Posts Tagged With: 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

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

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