ARE NOT available at the border crossing point at Moyale or at any other land border in Ethiopia. Ethiopian tourist visas (one month or three month, single entry) may be available to U.S. citizens upon arrival at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa in some cases.NOTE: A Government of Ethiopia policy prevents travelers born in Eritrea, regardless of their current nationality, from receiving tourist visas at the airport. The on-arrival visa process is available only at Bole International Airport and is not available at any of the other airports in Ethiopia. The visa fee at Bole International Airport is payable in U.S. dollars. Business visas of up to three months validity can also be obtained at Bole International Airport upon arrival, but only if the traveler has a sponsoring organization in Ethiopia that has made prior arrangements for issuance through the Main Immigration Office in Addis Ababa. In some cases, U.S. tourist and business travelers have not been permitted to receive visas at Bole International Airport or have been significantly delayed.

As Oman does not have an Ethiopian Embassy, I went through much hand-wringing over this warning.  Either I could take my chance and show up at the airport, or I could mail my passport to the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, in hopes that I would get my passport and the visa back in time for my trip.   My friend eased my worries when he told me that it shouldn’t be a problem, since these delays usually occur only to people who have an Ethiopian Embassy in their country.  In my case, since Oman doesn’t have an embassy, I should be okay.

Let’s hope he’s right. 🙂

Categories: Addis Ababa, Africa, Ethiopia | 18 Comments

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