Thursday, 9 July 2015

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Things to See and Do

We were told several times that Addis Ababa is not Ethiopia meaning that the country is so much more beautiful outside of the big city. I only went on one day trip to Debre Libanos outside of Addis and I would have to agree. The city itself can be quite dusty, polluted and crowded and I felt myself feeling more tired than usual while there.


We traveled as a group so we rented a bus that cost about USD 150-200 per day including a driver and a guide. You can also take the blue taxis to go around but be sure to negotiate a price before you step in. They will often wait or come back for you to drive you back instead of waiting for another customer to flag them down. 

You can also take the local transportation called mini-buses which only costs 2-3 birr per ride but can be very confusing if you do not speak the language. They have signs on top of these vans that say where the final destination is and the van will be overloaded with people (about 12-15) who know where they're going. I tried it once and we felt accomplished when we reached our destination but it does waste a lot of time trying to figure things out.

Entoto Hill

On our first day here, we went to Entoto Hill for a high up view of the city. The view was great after the rain that cleared the smog because you could see how sprawled Addis is. There was a church and small museum there with an entrance fee. 

View of Addis from Entoto Hill


Ethnological Museum

This museum is located at Addis Ababa University so you can see both at once. There was a tour guide who explained each section to us and the museum was quite well kept. There were sections on culture, the different ethnicities in Ethiopia and more. It even had Emperor Haile Selassie's bed on display.

Emperor's bed

Meskel Square

Meskel Square is a place you will probably pass by frequently. There are always people there from children playing football (soccer) to taxi drivers parked for a break.

Meskel Square

Red Terror Museum

Next to Meskel Square is the Red Terror Museum. Admission is by donation and it was a sobering experience. Our particular tour guide was a survivor himself and he led us through the stages of Ethiopia history before, during and after the genocide in the 1970s. I think it is worth coming to know a little more about the country you're visiting.

Red Terror Museum

National Museum

The National Museum hosts Lucy, one of the oldest human skeletons in the world at 3.2 million years old. The basement of the museum features the various skeletons including Lucy. The upper levels showcase art and other pieces but they are less well displayed. Admission cost 10 birr.

Market Tour

I joined a market tour with Addis Eats that started at 5:20am in the morning (USD 75). They are an American couple who has lived in Addis for 3.5 years. They have learned to speak Amharic and started this business to show tourists a more local side of the city. The tour started so early because the market we went to begins even earlier than that. The Piazza market is a wholesale one where mountains of fresh produce are brought in daily to be sold in bulk. The majority of produce you see at fruit stands or grocery places came through this market at one point. 

Market at dawn

Mountains of produce

Walking through the market can cause a bit of culture shock as everyone is there to do business so as the only foreigners you stand out and you're also in the way. Large baskets and crates are carried on heads so you have to dodge under these and between cars and people to navigate the market. 

Second market

Coffee pots at second market

Next on our tour we went to a coffee shop where we could buy some Ethiopian coffee to bring home and then to Kategna for breakfast. We went to another calmer market that sold everything from spices to live poultry to kitchenware. Our last stop was a gift shop called Salem's before we were driven back to our hotel by 11am. 

Textile at Salem's

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