Our rather sad taxi to the second hotel, Ag Hotel; all taxis we saw in Addis were small by American standards, painted blue and white just like this one and were of varying vintages. This one must have been pretty ancient as it had no shocks and little in the way of get up and go. At least it was a fairly short drive so we didn't mind too much. Another taxi we took was about 30 years old, the driver said, and we could believe him based on its sorry state!
Our drive to the newer hotel included passing by many cattle and goats even though we were not in the boonies!
We had read hotel reviews from previous guests saying the curb appeal outside the Ag Hotel was lacking. Indeed as you can see, it didn’t look much better than at our initial hotel but, once inside, there was a world of difference. The manager kindly said we could have a complementary breakfast which was a nice touch. We were happy it was included every day as there sure wasn’t much in the way of other restaurants anywhere close. That was really the only negative thing about the hotel and a pretty minor one at that. (I didn't take a photo of the Ag Hotel right away but did another day so will include that when I find it!)
Addis is located crossroads-like in the very center of Ethiopia. It’s a large city and many of its main roads and other landmarks have long gone by two or even three names, with the name shown on most maps differing from the one in common use. Luckily for us, central Addis is quite a compact entity so we could explore it quite easily on foot. However, I had read that pickpockets were commonplace so I decided to play it on the safe side and not wear either my gold bangle or necklace. I felt pretty lost without them as I haven’t been without either in as long as I can remember.
Outside the museum was this very moving monument erected for citizens martyred for their beliefs in the struggle for the Ethiopian people's human and democratic rights. It was unveiled in 2010 by a woman whose four children were murdered in one day. The woman wrote, 'As if I bore them all in one night, they slew them in a single night.'
We were horrified to learn that some of the Derg's torture and killing practices included mass killings at random, whipping, pushing the victims from hilltops, throwing into big rivers, strangling by nylon rope and piano wire, injecting victims with poison and killing victims with anesthesia. Extreme psychological measures were also employed to break down the prisoners.
It was incomprehensible to understand the horror of all these people being killed from the same family.
There were also some chilling relics – skulls and clothes removed from some of the 725 mass graves – and torture instruments of a genocidal era in modern Ethiopian history.
The moving tag said, 'Rest in peace – the remains of the heroic and irreplaceable sons and daughters of the Ethiopian people.'
Crosses of Ethiopia: Ethiopian crosses are unique to specific areas of the country and and can be worked in gold, silver, bronze, nickel, alabaster or wood. Hand crosses are carried by priests to bless the people in the streets or churches. The richer the coimmunity, the more ornate and more valuable are the church crosses.
Itinerant priests will normally only be found carrying simple wooden crosses. Processional crosses fit over the end of prayer sticks and are carried for major religious festivals. It was fascinating to learn that many of the museum's crosses were confiscated at the airport from people failing to produce proper export licenses.
Haile Selassie, the former Emperor of Ethiopia who reigned from 1930 until a coup in 1974, was obviously a very short man as he was shown standing on a raised platform.
As with the Red Terror Museum, we found the Addis Ababa Museum very underwhelming because of the lack of context for those unaware of Ethiopian history. The lack of power and few displays also didn't contribute to its luster!
We expected a heavy police presence throughout Addis as we had received alerts beginning about a month ago from the US State Department advising American citizens in the strongest possible terms to not visit Ethiopia because of the hundreds of people recently killed in protests against the government. In addition, the Ethiopian government had imposed a state of emergency for six months across the entire nation. I won’t sugarcoat it as it was scary wondering how safe it was to proceed with our plans made six plus months ago to spend ten days visiting three cities, including Addis, in Ethiopia. We had seriously considered altering our itinerary altogether and going to Sri Lanka instead and even checked out flights, places to see, etc.
The church was notable for the mosaic above the main entrance depicting the martyrdom of its namesake, St. Stephen.
Prior to entering the church, we had to remove our shoes, a practice we more recently associated with entering a mosque. We noticed women bowing down repeatedly by the altar.
Prayer sticks used in religious processions:
We left the church by the impressive main entrance which had a large number of statues on either side of the steps.
This was just one of them.
Further uphill from the church and passing army officers every few feet, was the imposing Africa Hall that we could only view from behind the tall fence. I wondered if it was always closed or only now because of the state of emergency. When it was inaugurated in early 1961, the immense conference center was, according to the emperor Haile Selassie, intended to demonstrate "it is possible to construct grand buildings here making maximum possible use of home-produced materials, in order to stimulate our wealthy middle class... to invest its assets in building this 'great village' a city and a true great capital." Africa Hall served as the headquarters of the Organization of the African Union from 1963 onward. It is now the permanent headquarters for the UN's Economic Commission for Africa.
As we continued up the street, we saw a pair of steel gates guarding the grounds of the National Palace that was built to honor Selassie's 25-year Jubilee. Since the fall of the Derg, the palace has served as the president's official residence and the ceremonial office for official functions.
Remember this young man for later.
This billboard outside the Defense Ministry promoting the very friendly Ethiopian army official reminded us of a very similar one we had seen in Cairo several weeks back.
The Tiglachin Monument was a memorial to Ethiopian and Cuban soldiers involved in the Ogaden War that took place in Somalia between 1977 and 1978.
I had noticed people chewing on what looked like pieces of grass as we had walked around. I asked Addis about it and he said they were chickpeas.
He asked if I wanted to buy some but I wasn't quite that adventurous!
Steven and I were in the mood for walking so we headed north along Churchill Avenue toward the Piazza, an area immediately north of the city center, that reflected the country's prior Italian occupation.
Prior to the 1938 Italian construction of the huge Merkato (Market) and the simultaneous expansion of the city center, the Piazza was the economic hub of Addis and site of the most important bank, market, hotel and shops. Our guide, Addis, (whom I wil refer to from now on as AA so I don't mix you up with both the city and the guide of the same name), mentioned that the Castelli Restaurant is one of the best places to dine in town and was where Presidents Bush (43, I think) and Clinton ate when they visited the city.
Portraits of the former Emperor Menelik and his wife:
Very near the bank was the Itegue Taitu Hotel that was built in 1907 and whose appearrance hadn't changed since then until a fire last year sadly destroyed the upper story.
Nina hon: Sure thought of you when we saw this shop in the Piazza area!
We walked to St. George's Cathedral next which was north of the Piazza. Though it was commissioned by Emperor Menelik II in 1896 to commemorate his victory over Italy in a battle at Adwa, the cathedral was designed by an Italian and built by Italian prisoners of war. These men were gathered outside the entrance.
These candles would be lit and used to say prayers for the departed.
Recycling Addis style!
Chat, a local herbal stimulant, was readily available for sale on the city's streets.
The Addis Merkato, which is routinely listed as the largest market in Africa, came into being in the late 1930s when the Italian administration relocated the 'merkato indigeno' 2km further southeast from the Piazza area. The Merkato now extends more than 1km sq and comprises more than 7,000 small businesses. As the true commercial hub of the capital, the vast grid of roads was lined with stalls, kiosks and small shops where we could have bought about everything we wanted OR didn't want!
About a dozen men were lined up offering their services as tailors and mending clothes.
As you may have gathered from looking at a number of these posts, you can tell from many photos I am always intriged with images of men and women carrying heavy loads on their heads.
The incense spice market or area of the Merkato:
Charcoal was being sold in these bags, according to AA.
Paper being recycled: These bundles weighed a kilo each, AA told us.
Unroasted coffeee beans:
Live chickens for sale:
Banana leaves available for purchase:
Something neither of us had seen previously was banana paste:
We were tremendously fortunate that AA was there to show us a part of the Merkato where very few tourists would contemplate venturing by themselves. In fact, AA cautioned us to make sure we kept a very close eye on our belongings as we were going through a very rough and tumble section.
Everything was being recycled, not to be environmentally sound as we might do it in Canada or the US, but because everything had a monetary value. The following photos were of the scrap metal market where we had to be especially careful of scalding blowtorches, massive hammers being wielded and of steel rods, pipes and pots in the path.
Not only had we seen metal items broken down into their component pieces, we also were luck enough to view finished products that had been fashioned.
Steven and AA had some Ethiopian coffee at a small shop nearby. I am sure if you're a coffee afficianado, Ethiopia is the place to be but neither Steven nor I qualify as coffee bean lovers.
We stopped off next at the Lion of Judah Monument. Long the symbol of Ethiopia’s monarchy, it was its storied history that made this statue significant. After being erected on the eve of Haile Selassie’s coronation in 1930, it was looted by Italians in 1935 and placed in Rome next to the massive Vittorio Emanuelle Monument. In 1938, during anniversary celebrations of the proclamation of the Italian Empire, a young Eritrean, spotted the statue and defiantly interrupted proceedings to kneel and pray before it.
After police verbally and physically attempted to stop his prayers, he rose and attacked the armed Italians with his sword while screaming ‘the Lion of Judah is avenged!’ He seriously injured several officers (some reports say he killed five) before he was shot. Although he died seven years later in an Italian prison, his legend lives on in Ethiopia and Eritrea. The Lion of Judah Monument was eventually returned to Addis Ababa in the 1960s.
These wooden items were commonly sold and used as toothbrushes.