Ethiopia III

Addis Ababa – well dressed people v shepards; old buildings v night clubs PART I

General thoughts
Addis Ababa (Abeba) (in Ahmaric means  “new flower”) is at the 5th place on a list of National Capital ordered by altitude (2355m)

Addis Ababa – Really hard to explain the feelings we had about that city. When we were reaching the city, we needed to watch out for plenty of potholes on the road (Sometimes perfectly covered by a puddle as it was raining most of the time) and also other drivers. Traffic was a little bit chaotic, but still nothing in comparison to Cairo.

On the outskirts of the city, it was really noisy and dusty, but when we getting closer to the city centre, Addis looked more like a modern African business centre. Ethiopian capital is an odd blend of past and present. There is plenty of Old Imperial statues and emblems alongside hammer and sickle posters of the former Marxist regime; lost of austere Italian Fascist building and luxurious old hotels. On the other hand, there is plenty of night clubs, modern bars and restaurants, which serve both national and cosmopolitan cuisine (Many bars and restaurants still host traditional shows of music and dance, plus organise coffee ceremony). On the streets you can see priests in robes, homeless people sleeping on the streets and Africans dressed in modern suits, young Ethiopian women wearing fashionable cloths and shepherds with the herds of goats or sheeps, dressed not very well, but holding awesome cell phones. In general – If I have to use one word to describe Addis I would say: different. Addis also seems to be friendly city and remarkably safe in comparison to some of African capitals

Ankober Guest House and Wutma restaurant – where to stay and eat at PIASSA district

In Addis we spent more than a week. We were camping at the parking of ANKOBER Guest House. We were charged 100 birrs/night
Ankober Guest House
Address: Piassa Muniyem street, Addis Ababa
Tel: 011 111 2350
Teddy (the Manager) and one of the front desk girls – Helen were very friendly, talkative and helpful. We also could use bathroom and take hot shower, wherever we asked for it. We didn’t stay in any of the rooms, but we saw them; they were simple, but very clean. Moreover, as a curiosity in every room you could find a free condom (!). It seems that Ethiopians have been raising awareness about HIV and other sexual diseases and now they promote safe sex.
In front of Ankober Guest House, there is a place called Wutma Hotel and Restaurant. We have never seen how the rooms look like, but we definitely recommend to everybody Wutma restaurant! If you want to try excellent, national Ethiopian food without spending a fortune – go there. Charlie loved the most a meal called WUTMA SPECIAL (basically ingera with ingera plus meat ad lots of veggies – massive portion). They also serve different kinds of pasta (Spinachi was my favourite)

Furthermore, Mahatma restaurant offers awesome machismos for 5 Birrs (0,25 USD) and amazing tea for 4 Birrs (0,20 USD)
Moreover, if you need free WI-FI, Wutma would be the place, where you might catch some reception..if you are lucky:)

Internet in Ethiopia
Generally, the internet in Ethiopia is available in bigger cities, but connection is mainly really bad…fast connections… What is fast connection?!? (Pretty much rare and exclusive thing). I also noticed that plenty of businesses in Ethiopia have lots of business cards, but I couldn’t find any company websites on them- that I guess confirms that the  internet in that country is not very ideal.
Wutma Restaurant is also a special place to us as we met for a second time, amazing traveller Beck, who is also very interested in African politics and affair (I haven’t mentioned that before, but we met for the first time in Gondar at Belegez Pension, and to be honest we have never expected to meet again in different place during our travels). Basically Wutma was our place of meetings, chatting and spending time in an awesome atmosphere.

Beck’s Blog – her blog serves to provide news, political critique and commentary on African current affairs.

  Ethiopians suffers as their Prime Mister is announced to dead
Before we went to Ethiopia we had found out that Ethiopian Prime Minister died…His death caused lots of chaos not only in the country but also in Ethiopian Embassies all over the World…For example getting visa was almost imposible as everybody was in mourning. The Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was a very signifant figure in Ethiopian Politics and History. He was a rebel leader of Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and chairman of Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). Those groups were fighting against Colonel Mengistu and the Derg, the junta which lead Ethiopia under iron fist from 1974 to 1991. After Ethiopian Civil War in 1991, Zenawi became the president of the transitional government of Ethiopia, and from 1995 to 2012 he was the Prime Minister. Meles Zenawi to Ethiopia was who, Nelson Mandela was to South Africa and Lech Walesa to Poland…(Sort of ikon of liberation of the country).
We didn’t attend the funeral of Ethiopian Prime Minister in Addis, but Beck did and I got her permission to uplod some of her photos on our blog. Moreover I am adding some of her posts connected with funeral ceremony from her blog (more seriously good photos included)

”For two months the people of Ethiopia have had no idea whether their Prime Minister was dead or alive and there were several false alarms suggesting that he died sometime during this period.” Interested?? Read more here
Ethiopian’s Prime Minister is announced to dead

“Zenawi’s coffin rested in royal Palace and was visited by an estimated 2 million Ethiopians in the days leading up to the funeral.”

More tears as Etiopians attend the numerous memorial services in Addis

Photos from Prime Minister memorial Service

‘Red Terror’ Martyrs Memorial Museum
Regarding the Prime Minister and the Derg – We visited Museum, which revels the horrors of life under Mengistu’s Derg regime. It was opened in 2010, many guides don’t have info about it, but it is worthy to visit. Walls of photos and names of just little percentage of the estimated half of million killed people under the Derg, cabinets filled with human remains, skulls and other bones with a photo of the victim – those are thing you will see there and which get you emotional

Pharmacies and getting heath advice…Ethiopian style…
In Addis, unfortunately we got bitten by some little insects/bugs as our arms and legs were covered by red, very itchy pustules. We went to 3 different pharmacies to get some help, but we got 3 various diagnosis…In first chemist we were advised that red spots were after bugs and we got antibacterial soap…In the second chemist we got a lotion from India against some serious skin diseases, but the guy wasn’t really sure what was it and he also said that that might have been side effect after doxycycline (pills we were taking against malaria). In the third pharmacy we only got a lotion, which gives relief after mosquito bites…Hmmm hard times.. but we think that the lady from the first pharmacy was the closest to the truth as soap was helpful and when we left Addis, pimples started vanishing.
Addis – plenty of garages and car shops with mostly Chinese parts…
Addis was the place where Charlie decided to buy at least, two new, more off road-ish tyres.One of the worst part of roads in Africa was still ahead of us. All of our tyres were already chewed and almost without traction. Charlie was driving around those garages and car shops for long time. There was lots of used ones and their condition were similar to ours or worse, and also most of the new tyres, which Charlie saw, were Chinese and we didn’t really want to buy them as we didn’t know how long they would last for. Finally.. Charlie found what he was looking for and we bought two brand new tyres (Yokohama) for 5400 Birrs (300 USD)...It was a good decision, as we could feel the different in traction immediately – much, much better (Plus because these tyres were slightly bigger than previous ones, the back of our Rusty was a little bit higher)

The place we got our brand new Japanese tyres:

MELAK Trading P.L.C (Tire, Battery Importer and Distributor)

General Manager: Idris Ahmed

Kera phone:  +251 11 466 2502/00



Rusty 2 Africa Ads
Due to safety reasons we didn’t put any colourful stickers or ads on our van. We didn’t want to be visible in Syria or Egypt…We thought that white van was the best idea as it should have been perceived as ordinary car. Nevertheless, we really wanted to put some stickers on Rusty, to make it more personal and fancy. Totally by accident we found poster of the company INFINITY, which prints business cards. We visited them and they said that they not only print posters, stickers and ext.., but also design logos and similar stuff for their customers. We asked how much few big stickers to cover half of our van would cost and the manager after seeing our car said that it would be around 20USD!!! No, I didn’t make a mistake – for all stickers we had on Rusty we paid only 20 USD!!! We were told that designing and putting them on the van should take 1 or 2 days…Well it took around a week really, but it was awesome to spend some time in that Ad Agency and create our logo with those nice people. We had lots of fun!!!



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Addis Ababa – Happy Birthday Ethiopia and vibrant nightlife PART II

Ethiopia is a very special country as it has:

  • 13 months (they call it 13 months of Sunshine)
  • We were in „our” 2012, but Ethiopia was celebration 2005 (Julian Calendar – we could feel younger)
  • Different time – as Ethiopia is near to the Equator it gets day light at 6am and dark at 6pm all year. They would tell the time as 12 hours by day and another 12 hours for night. Therefore 7am is 1 o’clock day, 8pm is 2 o’clock night. Asking for the time or meeting someone can be confusing.
  • Ethiopians celebrate New Year’s Day on 11th of September and Christmas on 7th January

Due to the fact that we were in Ethiopia in September we had this amazing opportunity to celebrate New Year together with Ethiopians.

NEW YEAR = ENKUTATASH – (meaning from amharic language: “gift of jewels”)
Enkutatash begins a new season, where 3 months of heavy rain ends and the Sun finally comes out. The festival varies from region to region in terms of how it is celebrated. Generally, that day begins with church services and then it’s followed by the family meal. In the afternoon, people go to their loved ones to wish them happy New Year, bringing gifts like local liqueur, bread or even bouquet of seasonal daises. In the evening Ethiopians burn sort of Christmas tree made of twigs in front of their houses, celebrating, dancing and singing (See video)

This special evening we were spending as usual at Wutma Restaurant. Tables were set differently (they were joined and more people could sit together) I think it was about 10pm „our” time, when people stood up and started singing cheerful songs. After a while, everybody went outside. We were watching how huge pile of twigs was burning and how people were celebrating – everyone was happy, singing and clapping hands. Later some brave guys were jumping over the fire. That was so similar and at he same time different to European traditions of spending New Year’s Eve.

Violence and crime in Addis is relatively rare. People are nice and you don’t have to be worried that someone would assault you. Nevertheless petty thefts and confidence tricks might be problematic.
Charlie and Beck experienced theft attempt. After celebration at Wutma I went to sleep as I cough a cold, while Charlie and Beck decided to go out and explore how other people were spending that special night. Charlie took our small, digital camera and almost got robbed in a very cheeky way. They went to the Piassa, where people were still celebrating and jumping over the fire, even people who walk normally on crutches were giving a try and were jumping over the burning pile of branches! (See video) Suddenly, Beck noticed that all of her stuff from her purse was on the ground. She thought that she dropped that accidentally, but unfortunately someone was trying to steal something from her. Charlie somehow got pushed and he needed to jump over the fire as well. Ethiopians were happy seeing that „farangie” was taking part in their celebration and they were cheering and patting him on the back. It looked like friendly behaviour till Charlie felt someone’s hands in his pockets. He was prepared for thieves and he didn’t have any valuable things with him except that small camera, which he was holding in his hand all the time. Charlie and Beck immediately decided to go back and find some much safer place. They turned around and went to the hotel where Beck was staying. Unfortunately, half of the crowd followed them. One guy noticed that Charlie was holding camera and told him to be careful as people behind might want to steal it. He kept saying: „I will keep it safe for you”, „I take care of it”, but at the same time, he was trying to snatch the camera from Charlie’s hand. Luckily, Charlie was holding the camera firmly, so the guy didn’t manage to take it. Somehow they came back safely to Beck’s hotel, without the procession, which was following them until the gate of the hotel.
Night clubs, Drinking Alcohol and Prostitution

Night-life in Addis is seriously developed…Lots of modern nightclubs and bars, where martinis glow and either Ethiopian or Western beats rain down on hips, are full of both local people and tourists. Vibrant night-life caused development of prostitution. It is claimed that almost every girl in the bar is a prostitute. Many of these women are students, who are trying to make ends meet, widows or refugees. With no social system, prostitution has become for many the only way of survival.
These photos are taken by Beck during New Year’s Eve…

More over if you would like read more about read this post from Beck’s blogWelcome to Ethiopia – alcohol, discos and a thriving sex industry

“…Some statistics estimate that as many as 1 in 10 Ethiopian women are involved in some form of prostitution. The women who dance in the night clubs are often doing so as a way to solicit themselves, the bedrooms usually being conveniently located at the back of the clubs to make it easy for their potential clients…” text by Beck



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Towards Awash NP via Baboonland

After more than a week we left Addis and we were on our way to visit our first African Park – Awash National Park. Beck was on her way to Somailand and because Awash was in the same direction we gave her a lift. On our way we met lots of different kind of baboons, playing on the main road and trying to find some food around.

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Oryx Kingdom and rich birdlife watching – Awash National Park

Awash National Park is one of the eastern Ethiopia’s star attractions and got its name from the Awash River, the longest river in Ethiopia. This place is really beautiful and has stunning range of volcanic landscape. However, in opposition to Kenyan or Tanzanian safaris that park is rather quite. Firstly, during our visit we were the only travellers in the Park and secondly, wildcats, lions, leopards, caracals are barely seen. Nevertheless, it is still really worth a visit as it still offers good game viewing and also outstanding birdlife watching (Definitely recommended to birdslovers).

See short video:)

When we were driving to Awash, somehow we manage to skip the main gate  (We basically didn’t notice it) and we drove further.We finally saw a sign: Aledeghe Wildlife Reserve Main Office; Main office looked like a shed, but Charlie decided to walk inside and ask for some info. While Charlie was away, I got surrounded by bunch of local Ethiopians, who were starring at me like I was UFO. Sometimes they were also smiling and waving towards me. To be honest I was like the biggest attraction in the area to them – and that was weird. After few minutes of staring at me, they came closer – I wanted to hide on the back of Rusty, but then I noticed that all of them got interested in side mirrors. Every single person started checking himself in the mirrors and they were seriously enjoining it. I was probably to scared to take a photo.. but I have never seen someone’s joy of looking at own reflection. It was priceless! Finally, Charlie came back with the guide, who needed to fit in Rusty somewhere (Rusty had only two seats, so the guy was basically sitting on our huge bucket). The guide actually was really nice and he brought 3 pairs of binoculars with him, therefore we could see something more than just running dots. The Aledeghe Reserve is basically a green plain, where you could see mostly herds of oryxes and impalas but from the far distance. We also saw there a family of warthogs, 3 zebras and Ethiopian wolf. We realised that it is definitely not even part of Awash NP, but we gave it a chance till big, dark, heralding heavy rain cloud appeared in the sky. We told our guide that actually we were not 4×4 and he claimed that it would be better to come back as getting stuck in the middle of muddy plain was not a good idea (For this Reserve I think we paid around 100-120 Birrs, including guide fee).


On our way back we that time noticed the proper gate to the Awash National Park and obviously we drove there. We paid for both of us and the car 210 Birrs and for camping site 40Birr. We paid around 14 USD for nice, two-days safari. Awash is divided into two part by a main road. In the South, were we were staying, roads are good for 2WD cars even during the rainy season. We never went to the Northern part. We were told that due to rainy season we wouldn’t manage to drive there, therefore we haven’t seen famous Filwoha Hot Springs ad Fantale Crater. We were supposed to camp along the Awash River in the place called Gotu, where during the night people hear noises of hippos, hyenas and jackals, but unfortunately the river overfloded and it was impossible for Rusty to drive through that strong current, which Awash River created. At the park headquarter, which was next to the campsite, we were told that Awash Lodge is near by and we could stay there. They also said that if we didn’t use camping spot we paid for, our money for it would be returned. We went to Awash Lodge, where except local we were the only people, who were staying there. We got a nice deal from them: we could stay at their premises without paying for it, however we needed to order something to eat in their restaurant. It was a good deal as in Ethiopia food generally is not expensive.

In the morning, the Lodge was visited by a group of cheeky ostriches. Those birds were like Angry birds, but in Ethipian way:) Firstly they attacked people sitting on the bench, later they noticed me (!). They started running towards me, but luckily I was hidden behind the door. The Ostriches were very interested in a sticker we had on the window ( I am guessing they thought that it was a massive seed as they were pecking continually the window in the place where it was attached.)

After breakfast we went to see the powerful Awash Waterfall up close and we did another few hour of game driving plus we visited the Awash Gorge.

Definitely Awash is the oryx kingdom. We have seen lots of those beautiful creatures. Besides oryxes, we manage to spot baboons, family of very shy warthogs, little dik-dik and plenty of colourful birds including ground hornbill.

We also met a group of local tribes people, who were walking around the park with their camels. Fortunately, they were nice and friendly. We have read in our guide that sometimes local people are unfriendly and they rob tourists. The guy in the photo with Charlie, was willingly posing when I was taking a picture, and when he saw van’s side mirror, he got very excited. For few minutes he was looking at himself and by the way, unwittingly scratching Rusty’s mirror with the riffle, he was carrying on his arm….(It was too dangerous to take photo of it as well)

So Awash National Park is definitely recommended by us! It is a great place to spend a tranquil weekend away from busy cities/towns.

On the way back we saw lots of storks

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