Edit Blog Post
Published: February 3rd 2014
29 October, 2012
We in stopped in Shashamane, home to the Rastafari movement, for an afternoon en route to the capital. The population of the town is approximately 100,000 of which nowadays only 200-300 still call themselves Rastafarians, though numbers were as high as 2,000. The truck was parked at a café and we went out to the road to hail tuk tuks to drive us out to the area.
I wasn't sure what I had been expecting and wouldn't be a fan of reggae and things I guess I consider to associate with them and although we were invited into a gated community, brightly painted in the red, yellow and green, no one was really able to explain anything to us. I wandered through the rooms with Bob Marley painted on the walls and articles about Haile Selassie framed and sitting on crocheted doilies. Someone then mentioned an artist who lived down a side street and we went to take a look.
That was the most interesting part of the trip. The Banana Art Gallery is owned by Ras Hailu Tafari, originally from St. Vincent in the Caribbean, though he wasn't there when we visited. Using every
part of the banana plant (no artificial colours or dyes are used), he glues pieces onto a wooden board which is then framed. Each artwork must take weeks. They're beautifully unique and have a strong community and/ or religious feel to them. Denise bought one and I now regret not buying one myself.
We're in Addis! We have a few days here, camping in the grounds of the first hotel in the city, Taitu Hotel. Built in 1898 by an Ethiopian Empress, it had great bathrooms, a decent restaurant and wifi. Perfect for making onwards travel plans. It was here that we discussed Harar, Danakil Depression and Simien Mountains as neither are on the itinerary and a few of us were keen. So many places, so little time...
But first, the capital. We went to the National Museum of Ethiopia to meet 3.2 million year old Lucy who wasn't what I was expecting. I had envisioned the wrong really old person (the one with hair who is maybe South American?). But the information was really interesting, including the discovery of an earlier, more complete skeleton of a hominid known as Ardi which is
estimated to be 4.4 million years old. She was not on display though so after touring the skulls and bones, we moved back up to the ground floor amongst the variety of artifacts from all over Ethiopia. Crowns, thrones and ceremonial clothing from previous Emperors were interesting but I liked the first floor with both modern and traditional artwork, my favourite being Afewerk Tekle's 'African Heritage'.
There's a lot of amazing Orthodox churches so over the next couple days we picked a few and set out to find them. Toni and I took a leisurely stroll to St. George's Cathedral which was a considerable walk but allowed us time to see the city en route. I didn't take my camera and Toni was kind enough to share his photos so I could relax and take in our surrounds. Being hot, we stopped in several cafés for drinks and to chat with the friendly locals and also detoured through the marketplaces. We didn't go in the Cathedral but instead chose to sit and people watch from the outside.
On a different day a few of us went to Holy Trinity Cathedral which was built to commemorate Ethiopia's liberation from
Italian occupation. Emperor Haile Selassie I and his wife are buried here in huge imposing granite coffins and the stained glass windows were some of the most beautiful I've seen. Then to the Ethnological Museum, housed in Haile Selassie's former palace and now surrounded by the university. Selassie's bedroom and bathroom, left the way it was when he last used it was strangely fascinating (the bathroom colours not exactly to my liking) and the bullet hole in the mirror from an apparent assassination attempt was still there. I went through the museum far too quickly really and if I'd had time I might have gone back again. The artwork depicting periods in Ethiopia's history tended to be bloody and gory although all the people were smiling! Or maybe they're grimacing? No end of bemusement. There's also a London double decker bus brought over by Selassie which is now a café and we had lunch there. Tibs (small pieces of meat served with its juices and onion slices, eaten with bread) was now my new favourite Ethiopian dish and this one was pretty good though as was becoming standard, service was slow. It became apparent that we should order food long
Making use of the mannequins
The locals didn't know what we were doing...
Thanks to Toni Hunseler for the photo!
before we were actually hungry...
Of a night time, several of my evenings were spent at the ridiculously lavish Hilton hotel where a friend from England was staying while working in the city. After a group meeting at our campsite to discuss our options over the next couple weeks (some were booking flights to various places in the country and we were figuring out where best for everyone to meet the truck), I met Junior for dinner assuming he would also eat. But he didn't. So I embarrassed myself by eating a ridiculous amount of cheese from the buffet as well as other food items we were unable to get on the road. Cringe. But heading to the bar afterwards and having live music (a band from the US belting out all your Top 40 favourites) was a fun way to pass the time. Clearing his room of anything that wasn't bolted to the ground and handing out toiletries to the others on the trip was a bonus. Denise, Kevin and I also found ourselves in a local club, the only three white faces in the entire place (and as an Irish woman and English man, they are both
extremely white!)! I wouldn't usually dance but apparently did that night, the locals eventually losing interest in staring and danced with us instead. We were eventually kicked out at 4am when the club closed and made a beeline for the first taxi. Asking how much it was back to our hotel, he was the first (and eventually, only) driver to give me the honest price straight up. But Denise and Kevin, both having drank quite a bit, started shouting how outrageous the price was! I turned on them and told them it was the correct price and they changed their tune and meekly climbed in the taxi. I don't think the driver knew what to make of us! Hilarious.
Tot: 2.264s; Tpl: 0.06s; cc: 17; qc: 72; dbt: 0.0533s; 2; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.5mb