The Champagne Backpacker: Michael's Round the World Trip 2005-2007-- The Adventure of a Lifetime travel blog

Traditional Ethiopian Food

Me and Lucy

Students at Addis Ababa University

Addis Ababa Merkato (Market).

Sunday, October 23, 2005. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Addis Ababa is Ethiopia's largest city, capital, commercial and cultural center. At 2400 meters (about 8000 feet), the weather is quite cool. There are surprisingly few cars or motorbikes on the streets. People are either walking or catching public buses and minibuses. From our hotel, Alma Pension (100 Birr/Double), we walked into town. Almost immediately people approach us with their hands outstretched asking for money. Unfortunately, we would be exposed to constant begging—from both adults and children throughout our time in Ethiopia. The begging came in three general forms: the quiet outstretched hand, the "You/Hello, give me pen!", and the "You/Hello, give me Birr (money)!" The constant begging will test every traveller's patience. I either completely ignored the requests or responded with a firm "ai"/no (pronounced "eye"). If that didn't work, saying "Teumeulleuss!" (Go away!/Leave me alone!) usually did. As a general rule, I do not give to beggers because it encourages begging. Indeed, as costs in Ethiopia are very inexpensive compared to the West, a begger can make more from begging than working. Thus, children learn to beg and have an incentive to skip school to beg from the tourists.

In Addis, the top sites are the Ethnological Museum, the National Museum, and the Merkato. The Ethnological Museum, on the campus of Addis Ababa University, provides a good introduction to the rich culture and history of Ethiopia. At the nearby National Museum, the star exhibit is Lucy. Discovered in 1974 in northeastern Ethiopia and named after the Beatles' song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", Lucy is the oldest known hominid in the world at about three million years old. Northwest of the city center is the Merkato, purportedly the largest open air market in Africa. It's a great place to wander and get lost amongst the crowds. After more than an hour of exploring, we did not encounter a single other faranji (foreigner).

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