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Saturday, December 3, 2016

11/8: Welcome to Ethiopia!

We encountered heavy rush hour traffic en route to the airport in Muscat to catch a flight to Dubia in the United Arab Emirates and from there a much later connecting flight to Addid Ababa in Ethiopia. 
I apologize for the crooked pictures but I took these while Steven was driving and I was supposed to navigate. This was Muscat's Children's Library! I have never seen one so vast before. Chris: You would have loved to work or at least visit here, I suspect.
The Royal Opera House we had been to several days previously:
Another lovely building but it had no English sign indicating what it was. It was unusual in Muscat to see a non-white building.
We had a five hour layover at the Dubai airport en route to Addis Ababa. That was plenty of time for me to gawk at the unbelievable gold jewelry in so many of the shops at the airport! In another month, at almost the tail end of our trip, we will be back in the United Arab Emirates visiting both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the two principal cities, for five days.
All the gold was 22 kt weight and priced at about $46 per gram weight. (I just checked online and the current price is about $38 per gram; I don't know whether the price has dropped that much since we were at the airport about three weeks ago or whether the airport shop was selling gold at an inflated price.)
Can't remember when we've last seen gold bars for sale, certainly not in the US, I think.
The camel was promoting Camel Cigarettes! 
In just Dubai's Terminal F, we heard flight announcements for Colombo in Sri Lanka, a city we would love to visit someday; also flights to Baghdad and Kabul, not the tourist destinations they once were! Our 4.5 hour-long Flydubai flight to Addis was, without a doubt, one of the most unusual ones. It seemed evident that many of the passengers had never flown before as they didn’t realize there were assigned seats and had just sat anywhere they liked. As you might imagine, that caused a certain degree of mayhem for other passengers who tried to claim their seats. As a result of the boarding chaos, our flight was delayed for a good while the seating mess was all ironed out. 

The flight was the noisiest one we have ever been on. People talked the whole time, never stopping even during the safety announcements. Once the plane touched ground, passengers clapped, whistled and yelled, ‘Good Captain!’ It was the first flight we’ve ever been on, too, where the cabin staff didn’t put the cabin lights on in the plane once we landed and we were taxiing in. The reason was clear soon enough when a good number of passengers stood up and began getting their mostly plastic carry-on bags out of the overhead compartments even though the attendants asked everyone, in vain, to sit down. I felt badly for the attendants who looked exhausted when everyone trooped off the flight. Welcome to Addis Ababa!

We were picked up at the airport and dropped off at our hotel close to 11 pm, at which point severe misgivings set in. The hotel was in a very scary part of the capital and had no electricity and thus no heat (Addis Ababa is at an elevation of over 7,720 feet so it was very chilly at night). We could certainly understand cities having rolling blackouts but the hotel only had a generator that lasted for a few hours that worked in the office only. It was the night of the US presidential election and I had really been looking forward to watching the returns come in. It meant I could only watch CNN for a couple of hours as the profoundly disappointing results came in on the TV in the tiny hotel office before they closed up.

The major issue was that the hotel was absolutely nothing like its description and why we had booked it in the first place: there was no satellite TV, no kitchen, no kettle, no toiletries and very skuzzy linoleum floors instead of the tile marble floors that were advertised. If that wasn’t bad enough, the door to our room was half almost totally see through glass, so we had no privacy whatsoever. It was about the first time in our years of traveling that the description on was so far from the reality. 

While sharing the tiny office with these two colleagues who were working on assignment in the capital for the accounting firm, Ernst and Young, we began chatting with them about the sorry state of US politics and the confusing, presidential electoral system.
We immediately huddled together under blankets in the cold office looking online for another hotel that we could move to first thing in the morning as this place just spooked us. We both agreed that the Ag Hotel looked like a better prospect and booked it for the next three nights. It was only slightly more expensive, included breakfast, had easy access to the new light rail system and accepted VISA credit card. We couldn’t wait to move in the morning and more importantly, begin discovering Ethiopia's capital.

Posted from Cape Town, South Africa on December 3rd, 2016. 

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