Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

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Africa » Ethiopia » Addis Ababa Region
October 4th 2018
Published: October 22nd 2018
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For once it’s obvious which title I should use for my blog entry. Perhaps the standout attraction of Addis Ababa is the Ethiopia National Museum which houses the skeleton of Lucy, a well preserved 3.2m year old fossil, considered to be an early ancestor of man. It was discovered in 1974 in the Afar region of Ethiopia and has been described as simply one of the most important fossils ever discovered. At the team campsite after the skeleton was discovered the lead scientist played a Beatles cassette and the track “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” came on. They already thought that the skeleton was female so the name seemed appropriate and stuck.

The real Lucy skeleton is securely locked away in a vault, but if you didn’t know that you wouldn’t realise. There is also the skeleton of another important early humanoid called “Selam, discovered in 2000 which is perhaps just as amazing since the remains are more intact than Lucy and estimated to be 100,000 years older. After these sights the rest of the museum is a little disappointing and certainly looks slightly starved of funds though I do like the status of the emperor Haile Selassie lecturing to a group of pupils that is in the museum garden.

We don’t try to see much in Addis Ababa in one day. It’s one of the largest cities in Africa with a population of somewhere over 5million (estimates vary from 4.5m upwards) so it’s a hard place to wander around. Our hotel is not too far from the centre but too far to easily walk to the sights. Fortunately, we are near the new light rail system, that we think is good, but nevertheless seems to receive relentless criticism from the local newspapers. To me it seems to be a victim of its own success. Fairs are a ridiculously cheap 3 Birr (about 10c) per trip and as the trains are not very frequent and consist of only 2 carriages they are unbelievably crowded! The ticketing sale and checking is basic at best but - hey – this is still Africa so what can you expect!

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