I have always heard great things about Addis Ababa. In the early 90s I stopped in the airport on a flight to Uganda, but that is the only flirtation I had with this nation. Last year I was meant to move to the country for a few months, but for reasons beyond my control I was unable to make the transfer from Rome to Addis.
I must admit I did not know much about Ethiopia and Kenya was higher on my list, but since I had a friend living and working in Addis I figured there is no time better than the present and I organized a trip to Addis.
As with most of my travels, I did not do much research beyond the visa pricing and process. I was annoyed to read that the cost of a tourist visa for American citizens was $70. Fortunately when I arrived at Bole International Airport I was only asked for $20. Word to the wise, if you are going to Ethiopia it is best to get the visa at the airport. Getting through the immigration process was a quick and standard process and as I headed into the receiving area I realized right away that Ethiopian people are very nice. Two airport representatives stopped me to ensure i knew where I was going. I must admit the high security was a bit overwhelming, but seeing the faces of two of my grad school classmates made me forget my annoyance.
After an exchange of long overdue hugs, we hopped in John’s SUV and headed to a cultural Ethiopian restaurant. The restaurant was packed and the food was served traditional style with a song and dance show in the background. There were Ethiopians and expats abound. I must admit, I am not a big fan of Ethiopian music. As I said to my friends, I need something with a bass line.
Dinner was as good as I expected. As a lover of Ethiopian food I was thrilled when the ingera, lentils and veggies arrived and the meal was topped off with a small cup of traditional Ethiopian coffee.
On Friday morning I headed to work and performed a training for our subregional office. It is always interesting to meet colleagues outside of HQ. After work I met my friends for lunch then did a bit of shopping in the Post Office area. The evening was rather relaxed and we went to the Black Rose for drinks. I am not sure if it was the altitude or general exhaustion but the whole weekend I often found myself rather tired and yawning uncontrollably. While we ended up heading home early on Friday the rest of the group stayed up late.
On Saturday we did a bit of site seeing. Having woken up late we did not have much time, but we ate lunch at Lucy Restaurant, named after the famous 3.2 million year old Lucy, whose replica we visited in the National Museum next door. I must admit, I was quite underwhelmed by the museum and I am not sure I would recommend it to others.
We went up to the mountain and visited the church, which was a bit awkward as there was a church service going on. The views were beautiful, but be ready to deal with the aggressively begging children when you get in and out of the car.
We all were a bit lethargic so we headed home to rest as we had a “big night out” ahead of us. We met up with some friends of my host and pregamed with pizza, Uganda Waragi and wine. I felt severely under dressed but threw on some eye liner and Ruby Woo to give me my confidence back.
We started at Mama’s Kitchen and partied with lots of expats, I met quite a few attractive men, then we headed to Club Illusion which was so packed I was memorizing where the exits were in case of emergency. My memories from the night are a bit cloudy, but I remember I had an amazing time. Addis’s nightlife won my heart.
The next day, as you can imagine, it was tough getting up in the morning but we went for a late lunch, did a lot of lounging, played Geo Guesser (a madly addictive game for nerds) and sent Antoine on his way.
On Monday i went to work and to Boston Day Spa, a spa that many residents raved about and for USD 16 I had a great manicure, pedicure and eyebrow threading. After the spa I met up with the parents a friend which was a great pleasure and turned in early.
All in all I had a great time in Addis and I fully intend to return perhaps for a longer period of time.