I ended up in Addis, quite by accident. I was going to Nairobi and booked my travel on Ethiopian Airlines which had a layover at Bole Airport in Addis. I decided to stay two nights to experience what the city had to offer. It was my first trip to East Africa and I was very excited indeed!
Addis had a much different vibe compared to Lagos (and I’d wager to say) the rest of West Africa. It was a fragrant city (eucalyptus plants everywhere, it seemed to me!), with very beautiful and proud people – almost everyone I met, mentioned to me that Ethiopians were never colonized. The city had 3 languages simultaneously it felt like – Amharic, English & French (due to the presence of the African Union Headquarters). Addis is also unique, in that it exists as both a city and a state.
A little bit of History
The city was founded by Emperor Menelik II (and his wife Empress Tatyu) in 1836, a natural offshoot from Mount Entoto, which he had successfully used as a military base. Emperor Menelik made Addis Ababa his capital, constructed a railroad linking the city and country to Djibouti, attempted to end the slave trade, and curbed the feudal nobility. His conquests doubled the size of the country and brought the Muslims into the realm. You can read more about Emperor Menelik II here. Emperor Menelik II is a direct descendant of Emperor Menelik I who according to legend, is the son of King Solomon and Queen Sheba. (Emperor Haile Selaisse, who is revered as the incarnation of God by the Rastafarians, also traced his ancestry to Emperor Menelik I).
So, what to do if you have 48 hours in Addis Ababa? In no particular order, I’d recommend the following:
- Visit Yod Abyssinia: This place serves traditional Ethiopian food – you must try the Injera (which I didn’t like much) and drink Tej (which I absolutely loved!). You also get a cultural show which was very educational, entertaining and relies on audience participation. As a lone guest sitting at a table in the front, I was an easy target when it came to the Ethiopian shoulder dance, Eskista, which I attempted 🙂
- Visit Mount Entoto: I visited the Saint Mary’s Church and the palace of Emperor Menelik II and his wife Empress Tatyu. This used to be Emperor Menelik’s initial stomping grounds and his wife, I think, had a lot of influence in the building of the St. Mary’s Church. The palace buildings and grounds were grand and majestically simple. There is a Menelik Museum on the grounds with a token entrance fee that showcased a lot of Emperor Menelik’s personal effects, pictures were not allowed in that Museum though.
- Holy Trinity Cathedral: An impressive cathedral built to commemorate Ethiopia’s liberation from Italian occupation. This is where Emperor Haile Selaisse and his wife are buried – their tombs are right inside the Church while I understand that many other members of the Imperial family were buried in the crypt beneath the church. The cathedral and it’s grounds are really interesting because it seems to be a grand burial ground where people also worship. Soldiers and other important heroes are buried on the church grounds, including the late Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi.
- Haile Selaisse Museum: This is in the back behind the Holy Trinity Cathedral and showcases important artifacts from the reign of Emperor Haile Selaisse. The combination of this museum and the Selaisse crypt in the Holy Trinity Cathedral, makes this holy ground for a lot of Rastafarians who revere Emperor Selaisse as a reincarnation of God.
- Visit Lucy at the Ethiopian National Museum: Lucy is the skeletal remains of a 3.2 million year old fossil that is the most complete skeleton of humans ever discovered and whose discovery marked Ethiopia as the birthplace of humankind. It was discovered in November 1974 by an international team of paleo-anthropologists.
- African Union Headquarters: Self explanatory, nothing much to be seen but an impressive structure nonetheless.