“Turning it my way”, Addis Abeba Dec. 14th, 2010

The flight of 4 hours was just like a normal European flight, Egypt Airways is part of the Star Alliance, but I did not manage to sleep. The Visas where written by hand and at the only Money Exchange place I learned that Queuing is not an Ethiopian thing. It was worse than in China. The ATM worked as well despite the info of lonely planet à Ethiopia advances.

A short adrenalin kick when my back pack arrived without the cover but it came separately a minute later. Ok, ready for the big storm when I go through that door. Luckily I am with this Dutch guy. Hm, strange, everything quiet, people waiting for their relatives not even looking at us. A taxi driver offers us a ride downtown for 10 Dollars. No way. That is a rip off. Hm, strange, after checking 5 more, talking to a police man and the official government taxi booth it turns out 10 dollars is actually a cheap price for 5:30 in the morning. So we take it. Going through  peaceful quiet townships I start to feel good, only the great numbers of people sleeping on the street and those jogging at 5am in the morning wanting to become like their hero Haile fits the image I have.

Good that I did not book in advance as the new day starts at 6am, in 10minutes, and I don’t have to pay for this night. The dutch guy is strange and leaves by foot from here, whatever. I go into my clean room and fall asleep.

My alarm clock gets me up at 10am and I start walking into town. 2 taxi drivers offer me their service. I say no, they friendly let me go away and as I turn my back to them they get into a heavy fist fight…………..ok. I work my way to the Kenian Embassy (applying for Visa) and back through town. At a nice café with Croissants and everything I summarize my positive impressions: no hassle but friendly smiles, good internet connections available, great and cheap hair cut and shave I got, I love the fresh orange juices. About one hour later I can also add negative impressions: poverty is extreme and people without eyes and cut off feet bagging is hard to watch, no maps available (I partly get lost), the normal taxis are really expensive (all other transportation is cheap), young man hassling you to be a paid guide and become partly aggressive and for some reason I don’t feel comfortable getting my camera out. Especially the young men really pull me down and I am frustrated. Soon later it gets better. On my search for a cheaper hotel I meet Susanne, Dirk, Jim and their Ethiopian friends. We go out for dinner in a hip part of town (could have been a Frankfurt bar at a summer day, showing champions league live) and onto a bar. At 2am I get to bed not knowing what to think.

Friday I take it easy not leaving the hotel before midday to search for cheaper hotels. It is hilly here and soon I notice that I am at 2500m above sea level. During the day it gets up to 25 degrees but at night it goes down to 11. I find a reasonable room for 6€ a night, I get my Kenyan Visa and I even turn the hassle my way. The young man Solomon I “use” to get a Sim Card (you can call me under: 00251-921874765) and valuable information of what to find where. Maybe I take him as a guide the next day. Susanne, leaving for Hamburg tomorrow, takes some of my stuff and a Christmas present for Angi with her and so I fall happy asleep around midnight.

Saturday went really different than planned. I indented to take Solomon to show me around town and hit all the sights (or what they call sights, its not much). As he requested 20 Dollars for that (which is a monthly income of an Ethiopian waiter) I split with him and decide to visit the Dutch family near the train station. Him (surgeon), her and their 9, 10 and 12 year old children took 1 year off to go from Holland to Cap town in a Camper truck. Great. Also I meet a South African who goes from Switzerland back home on a bicycle. I am sooo boring. We all have lunch together. Ethiopian food is fantastic, they really know how to cook. The local dish called “Ingera” is actually great but the pancake with which you eat all the different vegetables and meats has the texture of a sponch and my head just doesn’t let go of that thought. So I take pasta for now. Then we visit a photo expedition (not that special) before I head back to my hotel. I actually have to rush for the first time in 5 weeks. Rowan, who I met on a bus, meets me at 6pm for dinner, I am travelling alone, you see. He turns out to be a very interesting person. From the UK, difficult childhood, becoming part of the “Rasta” movement (taking drugs, living in Hawaii etc.) and then turning to Ethiopian Orthodox church 7 years ago. He now is the first white person to study this topic here in the Addis Abeba College with the objective of teaching in London before becoming a monk. He is fasting at the moment for 40 some days so we switch to a restaurant offering fasting food. On a short walk through town I notice that all the fruit stands do not have Bananas and Rowan says: “Yes, the banana farmers are on strike……” 10pm I go to bed as Sunday will start early with a very special event.

It is the day of Maria entering the Jerusalem temple some 2000 years ago. That is one of the biggest festivals for the Ethiopian Orthodox and we join the celebrations at sunrise (6am). For the next 7 hours I would be covered in a white scarf, not being able to move as around 9 other people share the square meter I am on and not have any sip of water or food. However I would also feel safe and comfortable being one of 2 white among 8 or even 10.000 people and observing with passion the singing, prayers, speeches, rituals and peaceful atmosphere. A real special and all African experience.


A second one would follow soon. Kibru, another guide (hassle) approaches me much smarter, inviting me for football. It is as you can imagine. At a very big pitch, with high grass, big holes many boys of different ages rush after a broken rubber ball in sandals or most basic sneakers. I also only have my sandals and really enjoy the first sport since the Beirut Marathon. Again, the 2500m altitude is noticeable, for me, not for them. I meet Kibru´s family in a very simple house (well, lets say a separated square of wooden boards) and walk through part of Addis you should not do alone. Being tired and insecure I reject the drink invitation anyway. Maybe tomorrow. A skype call with Angi, a lasagne and my diary update finishes an amazing day in Addis Abeba.

Monday starts with a breakfast at which Kibru shows up but he is ok when I tell him I don’t want to do anything. Just as I wonder what I should do today (the monastery or the University) Rowan calls and takes me to a church lunch. A whole plate full of rice, potatoes, vegetables, a big piece of bread and a 7up for 15 Birr, which is 0,70€. Not bad. Then I give him my pictures of the ceremony and he goes home to study for his tests on Wednesday. Strange to meet someone who has a tight schedule and a daily routine. I go for a fresh orange juice and visit the Dutch family again to give them some photos as well. The internet has gone down in all Ethiopia which makes me to take on the challenge of the “Merkato”. It is the biggest market here, about 300.000 people buying and selling each day and not a save place to hang around as a tourist. So I call Kibru and give him some business. He did well, protecting my bag and talking to people while I take pictures. 99% of the people are friendly, smile but we also do run into some tough situations where Kibru works hard to make them calm down. I could not have done this alone and I decide to invite him for dinner. Sam, the New Zealand guy joins for a traditional lamb meal. Being with Sam and he being with me and having Kibru as a local we decide to take a dive into the Addis Abeba nightlife. That it is Monday does not make a difference. Bars are full. Again, alone this would lead to begging and eventually to trouble but with a local we enjoy ourselves. The rather shady places around the hotel we leave behind and end up in a club on Baro street, the modern part. Beers (and Coke for me) are around 1 Dollar which is a fortune for the average Ethiopian. A great night ends at 4am.

Tuesday, today, I use for preparing the adventures trip to the south, the Omo Valley. After being in Addis for almost a weak I feel ready, understanding some local vibes and habits. I wash clothes, change money, buy toilet paper and all that. Will see how it goes, certainly without internet for a while. Just in case, Merry Christmas………………….

facebook digg facebook facebook facebook facebook


  • Jan says:

    Sehr schlechtes Neues Franck…’Grain de Nature’ hat seinen Tur geschlossen. Wir sind allen sehr treurig. Gluecklich gibt es deinen Wunderbare Erlebnissen zum lesen und sehen. Viel Spass in Afrika!

    • frank4444 says:

      Danke Jan, alles Gute fuer 2011 und Gruesse an das Team. Hey, Silvester habe ich mit Fisch und Chips gefeiert, in Kenia, und es waren die ersten knuspirgen seit 2 Monaten.
      Tschau FRANK

Leave a Response