Two weeks ago we set out on our #amazingafrica trip and we just left Cape Town, South Africa where we enjoyed lazy sunny afternoons by the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean and we are now in Namibia exploring the Namib Desert.
As you all know, we mentioned in the previous post that we had a layover in Addis Ababa,Ethiopia. The flight from Nairobi to Addis took approximately 2 hrs ish . To be honest we were sort of expecting things to go horribly wrong at the Bole international Airport as we have friends who have had very horrible experiences there before. However am happy to report that they seemed more organised now and things went fairly smooth for everyone around us.
All visitors to Ethiopia apart from Kenya and Djibouti need a visa! Kenyans can stay in Ethiopia for up to 1 year without a visa, how awesome is that!!*high five*. However if you are of any other nationality do not feel left out or worried as Visa on arrival is available and from what its not a complicated process to get that. You will probably need a booking number that can be confirmed in Addis, Pay a set visa fee and you are good to go. The same applies for a transit visa, you will be required to book a hotel with the airline upon arrival for you to be issued a transit Visa and expect to pay USD 70. However my advice if you are on a tight budget is to make your accommodation plans prior to getting to Addis.
We got to Addis at around 2 PM and going through customs and checking in at the hotel took around 1 hr. So there we were, slightly tired and mostly excited over the fact that we were now in Ethiopia. Initially our plan was to book a Taxi for the hours that we were going to be there for an all round tour. Unfortunately it had slipped past us that 2/03/17 was a public holiday in Ethiopia or Adwa victory day as its popularly known. This meant that major attraction sites were closed for the day and then we only had 3 hrs left to explore in terms of Daylight!! What to do?
The easiest and most practical thing was to go to Meskel Square which was a walking distance from our hotel Nazra which is on Gabon street. One thing you should note however is that most of the streets are not named and Ethiopians hardly know the streets that are named . If you are asking for directions mentioning known landmarks would be more effective. We learnt that the hard way when we took a minivan and got lost for a good half hour as nobody seemed to know what we were talking about. Also important to note is that Amharic is the most commonly used Language and most Ethiopians do not known basic English,therefore learning a few phrases goes a long way.
Meskel square is used as a place for public gatherings, demonstrations, festivals and its arguably a running track and everyday hundreds will be spotted running there. Once you are at Meskel square,you will find the Red Terror Matyrs Memorial museum that was put up to remember all the victims of the Red terror Massacre after the fall of Haile Sellassie.
Right next to the Museum there is a small restaurant that seemed to be a very popular hangout and we had some “special tea” and tibs which were super delicious. We all have to agree that Ethiopian food is extremely good and yes there is a high chance you might end up eating too much LOL. If you love books as much as we do, there is a bookshop right next to the restaurant and the owner of the bookshop is a nice guy and he gave us some useful tips on how to get around.
Just right there on Meskel square you will also find the massive St. George cathedral church which is very beautiful . Take a walk inside and look around but ensure that you respect the catholic faithfuls you find praying inside and take it easy with the pictures. After that you can walk down to the holy trinity church which is the second most important place of worship in all of Ethiopia. It was built to commemorate Ethiopia’s liberation from the Italian occupation and is a must-see while you are in Addis which unfortunately we did not get to see.
Right next to the American embassy you will find the African hall that is the permanent headquarters for UNECA and this is where the Organisation of African Unity was founded back in the sixties. P/S I was a history student in university and such things get my knickers in knots!!LOL. However we were informed that for you to be allowed inside you are expected to make a reservation beforehand and you must carry your passport with you and being a public holiday and all pfft impossible to access it.
Afterwards we walked back to Meskel square to watch the sunset and the evening traffic. Interestingly in traffic you will spot blue taxis all over , most of them are Toyotas and some are old soviet Ladas a remnant of Ethiopia’s communist past.
As for the night life there are many spots you can check out Black rose bar, Club H2O which seemed fairly popular and have inexpensive drinks plus a pretty decent dance floor. For serious glam head over to the Sheraton hotel and for sports relax at the Meda Sports Bar and Grill. Basically there is everything for everyone, and while you are out order a cold Meta Premium Lager which is the most popular beer.If you are adventurous try Tej an Ethiopian honey wine :).Do not under estimate this drink please! it can be quite potent. Ethiopian music is really cool and you should definitely consider going to a spot that plays some and this way you also get to interact with Locals!.
The people we met were super friendly and am sure if we had more time they would have showed us around. There is so much more we would have loved to see and did not get to and for that reason Ethiopia is definitely still in our bucket list. When we go back to Ethiopia we look forward to going up Entoto Mountain, the kingdom of Axum, Danakil Depression, Harar where you can feed hyenas!, Lalibela , the Blue Nile falls just to mention a few places. Ethiopia should definitely be in everyone’s travel bucket list and I challenge you today to plan a trip there and if you do let us know!. Ethiopia we will surely see you again soon 🙂
P/S. Leave your comments below and let us know your thoughts.