Are you moving to Ethiopia? Then congratulations, you are embarking on the adventure of a life time. This is going to be the beginning of the stories you will be telling your grandchildren over and over again. This is a land of fairy tales that actually happened.
Ethiopia is located in the Eastern part of Africa, more commonly called the ‘Horn of Africa’ because it looks like Africa has a jutting, rhino-like horn. Ethiopia shares its borders with The Sudan (soon to be split into North and South Sudan) in the west, Kenya in the south, Somalia in the east, Djibouti in the northeast and Eritrea in the north.
What You Will Need
The first thing that pops into first time visitors or people that are planning on moving to Ethiopia is that there is no food. Some even go so far as to ask whether they should bring their own supplies of canned food and bottled water. Well, as amusing as it seems the answer is still a big resounding ‘No!’
There is food in Ethiopia. No, seriously! There IS food in Ethiopia. Food, whether traditional or foreign, is served in the overflowing number of restaurants that are all over the city of Addis Ababa. There even international restaurants like Indian, Thai and Korean. There are restaurants that exhibit dishes from all over the world by actually inviting chefs from the respective countries. If you don’t want to eat out, there are supermarkets (Friendship Supermarket is recommended), butchers, vegetable and fruit vendors all over the city.
The same thing goes for watered bottle. There are over five well-known brands of bottled water that are known for their brands and quality. The tap water is can be used for drinking – just buy a $10 water purifying jug and you’re set.
The best way to get to Addis Ababa is to jump on the first available flight. The national carrier Ethiopian Airlines is one of the best airlines in the world and covers around 60 destinations worldwide – this would be the best way to go.
While Ethiopia is known for its ‘13 months of sunshine’ – a slogan for the National Tour Operator, making note of the fact that Ethiopia follows the Julian Calendar and has 13 months – there are two main seasons: from September to May it is mainly dry with some months cold and others hot. And from June to August is the rainy season. Therefore most visitors to Ethiopia would enjoy their move to Ethiopia much more if they didn’t have the rain and mud to dim their views of their new home.
Addis Ababa is a city full of hotels, guesthouses and rooms or houses for rent. From the luxury of the Sheraton to the guesthouses around 22 Mazoria, there are places that can meet each and every single person’s budget. The easiest thing to do would be to search online for hotels. If that doesn’t work out the next thing to do would be to try and contact someone already in Ethiopia to look for a place and/or make a reservation. There are websites that cater to real estate, but the prices listed there are a bit too far -fetched and do not leave any room for bargaining – a must in the Ethiopian market.
Life in Addis
Addis Ababans are usually a relaxed lot. There just is no rush. People can actually sit at a café and sip the same cup of coffee or macchiato for over an hour. After hours the most crowded places are cafes and pubs. Walking along the city’s main road, Bole Road, can prove to be a little difficult once the population hits the streets – but it is a refreshing experience. It is the chance to look at cross-section of the Ethiopian society. The yuppies, the expats, the migrants … everyone can be seen on that single road.
Nightlife in Addis Ababa is truly amazing. When the whole city gears up to party nothing can get in the way! This is especially noticeable on Fridays and eves of holidays. The greatest party the whole city had was on the eve of the New Ethiopian Millennium (Ethiopia has a different calendar – the Julian calendar). Everyone starts heading to his or her favorite waterhole at around 18:00. After a couple of hours getting in the mood, it is off the nightclubs around Addis. The rest, let’s just say, is ecstatic.
Night Life in Addis Ababa
If there is anything to add under this topic it is the fact that Addis Ababa is a city that is growing by leaps and bounds. And as the city grows, so too does the number of night clubs. For any person living in Ethiopia or just coming for a short visit, the best bet would be to find a taxi driver that has been driving for a year or too. They are the best guides to the nightlife in Addis Ababa as people tend to hire them to take them to and from the clubs or even as they go bar hopping. So if you are thinking of having a great night, hire one of the small Lada taxis for the night and just let your driver worry about it all.
Finally, because nightclubs in Addis Ababa keeping opening, closing or moving their premises around the city it would need a dedicated blog to keep track of them.
Mixing With the People
Ethiopians like mixing with foreigners. And unlike most of Africa, there are no colonial hang-ups that create uncomfortable vibes between a foreigner and a local. For the most part what foreigners find a little bit annoying is the shooing off of beggars. It could get a little more annoying when travelling out of the city, like the historical places of Axum and Lalibela, or on the way to the many resorts in the south of the country, like Langano. But, the trick to getting out of it is to simply shake your head as you keep repeating ‘No’, and keep walking. They tend to give up after a few paces.
Places To Avoid
It may seem quite unbelievable, but there is nothing that needs to be avoided in Addis Ababa. You just have to be prepared for it. For example, Merkato is Africa’s biggest open air market. With patience and tenacity, it is said you can find anything you want. But there’s one problem, it is VERY crowded. On shopping days, you could be walking in the middle of a crowd for stretches of time without even being able to see the road or your feet. It is THAT crowded. Now in a place like that, you would expect some mischief to happen. There are pickpockets and purse snatchers. So, if you really want to enjoy the experience go dressed for it. Wear jeans, sneakers that you wouldn’t mind being trod on … and get right into it. But apart from these places, you wouldn’t find any place per se where you need to avoid. So put on your walking shoes and start a’walking.
Other cares that you might need to take would be locking doors to cars and homes when leaving them unattended. If you drive to a place and you see kids playing around the streets call one (only one – dealing is better with one kid than the whole bunch, let them figure out a way to split the money) of the over and say you will give him a couple of bucks to keep an eye on your car. If you come back three hours later, you will still find him there.
Places To Visit
The whole city is a place to visit. Like when going to nightclubs, you might also want to hire a taxi driver for your daily jaunts across the city – at least until you can figure your way around. As for places of interest, any guide book or a simple search on Google can show where you should be and at what time.
Expats and You
Being the center for many international organizations and the home of many embassies from all over the world, Addis Ababa is blessed with a thriving expat community. So, any worries that you might miss speaking your language with your countryman can be allayed. There are hangouts that the expats prefer and to get the inside information all you’d need to do is stop one in the street and ask him or her which is what and where it is – that’s all.
Finally – Closing
If you are planning on moving to Ethiopia, do not change your mind, feel anxious or even think of changing your mind because of what you had seen in on TV in 1970’s. Those images do not exist in Ethiopia anymore – all that cannot be said about the archives of the BBC, which looks for excuses to show it at every possible mention of the word ‘Ethiopia’.
You will find ample food, peace and love and relaxing environment.
So, welcome to Addis Ababa!