Snapshots of Addis Ababa


‘Nice’ houses in compounds formed by high walls topped with rolled barbed wire.

Construction everywhere, with little sign of work underway.

Beer 31 birre. About $1.50.

A dozen young men clapping rhythmically and breaking into a call and response vocal riff as they cross the Ghion Hotel park.

Hazy smog sitting in the lower part of the city in the early morning.

A man, one leg, and that useless and dragging, propelling himself across the road on his hands.

Security guards, some armed with long batons, some with guns, all over the Ghion Hotel grounds and at the entrance to both park and hotel. Likewise at bigger stores, banks, some restaurants, government buildings.

Beautiful, cloudless days, temperature in high 20s. (It’s summer.) Cool evenings down to single digits, and as low as 4.

Six lanes (three each way) of bumper to bumper traffic meeting at a cross roads with no apparent traffic control.

Colourful clothes of women.

Beautiful children.

In the time it takes to walk 200 yards from restaurant to hotel entrance, being approached first with an invitation to accompany two young men to “an excellent club – you’ll have a good time”, and on refusal being asked for 300 birre to enable them to take an exam the following day.

Being asked for money – “just 50 birre” – by one of the hotel staff.

Being offered company in the hotel bar one evening, a massage another evening, by women so dressed up they might as well have hung a sign around their neck, and beggars at the car window when we stop in traffic, and ignoring efforts to start conversations by young men on the street because you know they’ll lead to another attempted con job (knowing you’re faranji – a foreigner, and white, therefore a target, and that you have inestimable wealth in comparison with the lives of those who approach you, but finding it tiresome, all the same. And feeling guilty that you find it tiresome.)

Soccer teams running up and down the steps on Meskel Square.

Young men sporting soccer shirts in the colours of the Ethiopian national team.

Our driver turning left, launching the car across three lanes of oncoming traffic at an intersection with no traffic control. And I’m in the front on the side they’re approaching from.

After walking on another cloudless, high summer morning, eating breakfast to canned music strains of Winter Wonderland.

There’s Time. And there’s Ethiopian Time.

English tourist (a woman): grey ponytail, backpack, camo pants.

Woyalas leaning out of blue mini-van taxi windows calling the destination.

As many buses and ancient blue taxis and blue mini-van taxis as private cars.

Mercato (dark coffee with frothy milk) 10 birre (including 2 birre tip) at downtown coffee shop. (That’s about 50c.)



2 thoughts on “Snapshots of Addis Ababa

  1. I was excited to see your pictures of Addis Ababa, Rob. Unfortunately, all I can see is three photos, together with what looks like captions for a bunch more… Are you just teasing us?

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