Published: February 3rd 2011January 28th 2011
Who would think that Addis Ababa could produce such a New Years Eve party? Originally having no idea how to spend it and after only finding bars with prostitutes in them every other time I went out. Me and 3 other travellers decided to play cards for 4 hours. With the time ticking away for 2010 we made the bold call. ‘Let’s try and sneak into the Sheraton Hotel and join up with the biggest party in Addis Ababa!’
When I arrived in Addis for New Years it was my second visit here. I spent a few days there a few weeks earlier. Back then I hated the place. I hated the people, the food, I hated the music and the overall structure the country worked in.
The music seems to find every off-beat with every beat and vicar-versa. It seemed to have a mix between Arabic and Indian. Even the poster signs around for movies are of that mix. The begging is the worst I’ve witnessed since India. A lot of places in the world have people begging. But here it is so many people and they encourage it it seems. People lying on the footpath, kids coming
up to you, people stand in your way. As well as that they have spread it out to other parts of the region. Prostitution is the worst I’ve seen in Africa but that could be because I went out a bit more here through boredom.
The food is very unique, its either you like it or hate it I was told. Maybe hates a bad word because its more just bland so in the end you have no opinion. They provide a flavoured meal but compensate with a food called injera and to my palate it cancels out all the effort. I call it a towel because it roles up like one and from the outside it looks like one. When injera is rolled out (another way its presented) it can look like an opened up stomach in a butcher shop. In the end it all combines to provide a distinct sewage smell throughout the streets helped by bad a sewage system.
I left the first time a bit dirty on the place because they have a rule that you can only exchange money into birr (The local currency that is good for a beer joke). If you
want to change into US dollars, which is what is needed when you are travelling to two neighbouring countries. For tourists Sudan and Somaliland have sanctions meaning ATM’s don’t accept western cards. Because of this restriction you are forced to go black market and get ripped off. (You can get $150 back at banks with a flight out of the country, which I didn’t have)
That’s just one frustration. Another was being told the wrong time to process visa’s at the Djibouti embassy. Ethiopian time is 1-12 (6am, sunrise - 6pm, sunset) So for eg. 9am is 3am.
I confirmed the time to process my VISA was 2:30pm on the Monday with the fat arse embassy lady. She confirmed numerous times. I wait over the weekend and I get there on the Monday at 230pm and the office is closed. Fat arse embassy lady appears 30 minutes later and tells me no it was 9 in the morning come back tomorrow plus I won’t get the visa until Thursday instead of the same day process she promised on Friday. This is a typical frustration whilst travelling Africa.
I also headed east of the country to Harar a
place with 368 alleyways and countless mosques and churches. It is constantly described as one of Ethiopia’s highlights. In truth it is a bitterly disappointing experience as the place was dirty and not much. These gates they talk about are pretty dreary. The only other activity is to go out at night for Hyena feeding which was 50 birr ($2.50) You put strips of camel meat on a stick and watch the hyenas jump about in excitement trying to take the meat off the stick.
The beer here is interesting because its 50c a beer and originally whilst in Addis me and this American girl thought the beers were non-alcoholic. Than about 6 or 7 beers later we realised that was not the case. So that was a bit of an incentive to get me back for New Years instead of dry Djibouti.
So I arrived in Addis for New Years with no high hopes. I managed to meet up with Joe the English guy who went to the Kampala casino and fell off the moto-taxi with me a few months back. A Scottish guy William and an American Mike. I heard one of them say that there
was a concert at the Sheraton Hotel. Some guy called R Kelly who apparently I probably would have heard of was playing there.
It was about 10pm and after starting cards at 6pm I made a call that if we are going to do something we have to leave pretty soon. We get changed and head up to a bar close to our hotel and have a drink. It’s lifeless and so me and the Scottish guy try our best to motivate the other two to at least attempt to get into the Sheraton.
Not sure who it is but someone says lets get a bottle of vodka for the cab ride so on the way the taxi driver stops and we swig a bottle. We were dropped off about 400m from the entrance. We start the walk up the hill.
Entry for the sold old party was 2000 birr ($120). The plan was to at least try to get in and see what happens if not it’s a good base to get somewhere else. We get close to the entrance and apparently the Scottish guy and I gave a pep talk. The American smuggled the bottle
of vodka down the back of his pants to get through the 2 checkpoints. Apparently when you get patted down they don’t pat your backside so first two obstacles were successful.
I was busting to go to the toilet and the others wanted to go to the toilet to finish the vodka. We walk one side and we’re told we don’t have a pass we have to walk to the other side. At the other side we are told the same story. This time however try upstairs. We are stopped again. I show my displeasure on how we are being treated. “What is going on here? First we are told to go there, than there, now here. All we want to do is go to the toilet and we are being treated like this! This is ridiculous!” Basically my point,was that this is the Sheraton. I am in the Sheraton and I should not be treated like this. And with that statement we are through the third barrier. “Thank you we will be back in 5 minutes.” We would not return.
After the toilet where the seat is whipped down by a staff member whenever someone has finished
their business. We left and William went to some private area behind a door willing to open. Basically the Scotsman and I were pushing the envelope bit by bit. I checked the stairs and saw people so I walked down and walked down as if I belonged. All of a sudden we walk out a door unmanned and we are through to the outdoor section. It didn’t take long to realise we are under dressed - We were the only males without a suit jacket.
I later suggested we probably looked like some music artists. I was unshaven with a crinkly shirt with the bottom button missing. Everyone else had very casual shoes. American had baggy pants, Joe the Englishman had a very casual jacket. A few of us had messy hairstyles and unshaven. If ever a group of people didn’t fit into a crowd of posh people. 4 guys who are residing at Baro Hotel ($6 a night) in the red light district area… It would have been us.
Moving as far away from the door as possible we see a temporary stage. And what do you know we are in the main New Years Eve event
in Addis Ababa! We couldn’t believe our luck. So to celebrate being with 3000 people bringing in the New Year we went to get a drink and what do you know, the drinks were free! The night got even better when I came up with the discovery that there was a buffet of free food!
There were some moments throughout the night. A group of guys came up to me and said that I ‘need to move from here you are near my sister.’ I think one of the other guys I was with might have been talking to her. I was watching the concert at the time and say. “What? Sorry? I don’t know what you are talking about? I didn’t know she ever existed until you said something.”
My night was almost stuffed up when I went to the wrong toilet and couldn’t get back in. But patients and with a drink in my hand I waited for security to slacken off and I was back in. This was just after New Years where I went overboard in a slightly sarcastic scream that yet another day had past.
We lost each other but found each
other numerous times. Accept the American who we all lost soon after New Years. He got back at 430am and was the first back. I managed to speak to some girl who said she could give us a lift home. I get my 2 remaining friends and leave. We gave up on the American.
She starts crapping on that she is 20 and married to a 50 year old and how happy he makes her feel and blablabla. We end up at some club that looks up market. Within the first 10 minutes Joe is lost for the rest of the night. The club was alright, we dance with some local girls after being there for a while and pretty soon one of the girls drags me to the outdoor area. We sit next to each other and I say after a while. “Look the way I see things. If anything else was to progress from here I would have to pay. Is that correct?” She confirms.
This is what is really pissing me off about African nightlife. No matter where you go no matter what type of club the women are prostitutes of some description. I have
rarely gone out in Africa. Most of the time I have gone out it’s with a female traveller and I’ve ended up being the security guard.
So I told her that I am wasting her time. So from there I could have left which I was indicating to the Scotsman but we stayed a bit more and I danced with another girl and left without saying goodbye. She sees me leave so goes to the cloak room and has her jacket and bag ready to go home with me. I jump into a taxi and hide from her as the car leaves.
We all got back at random times and would spend the next 4 days going out to various bars which yes they all turned out to be prostitute bars but that didn’t stop us from practising the Ethiopian dance style. A lot of shoulder raising with the beats.
There are more photos below