Thursday, April 05, 2012

Good Morning Addis Ababa

Morning comes to Addis Ababa. The glow of the rising sun comes through my big windows that
overlook the garden. Somewhere outside the walls of Bob and Denis’s home come chanting from some place of worship. It is not the meuzzin’s call to prayer but something else, something I’ve never heard before, maybe morning prayers from the local Orthodox church perhaps. Orthodox Christianity is the main religion here in Ethiopia so it could be some morning prayers.
My second full day in Ethiopia has arrived. I’m sure I could have stayed longer in India, but
it seemd time to move on and see new places. This is my second time in Africa, my previous being back in 1998 when I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. I’ve come into this adventure with not much knowledge of the place, but will leave a lot more informed about Ethiopia. This country has an amazing history and stands alone from other African countries in the sense that it was never a colony, the second country in the world to make Christianity its official religion, and has a rich culture
that spans centuries. I look forward to learning more about Ethiopia as I experience it. Most exciting is that I’ll be here for Orthodox Easter, which will be a great thing to see.
My digs are rather fancy here, a big house surrounded by a lovely garden. Bob and Denis are
living the expat life here and have it rather comfortable. After being cast adrift from my other job, I thought this is the time to come to Africa and see them. Ethiopia has a different smell than India. India is full of all sorts of exotic smells, both delectable and not, but Ehiopia has an earthy smell, one of the red soil laced with cinnamon and frankincense. I’m sure it has its share of bad smells to but that’s the first thing I notice here is the smell. Every place has its own smell and that’s what I detected as I got off the plane and exited the airport into the evening air.
Addis is a lively city, as a capital city should be. Denis and I drive around yesterday to check it out. It has a definite hodge podge feeling, grand buildings lining the wide boulevards,
with smaller houses and shops on the side streets. There is a big plan to tear down all the little shops and houses and put up tall, glass buildings to show how modern a city is Addis, but it will lose a lot of its character unfortunately. Governments never learn about retaining a city’s heritage.
Rich developers’ grand plans and all the money they will pocket out of the deal blind them. Why won’t they ever learn? We spent some time trying to find an ATM that accepted MasterCard and in between had a
coffee at Tomoca, a charming little coffee house where robust coffee is served in small glasses and sipped by the locals at high tables. It’s not a place to leisure over a cup of coffee for an hour, but rather a quick sip and you’re on your way. Despite my giving up coffee, I broke the rule yesterday. Ethiopia is known for its coffee and when in Ethiopia, why not try the coffee?
Upon arrival, I grabbed B and D’s Lonely Planet guide to Ethiopia and have been catching up of my Ethiopian history and pouring information about the places I need to see into my noggin.
I’ll be spending this week in Addis and then next week will fly off to “do the loop” as they call it; Aksum, Gondar, and Lalibela—the three ancient cities up north. Lalibela is famous for its churches dug out of the rock, free standing in large caverns in the ground. That’s where
Bob and Denis and I will spend Orthodox Easter, which should be quite the event. Aksum and Gondar are ancient capitals, one holding the Ark of the Covenant and where the Queen of Sheba ruled, and the other holds many ancient castles and churches and supposedly is really a beautiful place to visit. More details form this places next week. Until then I will soak up the local scene here in the capital. Last night we went to see an Egyptian film at the Alliance Francaise, and then dined
in the La Petit Francaise, the restaurant on the grounds. Nice place—the chewiest piece of beef I’ve had in a long time! Met some of Bob’s colleagues and had a nice expat evening. Today who knows what will unfold. I’m sure Denis and I will head out to check something out and have a nice lunch somewhere. So far am enjoying this fabulous place!

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