Explore Addis Ababa
Home to the headquarters of the African Union, the third largest United Nations population, and with representation from nearly every foreign embassy from around the world, Addis Ababa is often referred to as the political capital of Africa.
“Addis” as it’s often known, is the world’s third-highest capital city, standing tall at 2,665 meters above sea level. Boasting a cityscape that changes almost daily, with rickety wooden scaffolding creeping slowly skyward, Addis has more than enough history and sights to warrant more than a stopover.
Amharic, the national language, is widely spoken throughout the country and is predominant in Addis Ababa. The principal foreign language is English, but you will also find many people who speak French, Italian, and Arabic.
Historian Carlo Conti Rossini once characterised Ethiopia as a”rich cultural mosaic”. He could have also been speaking about Addis Ababa itself. Each of the country’s multitude of ethnic groups is represented somewhere in the capital, as are a large number of foreign residents from all parts of the world who contribute to the city’s cosmopolitan atmosphere.
“Perhaps the highest praise one can direct at this chaotic, contradictory and compelling city is this: Addis Ababa does feel exactly as the Ethiopia capital should feel – singularly and unmistakably Ethiopian” says travel writer Philip Briggs.
To navigate the city, it’s best to break it down into distinct districts.
The city centre is at the end of Churchill Ave, the southern section of which is named Gambia St. Here you’ll find many government and commercial buildings.
To the north is Piazza, a district whose legacy and architecture are owed to the Italian occupation. It is found atop the hill at Churchill Ave’s north end and houses budget hotels, as well as many cafes and bars.
To the east of Piazza is Addis Ababa University, several museums and the landmark roundabouts of Arat Kilo and Siddist Kilo. South from there is Menelik II Ave, which boasts the National Palace, Africa Hall, UNECA Compound and a series of new urban parks.
The southeast of the city – on and around Bole Rd between Meskal Sq and the airport – is thriving with exciting development, such as high-quality restaurants, bars, cafes and shopping centres. It contrasts sharply with the rest of the city.
Ethiopia is often cited as the birthplace of coffee, and the good people of Addis still love a good brew.
Tomoca – An Addis classic with stand-up benches and the story of coffee adorning the walls. Coffee is serious business at this great high-stooled Italian cafe (around since 1953) in Piazza. The beans are roasted on-site and Tomoca serves some of the capital’s best coffee.
Mokarar – The essence of Addis Ababa’s coffee culture, with no-frills coffee served to a knowledgeable crowd.
Galani Cafe – A contemporary take on the Addis coffee house – fantastic coffee but in a thoroughly modern setting. It’s also a fine restaurant and dynamic cultural space with art exhibitions, a shop selling coffee, honey and the like, and coffee tastings or ‘cuppings’.
Yod Abyssinia – One of the best places in Addis for the traditional coffee ceremony. at around 7.30pm, musicians, dancers and singers perform traditional acts from around Ethiopia. The food, too, is some of the best traditional food and it’s a good place to try tej (honey wine).
One of the best reasons for being in Addis is the food, and a number of restaurants take traditional cooking (and sometimes entertainment) to a whole new level.
Yod Abyssinia – The pick of Addis’ traditional restaurants, with live music and dance and great food.
Kategna – Terrific local food, but in a refreshingly sophisticated setting with traces of traditional design.
Habesha 2000 – Another excellent choice for local food with live performances thrown in for free.
Itegue Taitu Hotel – In a gracious old mansion, their lunchtime vegan (fasting) buffet is an institution.
Addis has a handful of excellent museums that mean you can take a journey through the country’s history without even leaving the city.
Ethnological Museum – One of Africa’s best museums with extensive exhibits on Ethiopia’s peoples.
National Museum – Visit your ancient relative Lucy in the fabulous basement archaeological exhibition. Complimentary passes for all conference delegates!
St George Cathedral & Museum – Sacred religious objects and all manner of church relics make this worth a look.
‘Red Terror’ Martyrs Memorial Museum – Relive Ethiopia’s disturbing recent past at this city-centre museum.
Addis Ababa Museum – Learn everything there is to know about the city’s story. Complimentary passes for all conference delegates!
Dare to shop at Merkato
The Addis Merkato as it is known, the term coming directly from Italian, is a giant sprawling market that is home to anything and all things Ethiopian that you would ever want to lay your hands. Claimed to be the largest open-air market in Africa, Merkato has everything from electronics to imported clothes, comprises small alleys sprawling off from the main streets.
Indulge in some ‘Tej’
Tej (or Ethiopian honey wine) could be the oldest alcoholic beverage in Ethiopian history, with early records of the drink dating over 1,000 years. Often made at home or “Tej bet”, Tej is a honey wine flavored with an indigenous herb much like hops and could easily be mistaken for orange juice on account of its hue and slight viscosity.
Don’t leave without trying the ‘Shiro’
“Shiro” is a delicious stew whose primary ingredient is powdered chickpeas or broad beans combined with special herbs and spices. Depending on the region, the stew is complimented with a host of additional spices ranging from chili peppers to ground ginger. It is typically served atop injera, a large sourdough flatbread, which is produced with teff, a local gluten-free millet. Shiro is perhaps the most nourishing, ubiquitous and affordable dish in Ethiopia and is pretty much found in every restaurant in Addis.
Don’t miss the St. Mary Church of Entoto
At 3,200m in elevation, Entoto is most definitely the roof of Addis Ababa. Driving up the steep road from the nearby US Embassy compound, you’ll pass huts of various shapes and sizes, highland vegetation, and, rumour has it, if you are early enough, a hyena or two. At the top of Entoto, Menelik II built his and used it as his headquarters during the founding of the capital city, below. Nearby you will find St. Mary’s Church. This architectural gem hosted Menelik’s coronation and further down the hill on the back side of the building are the remains of Menelik’s rather modest palace. The view of the city from Entoto Hill is just breathtaking.
Travel back in time at Melka Kunture (50 kilometers from Addis Ababa)
Melka Kunture has an interesting pre-historical legacy that manifests itself in the form of several stone tools and other rudimentary relics dating back millions of years.
Take in the majesty at Blue Nile Gorges (Approximately 200 kilometers to the north of the city)
The region is interspersed with quaint, photogenic villages and the celebrated 13th century Debre Libanos monastery that is dramatically nestled in a high canyon. There is also a Portuguese Bridge and a few rugged walking trails that offer a nice adventurous trek through the wilderness of the region. Watch several species of ingenious birds and mammals while wandering through the paths of Blue Nile. Drive further through the hills of the area to enjoy the striking scenery from the tip of the gorge.
For Pre and Post conference tours at a discounted rate, delegates can contact Eshi Events (Addis Ababa) on: firstname.lastname@example.org