Friday, February 25, 2011

Moving To Ethiopia - There is food and water!

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.

About Ethiopia

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.

Getting Here

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.

Finding Accommodation

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 cafĂ© 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!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Interesting Facts about Ethiopia – Trivia on the Firsts and the Greatest

Ethiopia is a country that is truly fascinating. Facts about Ethiopia or just mere trivia on the country are a pleasure and sometimes even amazing to read about. Who knew?
      -          Ethiopia is the only African country with its own alphabet.  
      -          Ethiopia is the only country in the world with 13 months.
      -          In Ethiopia time is counted on the opposite side of the clock: 6 o’clock is said to be 12 o’clock, and at 16:00 Ethiopians say it is ’10 o’clock’.
      -          Ethiopia is one of only two countries in the world that have never been occupied. (The other one is Russia, in case you are asked). It managed to stay free by defeating the Italians … twice!
     -        Although Ethiopia was the first African state to join the League of Nations, it soon became apparent that ‘collective security’ would not be given to an African nation even after atrocities of ethnic cleansing and mass murders were evident after Italy invaded – everyone turned a blind eye and a deaf ear.
-           Ethiopia was the birthplace of Pan-Africanism. The belief that Africa should unite and be the master of its own destiny was hailed by Emperor Hailesellasie I. It eventually led to the birth of the African Union of today.

    -  The hydroelectric dam that was built on the Tekeze River and was inaugurated in November 2009 is Africa’s tallest arch dam standing at 188 meters. Gilgel Gibe IV a dam that will be operational sometime in 2012/13 will be the tallest dam on the continent at 200+ meters.
      -          Ethiopia and Ethiopians are mentioned in many ancient books. The Bible is one of them. Ethiopia or Ethiopians are mentioned around 40 times in it. It is one of the few countries that are mentioned in both the Bible and the Koran. It is a country where the indigenous people are Christians, Muslims and Jews live together. It was the first country where Muslim prayers were held out of Arabia. Incidentally the first Muslim calls to prayer were done by an Ethiopian. And the first mosque to be built outside of Arabia was the Al Nejashi mosque in northern Ethiopia. When Mohammed and his followers were persecuted, they found solace in Ethiopia.
-          The very first and oldest illustrated book on Christianity is found in Ethiopia. This is in the form of a gospel that was written in 494 AD, colors and bindings still intact and was discovered in a monastery – ‘The Garima Gospels’. Abba Garima was a monk that arrived in Ethiopia from Constantinople in the fifth century; legend has it that he copied it in one day.

An Image from the Garima Gospels

-          Ethiopia has a long history of war, in  Homer’s ‘The Iliad’ in the Trojan War, Memnon was an Ethiopian king. Ethiopia and Ethiopians are also mentioned in his other book ‘Odyssey’. The ancient Greek love for the Ethiopians does not end there; another Ethiopian is in Greek astronomy too. According to legend, Cassiopeia was the queen and consort of King Cepheus in Ethiopia. And long story short, after her death, Cassiopeia was immortalized as a star by Poseidon.
-          The name ‘Candace’ is actually the name given to the line of Ethiopian Queens that ruled in ancient times.
-          Ethiopia and Ethiopians are usually mentioned with the words ‘athlete’ and ‘athletics’. The first African to win a gold medal in the Olympics was Abebe Bikila in the 1960 Summer Olympic in Rome; he wan the marathon with a record time of 2:15:16.2 – an even amazing thing was the fact that he ran the whole race barefooted. In the next Olympics held in Tokyo in 1964, Abebe Bikila won the marathon with a world record time of 2:12:11:2.4. Making him the first athlete, and as of yet the only African, in history to win the marathon twice in back to back Olympics. As of date, the marathon world record holder is another amazing Ethiopian athlete, Haile Gebreselasie. He holds the record at 2:03:59.
-          Ethiopia is the home of mankind. While the most famous ancestors of mankind are Lucy and Selam, archeological digs have and will continue to show that it was the valleys of Ethiopia that man came out of.
-          Ethiopia is the homeland of coffee; it was discovered by a shepherd named Kaldi who noticed his goats prancing about restlessly after eating the leaves of the coffee plant. It is thought the word coffee was borrowed from the southern Ethiopian lands of Kaffa.
-          The Mountain Nyala and the Walia Ibex are the two most famous animals that are endemic to Ethiopia. The others are the Semien Red Fox, The Chelada Baboon, Menilik’s Bushback, Wattled Ibis, Blue-winged Goose, Harwood’s Francolin, Rouget’s Rail, Spot-breasted Lapwing, White-collared Pigeon, Yellow-fronted Parrot, Black-winged Lovebird and Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco. In January, 2011 a new member was added to the ‘Endemic Ethiopian’ list – The African Wolf.
-          Addis Ababa is the highest city in Africa. And many tourists mistakenly think that just because it is in Africa it is a hot place to be. It is amusing to see their reactions to the cold when they get off the plane at Bole International Airport as they shiver in Bermuda shorts and Hawaii shirts. The city was founded by Emperor Menilik II on the Entoto Mountain.
-          The Danakil Depression (also known as the Afar Depression or the Afar Triangle) found in North Eastern Ethiopia is the year-round hottest place anywhere on earth.
-          Amazingly, Ethiopians have a very impressive history when it comes to flying. The first African woman to fly was Wro. Assegedech Assefa. There is an argument that if it had not been for the Italian invasion in 1936, Wro. Mulumebet Emeru would have been the first licensed African to fly, but that she is the first to fly – the jury is still out on that one. The only jet fighter air-to-air shoot down by a female pilot is credited to Ethiopian Air Force Captain Aster Tolossa, who shot down her Ukrainian trainer who was flying for the Eritreans.
-          The first car to reach Ethiopia was Emperor Menilik II's car (plate number D3130), in 1907. He was the first African Emperor, if not plain African, to actually drive a car.

-        On August 12th, 2012 Ethiopia became the first country in Africa, and only the second in the world to own and operate a Boeing 787. Owned by the flag carrier Ethiopian Airlines, the aircraft was named "Africa One" and assigned the tail number ET-AOQ.

-            Ethiopia is Africa's top producer and exporter of sesame seeds. The country produces about 8% of the world total sesame seed production.

This list will be added on as information is available. Ethiopia is a country with over 3,000 years of history. Any suggestions or additions are very welcome.