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Published: December 17th 2019
Yes, you read that right. Addis Ababa. Our tour group with just six people (5 guys and me) had an early morning flight from Dubai to Madagascar via Addis Ababa. However, our connection was very tight and with a mechanical issue that took over an hour to fix, we knew that we would miss the one daily flight to Madagascar. We ran to our gate anyway, where the adjacent gate agent confirmed that our flight had left on time more than 20 minutes before. Thankfully, Dagi was a complete angel and she took great care of us, starting with rebooking us on the next day's flight (after confirming with us that we did NOT want to fly to Kenya late that night and take yet another flight that arrived at 3am), and allowed us to pick our seats. Then she physically walked us (btw - Ethiopians can walk very very fast!) to the information desk where she had us booked into a hotel for the night and had a shuttle ready to take us there. Seriously, she made a stressful situation easy; we could have done it all ourselves, but it would have been probably another hour or two.
we got the bus to our hotel, along with many other people who also missed various flights. While waiting to check in, we relaxed in the lounge with a pretty tasty cold beer. Our hotel was "4-stars" but that is by Ethiopian standards. It was fine, totally fine, but wifi was slow, service was iffy, no toiletries, room was not the cleanest, etc. It was fine - I preferred that to traveling for the next 16 hours, looking forward to getting a good night's sleep instead. But this was also the first real test of our upcoming adventure.....
Our tour company was able to provide us one of their local tour guides, Daniel, on short notice. Daniel came to get us from the hotel and took us for a quick tour around the city. A few of the guys had been before, but only one guy did not go to the first stop. First we went to the Holy Trinity Cathedral area, a site that they appear to be very proud of. Aside from the Cathedral itself, there is also a museum housing things like their Crown Jewels, and clothing worn by previous royalty, and a beautiful pearl inlay
piece - no photos allowed unfortunately. There is also the original prayer hall down the hill as well as various graves of important people and especially those who were killed fighting the Italian fascists. The Cathedral itself was built in the 1940's and consecrated after the defeat of the fascists. The hall is lovely with men on the left and women on the right. The burial tombs of the previous rulers, Emperor Haile Selassie and his wife Empress Menen Asfew. The one guy did not go into the church grounds because he had already seen it; it did not cost much, but I get that there really is not much to see if you already have.
After this, we went to the National Museum of Ethiopia. Only three of us went in while the others waited for us at the nearby Lucy Cafe. Of course the highlight here is seeing the bones of Lucy, a partial Australopithecus skeleton dating back 3.2 million years ago, discovered in 1971. There were other bones of Australopithecus of Selam which dates back 3.3 million years and found about in around 2004. Other displays besides the anthropology and paleontology located in the basement, includes
things like an overview of traditional tools and artifacts in local society and modern art, a lot of which I actually like.
After the museum, we went to the nearby Lucy cafe to join the rest of our group and have a beer. We also got a quick plate of food, with the injera bread with kitfo (I think), which was interesting. The cafe itself was nice, very touristy of course, but pleasant.
Next stop was a nearby coffee shop where the guys wanted to try something called Tomoca. I am not a coffee drinker, at all, so it was a lot of terms I did not know. My sister loves coffee and I would have liked to get her something, but I did not know where to start. Instead I joined everyone in a drink of macchiato which was fine. It was a very nice social setting though, had a great vibe.
Our last stop was a drive through the market, one of the largest in Africa. It was huge and I was actually relieved that we did not get out. It was chaos. Very interesting. You can basically find anything you could ever need somewhere
in there. It is organized by groups, so Daniel said people generally know where to go, for instance if they need something for their car, there is a certain area. There were areas for spices and foods, textiles, electronics, etc, with women on the ground offering street foods all along. I found one of the most interesting places to be the one for recycling - they had a bunch of people going through and sorting the trash. what a horrible job, but it was so interesting to see all the different items sorted and how they could potentially use it in the future. While we did not get out here, we got out nearby at an art gallery. It was so interesting to see all the 'authentic' Ethiopian crafts, but they were so expensive. I know I'm supposed haggle, but when someone offers you something for like 10 times the price, I'm just not interested. It is not fun for me.
So, then Daniel and our driver took us back to the hotel. The guys were talking about going out to a local restaurant where they serve traditional foods and have dancing, and my friend Lizzie tried to set
me up with a friend of hers to go out, but I was beyond exhausted. So, I just went back to my room, passed out for a couple hours, shoveled some of the hotel provided buffet foods in my mouth and went back to bed.
Next morning, we got the daily flight with no problems. Me and another guy got coffee and breakfast at the airport and basically relaxed until our flight. Not much else to do there.
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