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{29/10/2012}   Impressions of Addis Ababa before I read anything or go there

If all goes to plan with work, I will be flying to Ethiopia on Saturday night.  I realise that I know very little about Ethiopia and don’t know what to expect from Addis Ababa and I find huge interest in thinking about my expectations of a place before I read anything or go there.  So here goes – this could be a very short blog – this is what I think Addis Ababa might be like.

Ethiopia: famine, Band Aid, Abyssinia, Abyssinian cats wandering about, dusty.  Addis Ababa: smell coffee everywhere, shacks, no high rise buildings, colourful, frenetic markets, food sellers on the street, people sitting on the sides of roads, trees or plants covered in dust, noisy and busy, tall people, lots of different food smells, a lot of beggars and people following you around for money, mangy dogs wandering around.

That’s it, I think.  I have not seen much of Africa, just a few places in both Morocco and Ghana.  I am very much hoping the markets in Addis Ababa will be similar to those of Accra, which were a source of extreme wonder and fascination to me.  Unsurprisingly, I expect Addis Ababa to have a lot more in common with Accra than Marrakech and Fez, though I think Tangier’s more gritty, less touristy nature would have a tiny bit more in common with Addis Ababa.

I am going with a friend and we have one day off, which is a Sunday.  This disappoints me hugely as I am not sure the markets will be fully open and that is where I really want to go, if only to get a feel for the city and its people.  I love going to markets everywhere I visit, for me they offer a unique insight into a culture and I get a real buzz from them.  I am hoping to find some interesting silver to bring home.  I was given a beautiful Coptic cross pendant from Ethiopia, which I love.  It is a chunky, hand crafted, heavy piece of silver that I have always at times held for comfort because it warms up to the temperature of your skin.

As for the temperature, I have already had a look and it isn’t as hot as I was expecting, about 24 degrees at present, which I can survive in!  I also know it’s a city at fairly high altitude, hence I don’t need to take malaria tables (too high for the mozzies, whoop!).  It being that much cooler than I expected (I was thinking about ten degrees more) has surprised me but only because I expect it to be a lot hotter near the Equator and in a country with a painful history of droughts and famine.  But, yes, I know that Addis Ababa is a lot higher than the rest of the country, where those problems have been and are a reality.

As for the food, I have made reference to this already and it is the thing I am most concerned about!  As ever, I am looking forward to trying new things, I’m just worried I will be served something that is far too hot for my very delicate lips and mouth and I can’t abide the thought of leaving food in a country with so many poor and starving people.  That said, in Ghana I saw huge quantities of chillies added to food I would later eat and I survived ok, so maybe there’s hope.  I just need to steer very clear of the lime pickle that nearly caused me a mischief in Greenwich Market.  Oh, but after that distressing incident I did have a wonderfully thick, dark coffee.  I could live on coffee alone, right?! Oh, and I’d love to go to an Ethiopian coffee ceremony.  The idea of spending a long time loving and appreciating coffee seems the perfect way to spend the morning after an overnight flight!

Now I just have to hope the job doesn’t cancel, my visa comes through ok and I do actually get to fly there.  Very exciting.  Now I need to read up a bit about Addis Ababa and prepare myself.

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