Africa is made up of 54 countries and out of all these fully recognized sovereign states I am not very proud to say I have only visited 2; Uganda and Tanzania. My excuse is traveling around Africa is not as cheap. Leaving miles away from home and visiting only once a year leaves me with no choice but to dedicate every single second of my time to my family.
Over the past couple of years I have witnessed the travel industry take a drastic change. Many people are inspired to travel. Both the old and young are investing more time and money in travel experiences, others quitting their jobs to travel, others looking for more flexible jobs that can allow them more time to travel, discover new countries, embrace different cultures, make new friends, learn a handful of words in a foreign language, tease tastebuds with divergent cuisines…Travel indeed makes us rich in a beautiful way.Asia has been home for the past ten years and still counting but lately my heart has been beating home. I have this restless urge to come back to Kenya, to Africa. Not only to live but to take it all in, one country at a time. Shanti Gawain once said, “You create your opportunities by asking for them.” so here I am consciously manifesting my dream and desire and throwing it out loud to the universe with the grand hope I will live long enough to realize this dream.
A couple of weeks ago I spontaneously decided to visit Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Being very close to Kenya and not requiring a visa made it less cumbersome. I booked my ticket in a heartbeat and the next thing I knew I was all buckled up on the plane headed to the Ethiopia. Prior to my trip I had a quick chat with my lovely friend Nelly, who is also the editor behind Whispery Winds. Nelly spent a few months months working and occasionally traveling around Addis Ababa. She confirmed three days were not enough to explore Addis plus venture out of the city but she helped me narrow down a list of things to do and places to see in city. With a rough idea of what to expect my itchy feet and wanderlust spirit was all set.
It was a bumpy 2hrs flight from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Bole International Airport. In no time I was on the streets of Addis. My head stuck out of the taxi, taking in every billboard, every sound, moving cars, people on the streets, blue skies, and occasionally the crackling sounds of the taxi I was in would snap me back to reality. Addis Ababa like any other big city is chaotic. But when you look closely, behind all the chaos there is an undoubtedly charming city.
There is no Uber in Addis so getting around in taxis taught me the art of negotiating fare. Best done before getting in otherwise you may be asked to pay far above the going rate at the end of the journey.
DIAMOND HOTEL, BOLE ROAD
In less than 20minutes we had pulled up at Diamond Hotel on Bole Road. Check in was fast and smooth. The hotel staff are warm and friendly. My room was well maintained daily, quite spacious and comfortable. Apart from my WiFi connection being a tad sketchy with very poor to no signal unless one was hanging out in common areas like the hotel’s corridors, reception, bar and restaurant which had better signal, my stay was pretty pleasant and won’t hesitate going back. I was also allowed early check-in which gave me ample time to settle in, freshen up and get ready to explore the city.
I spent the next three days city hopping around Addis, alternating from being a tourist and blending in as a local, occasionally stopping for side street coffee, sipping as I take in the city and it’s beautiful chaos.
Here are some of the places I visited.
PALACE OF MENELIK II AND EMPRESS TAITU
As an African woman I am always empowered by women who played and continue to play major roles in our continent and African countries. Whether it is going back in history or in the present.
Empress Taitu was the third wife of the Emperor and together they founded Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital.
She was the first to agitate the hesitant Emperor and other men to stand against Italian aggression. She accompanied the Emperor and the Imperial army to the historic battle of Adwa where they defeated the Italians. Visiting their humble palace was an honor.
Walking through hallways of a partially empty building with nothing much to see may seem like a complete waste of time according to some traveller’s reviews I came across on TripAdvisor, but for me it was an honor to visit a house that sheltered a strong woman and made a difference in her own country.
ENTOTO MOUNTAIN VIEWPOINT AND ENTOTO MARYAM CHURCH
On my way to Entoto Maryam church I stopped by Entoto Mountain Viewpoint for a panoramic vista of the city of Addis Ababa. The drive uphill is scenic and quite breezy being 3000 meters above sea level. Along the way we met quite a number of donkeys and old women with enormous bunches of firewood on their back.
On weekdays the church is closed so visitors are only allowed to look around outside. Nonetheless It was interesting walking around the grounds of Entoto Maryam church. The silence in this place is special.
On my way out I spotted this Ethiopian Monk. He was not praying, and even though I was hesitant I still went ahead and asked for his permission prior to taking a photo. He was kind enough to agree.
ETHNOLOGICAL MUSEUM OF ADDIS ABABAThe museum is set within the former palace of Haile Selassie, which is now the grounds of Addis Ababa University. Visiting the Ethnological Museum of Addis Ababa was definitely a highlight of my stay. It was a great introduction to Ethiopia’s different ethnic groups and the country’s history.
Since this used to be the palace of the Emperor and Empress, the visit will also walk you through their surprisingly modest bathroom and bedroom and a collection of some of his costumes in closets. This was a fascinating exhibit and the highlight of my visit.I highly recommend visiting the museum and if you are lucky there won’t be a power cut so you do not end us using your cell phone flash light like I did.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF ETHIOPIA
I enjoyed my visit to the national museum. Like most visitors I was looking forward to seeing Lucy, the oldest hominid (3.25 Million years old) Unfortunately I only got to see a replica of Lucy. Nonetheless it was still a fascinating visit going through the amazing artefacts that the museum hosts, paintings and information about Ethiopian history.
2000 HABESHA CULTURAL RESTAURANTI took glory in savoring authentic Ethiopian cuisine and watching great cultural dances at 2000 Habesha Cultural Restaurant. This is memorable and something to try at least once while in Addis Ababa. I also got to try the traditional Ethiopian honey wine known as Tej. Honey wine has been drunk by Ethiopians for over 3000 year. The alcoholic content can range from a mere 2.7% to as high as 21% depending on how long it was left to ferment. Unfortunately a friend warned me too late that it has also produced spectacular hangovers for 3 millennia.
“ BUNA TETU” DRINK COFFEE
Ethiopia is considered to be the birthplace of coffee culture. Coffee is drunk throughout the day, every corner of the city, you are basically never far from coffee.
One of my favorite coffee memories in Addis is when I stumbled upon this cute hole in the wall coffee shop located very close to the Meskel square, under the staircase of a flyover bridge. It is not everyday you get to drink coffee under a bridge.
I was drawn to the cow skin covered seats and painting of an Ethiopian woman on the wall. As I was sipping my coffee I was joined by a young Ethiopian man who also happened to be the artist behind the painting. He had so many stories to tell, from athletics to Ethiopian history to art to veganism. In a short time we had covered so many stories and it was a delight. The beauty of human relations and conversations.
The shop is not solely owned by one individual instead different people are given an opportunity to sell their coffee on different days of the week. A good initiative to help the less fortunate to also earn their daily bread.
A DAY TRIP TO DEBRE ZEYIT, ETHIOPIA’S CRATER LAKES TOWN.Having spent two full days in Addis, it was time to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. After weighing my options I decided to hire a driver with the help of the hotel and drove 47kilometres southeast of Addis to the resort town of Debre Zeyit or Bishoftu city well known for its crater lakes; Lake Bishoftu, Lake Babogaya, Lake Kuriftu, Lake Kilole, Lake Magrisa.
The drive to Bishoftu was relaxing. Blue sky, empty highway giving clear view of graceful acacia trees at a distance and Ethiopian tunes playing in the background from the taxi’s radio.
While in Bishoftu I visited two resorts. The first one was Pyramid Resorts and Hotels. I walked around the resort, getting lost in its paths until I ended up in this beautiful lounge space where I spent a good amount of time basking in the spectacular view of Lake Bishoftu and the scenery around. I got carried by the beauty and sound of nature, particularly the melodic chirping of birds.My next stop was Adulala Resort and Spa where I enjoyed a slow lunch on the resort’s terrace with a picturesque view of Lake Hora. I fell in love with its turquoise blue waters and contrasting lush green vegetation that surrounds it.
Debre Zeyit needs more than a day in order to appreciate and live its beauty. The region also hosts a variety of activities for its visitors like birdwatching, swimming, fishing among others. I did not get to spend as much time as I would have desired, but just enough to convince me to come back another day.It was a slow drive back to city as the driver cautiously navigated his way through heavy rainfall. I was too exhausted to go out so I spent my last evening snuggled up in bed with a blanket, skimming through photos and reminiscing on the three days I had spent in Addis Ababa.I woke up at the crack of dawn to catch my flight back to Nairobi. As we took off for the clouds I was filled with gratitude because I had just visited my 4th country in Africa leaving me with 50 more to go.
Lora by Lora