Addis Ababa

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Addis Ababa is the capital and largest city of Ethiopia. It has a population of 3.4 million (2007).

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Points of Interest in Addis Ababa

If you walk along the road from Meskel Square to Sidest Kilo, you'll probably find it quite entertaining and interesting. You'll see the Africa Hall, the palaces and the Parliament building, the Hilton Hotel, the marvellous architectural adventure of a building hosting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Sheraton Hotel, the first modern school (which Emperor Menelik II built in the 1880s), the Trinity Orthodox cathedral, the National Museum, and the Addis Ababa University (which hosts a former palace and museum).

Arat Kilo Avenue is marked by a statue built in commemoration of the Ethiopian day of victory during the Second World War, while Sidest Kilo Avenue is marked by a statue commemorating some 39,000 residents of Addis Ababa killed by Italian fascist troops. Around Arat Kilo, you will find part of an old town known as Serategna Sefer (literally, the residential area of labourers).

If you go past Sidest Kilo, the road becomes steeper and many of the attractions will be on the right side of the road. The Entoto college (previously Teferi Mekonnen School) and the US Embassy are on this side of the street. After the Embassy there's an open market called Shiro Meda where traditional craftsmen sell their homemade fabrics, pots and other craftwork. The marketplace is at the foot of the Entoto Mountains, which rise up to 3,300m (10,827 ft) above sea level.

You can take a taxi or a bus to the mountain unless you are of a mind to try it yourself. On the mountain, you will find the first churches of Addis Ababa, called Saint Mary and Saint Raguel, and a smaller palace of Menelik II. Walking the mountain, especially between the churches, is refreshing and gives the chance to see rural life, the city, forest and unbelievably beautiful landscape intersected by farmlands and farmers trails. It is from here that Menelik II and Queen Taitu conceived the establishment of Addis Ababa. You can get a sense of the city plan by viewing the city from here.

Museums

  •    Addis Ababa Museum, Bole Rd / Airport Rd / Africa Ave (near Meskel Square). Tu-F 08:30-12:30, 13:30-17:30; Sa 08:30-11:30. Focuses on artefacts and exhibits from Addis Ababa. The building was once a palace where Ras Biru Habte-Gabriel, a former Minister of War, resided.
  • Ethiopian Railway Museum.
  •    Ethnological Museum, Algeria St. M-F 08:00-17:00; Sa-Su 09:00-17:00. Also known as the Museum and Library of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, this is a fascinating museum with exhibits about the history and culture of Ethiopia. There are many displays of the various ethnic groups found in Ethiopia with information about each of their lifestyles. Ethnic outfits, instruments, tools, and other artefacts accompany each ethnic exhibit, making it one of the most interesting museums in the city.
  •    National Museum of Ethiopia, King George VI St (between Arat Kilo Ave and the University of Addis Ababa Graduate School). 08:30-17:00. A world-class museum. The most famous exhibit is the replica of Lucy, an early hominid. With Ethiopian civilization being one of the oldest in the world, the artefacts within the museum span thousands of years, including some from its earliest days. A wide variety of artefacts are featured, from sculptures to clothing to artwork. Both traditional and modern art are featured.
  • National Postal Museum (next to the main post office). A small but good collection of Ethiopian stamps.
  •    Natural History Museum, Queen Elizabeth II St. Tu-Su 09:00-11:45, 13:30-16:30.
  •    "Red Terror" Martyrs Memorial Museum, Bole Rd (adjacent to Meskel Square). Daily 08:00-18:30. About those who lost their lives in the time of the Derg. Opened in 2010 with an excellent, modern style of display. Donation.

Churches and mosques

  •    Anwar Mosque, Mercato district. It's quite impressive.
  •    Gola Saint Michael Church, city centre (next to the Federal immigration office). Very interesting place and one of the many old churches in Addis Ababa. One can see old paintings by many Ethiopian celebrity artists. Has a museum displaying church articles given by many famous people of the country including the emperor Haile Selassie and his Empress.
  •    Holy Trinity Cathedral, off Niger St. 08:00-13:00, 14:00-18:00; museum: 08:00-12:00, 14:00-17:00. It was built to commemorate the country's liberation from the Italians, and many victims killed by the Italians during occupation are buried here. The locals call the church Haile Selassie Church because Emperor Haile Selassie's body was moved here in 2000. It was once the largest Ethiopian Orthodox cathedral. Includes a small museum. Shoes must be left outside.
  •    Medhane Alem (near Bole International Airport). This cathedral, whose name means "Saviour of the World", is the second largest church in Africa.
  •    Roman Catholic Cathedral of Nativity, Wawel St, Mercato district.
  •    St George's Cathedral, north end of Churchill Rd (north-west side of Menelik Sq). Museum: 09:00-12:00, 14:00-18:00. Built in 1896 to commemorate Ethiopia's victory over the Italians. The cathedral is a octagonal building. As you walk around it, you will notice people praying beside the walls, but it is unlikely that you will find an entrance. The Cathedral houses a small museum and close to it you will likely meet one of the archdeacons of the Cathedral. If he offers to be a guide, take his offer and visit the Cathedral with him. The interior is beautifully decorated with huge paintings and mosaics, and will make the trip worthwhile. It is worth visiting the museum with a guide as well to see ceremonial clothes and ancient manuscripts.

Other

  • Africa Hall (located across Menelik II Avenue from the Palace). This is where the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa is headquartered as well as most UN offices in Ethiopia. It is also the site of the founding of the Organization for African Unity (OAU) which eventually became the African Union. Security is tight and you won't be admitted unless you have an appointment.
  •    Tiglachin ("Our Struggle") monument. Sometimes erroneously called Derg Monument, which Ethiopians find offensive because it is not a monument to honor the Derg regime. This massive statue monument was built in the 1980s. The sides have a tribute to Ethiopian and Cuban soldiers who died in the 1977-1978 war against Somalia. If you want to take pictures, there is a guy asking for a small fee.
  • Ethiopian National Library.
  •    Lion of Judah of Menelik (near the former railway station). Commemorates Emperor Menelik. It was erected in 1930 and looted by the Italians a few years later. It remained in Rome for 30 years before being returned in the 1960s.
  •    Lion of Judah of Haile Selassie, Gambia St (outside the National Theatre). A carved statue commemorating the silver jubilee of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1955.
  • Menelik's old Imperial Palace. It remains the official seat of government.
  • National Palace. Formerly known as the Jubilee Palace, built to mark Emperor Haile Selassie's Silver Jubilee in 1955, which is the residence of the President of Ethiopia. Taking pictures is prohibited and even pausing to peer over the wall will attract security.
  • Netsa Art Village. Authentic and interesting art in a beautiful park across from the French Embassy. 3 birr entrance. 20birr for cameras.
  • Parliament Building (Near Holy Trinity Cathedral). Built during the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie, with its clock tower, it continues to serve as the seat of Parliament today. Photography is prohibited.
  • Shengo Hall. Built by the Derg regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam as its new parliament hall. The Shengo Hall was the world's largest pre-fabricated building, which was constructed in Finland before being assembled in Addis Ababa. It is used for large meetings and conventions.
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About Addis Ababa

Climate

Temperatures in Addis Ababa are remarkably constant from month to month. The average highs are between 17°C (63°F) and 22°C (71°F). The average lows are between 11°C (51°F) and 14°C (58°F). The warmest months are February to May. Temperatures and climate can vary due to elevation. Due to altitude there is a huge day to night range of temperature: it is often 27°C (81°F) at lunchtime and 3°C (37°F) at night: In the Addis evenings always take a second layer with you.

Activities

  • Hager Fikir Theatre, John Melly St, Piazza district. The oldest theater in Ethiopia.
  • Jan Meda Race Ground.
  • Bihere Tsige Recreation Center.
  • Addis Ababa Golf Club.
  • Entoto Mountain, north side of the city. Walk from St. Mary church, the first church of Addis, and St Urael church and see the city from the top of the mountain.
  • Fendika Azmari Bet, Zewditu St, Kazanches (west of Guinea Conakry St). Music, song and dance including including a traditional azmari minstrel.
  •    Yewedale, Zewditu St, Kazanches. Performances by traditional azmari minstrels.

Food

Food is generally cheap. Make sure you try the national dish injera at least once, since there is no other food like it. It is a yeast-risen flat bread with a unique, slightly spongy texture. It is traditionally made out of teff flour. In making injera, teff flour is mixed with water and allowed to ferment for several days, as with sourdough starter. As a result of this process, injera has a mildly sour taste. It's what the locals eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Most ordinary Ethiopian restaurants have it, and a serving for 2 people with free refills can be as cheap as 15 birr.

Budget

Addis has hundreds of cake and coffee cafes. They sell various coffees, tea - black unless you ask for "machiatto" - and sometimes fruit juices. There are also juice beits. The cafes along Bole Road and around the Piassa area are of a high standard and relatively inexpensive. Most are very similar to each other.

Most cafes serve the common drink called 'sprice juice' (fruit pulp served in layers in a glass). There are usually three layers from a selection of avocado, mango, papaya, banana, guava etc. The juice is eaten with a spoon. It is colorful and tastes delicious. Single fruit juices are also great, such as orange, papaya, mango, and pineapple - beautifully fresh. 7 birr up to 25 birr in Hilton.

  • Yemi Burger- Haya Hulet. Burger, fries & Mirinda/Coca Cola for 23 ETB. Wonderful staff and known by many expats and the 'best chips in Addis'.
  • Cafe Chocolata, Victory Rd (near Shoppers Mart supermarket). Serves drinks and snacks and is very nice. All the staff are former street girls and prostitutes who are trying to make something of their lives.
  • City Cafe on Bole has delicious cakes and pastries as well as high quality Ethiopian espresso coffees. You can sit on the porch and watch the activity on one of the main roads in Addis.
  • National Cafe, at the end of Churchill Ave (in the National Theatre building). Reasonable prices and good food. From injera to club sandwich.

Restaurants that do not have an English menu are cheaper. Example: Connection between Bole Road and Tele-Bole, next to Bole roundabout, at NOC-Fuelstation, close to German Kantine. You can have lunch (local food, spaghetti) for less than 20 birr. If you don't have a translator, ordering is a lot of fun.

Mid-range

  • Addis Cuisine. Wollo Sefer. (Bole end of Ethio Chinese Friendship Rd, on the north side of 6 lane road). Good Western and Ethiopian food.
  • Antica, off Cape Verde St / EU Rd, Bole (in the residential area just behind the Sudanese restaurant, near Desalegn hotel). Decent pizza, and one of the only delivery services available in Addis that does not require bulk orders. Pizza tends to arrive cold.
  • Brick-oven Pizza across the street from Wanza hotel. Has an amazing green chili sauce.
  • Bruno's, Meskel Flower Rd, across from the Dreamliner hotel (look for the Italian themed gate). A quiet, tucked-away Italian restaurant, it has some of the best pizza in the city, on a beautiful compound. Parking is extremely limited both on the street and within the restaurant; if you plan on dining in, take a taxi.
  • Buffet de la Gare +251 11 517888, fax: +251 11 515959.
  • Canaan (from the airport roundabout, down Bole Rd, turn left (before Bole Mini). Very nice pizza. Less than mid-range, a bit more than budget
  • Giordana's/Capri restaurant (in a small side street off of Djibouti St. Pass Lion International Bank on your right and take first left). The friendly Giordana is a well known TV chef. This place is worth seeking out for its excellent pasta and other Italian food.
  • 2000 Habesha Cultural Restaurant (Habesha 2000), TeleBole Rd (between Atlas Hotel and Edna Mall). One of Addis Ababa's famous cultural restaurants, it has traditional singing and dancing at night. If you're feeling brave, try the gored gored (cubes of heavily salted and spiced raw beef). Waiters are well mannered and kind, and most are very talented dancers. Features a large buffet with many kinds of wat/wot (Ethiopian stew), injera, shiro, vegetables, and other dishes. Their "fasting" menu (meatless or vegan dishes typically served to religiously observant diners) is excellent and will satisfy most vegetarians and vegans. The old restaurant at the south end of EU Rd near Bole Rd was demolished for road construction in 2012.
  • Kaldi Coffee, Bole Rd, with a sign similar to Starbucks. Has great porridge.
  •    Lime Tree, Boston Partners Building, Bole Rd (above the Boston Day Spa). While Ethiopian food is delicious there comes a time when you might want to try something else. Extensive menu, ranging from Arabic to Ethiopian food. They do have a consistency which is quite hard to find here. Own brand of coffee, which is a more bitter version of the general Ethiopian coffee you find, but if this appeals to you then you can not find this coffee anywhere else. Limetree owns several other restaurants in town – ask them for recommendations for a bit more variety.
  • Liquid Lounge, Nigist Towers Bldg, Kazanches (next to the (fake) Intercontinental hotel). A two-story establishment focusing on Asian food, including stir-fry and sushi in the evenings (salmon and tuna only, and it is not as fresh as the Sheraton). The a la carte menu offers a few burgers, sandwiches and other lunch items. In the evenings, it becomes a booming club, with excellent dance music and a relatively sophisticated middle-class young crowd. Very trendy, and has VIP areas upstairs. On the weekends it gets busy.
  • Meda Bar and Grill (on the way from Addis Ababa Stadium to Gotera around Lancha). Bar and restaurant, clean with many selections of meals, cocktails and a wine bar.
  • Sana'a Restaurant, Gabon St. A very popular restaurant with amazing Yemeni food.
  • Sishu, Churchill Ave (by National Bank. Pass through Ministry of Urban Development and Construction and the Ethiopian Teachers' Association). Fabulous burgers (often called the best in Addis), nice salads and juices. Designed like a living room, with little bookstore. They only serve American coffee.
  • Team Mini, Bole Rd. Friendly, high quality restaurant with traditional Ethiopian food. Try the mesir besiga (ground meat with lentils). Performances by traditional singers and dancers at night. The entertainment is not as good as that at Habesha, but the food is generally better.
  • Yod Abyssinia. A traditional cultural restaurant, favored by expats and the diplomatic community for treating visitors. Serves Hakim Stout, an excellent (even by international standards) dark Harari beer produced by Heineken that can be difficult to find. Multiple locations, but the popular ones are in Bole and in Mekanisa/Sar Bet area (Old Airport, on Seychelles St. about 600 meters due west of Adams Pavilion).

Splurge

  • Aladdin Restaurant. Bole Rwanda St. Serves Middle-Eastern food. Very expensive but authentic and delicious.
  • Castellis in Piazza. Churchill St/Piazza area. Top Italian restaurant here since 1942. With famous guests like Angelina Jolie, and Brad Pitt, there is a reason that Castelli's manages to draw in such a crowd. This is where the Italian embassy staff goes to eat. Amazing food, amazing desserts, call for a reservation or risk disappointment, even at lunch time, as this is a trendy place to be seen.
  • Fisherman Restaurant. Mickey Leland St, (near Atlas Hotel). A half-Chinese, half-Tibetan restaurant specialising in seafood and serving an excellent range of Asian cuisine.
  • Green View Italian Restaurant / Pizzeria, Bole Mickey Leland St, (near Atlas Hotel). Excellent pizza. There is another location near CMC.
  •    Sangam Restaurant, Bole Rd. Excellent place for Indian food and sweets, often used by the Indian embassy. Loads of variety with rice, chapati, naan. Pleasant atmosphere and price is very good.
  •    Serenade, between Tewodros St & Welete Johanis St, Ammest Kilo (near Nazareth School, but difficult to find). Will need a reservation. Amazing cous-cous. This has a middle eastern influence, but the desserts western and are amazing. Owned by Limetree.
  • Top View Restaurant. Megenagna area, above the traffic circle, near the Israeli embassy. Very good food but can be expensive for a dinner meal.

Drinks

The national drink of Ethiopia is 'tej', which is brewed from honey. You can also try 'tela' which is like a beer.

  • Affoy. The upstairs, where the bar and hookah are, is a little run-down but the pizzas are good.
  • Bailamos. Bole Rd (on the top floor of the Novis building). Club with a surprisingly vibrant salsa scene on the weekends. Live music every Saturday, soft rock, salsa, R&B, and the band is surprisingly good. However, this is considered a lower end club, more targeted to those with a limited budget such as college students.
  •    Black Rose, Boston Bldg, Bole Rd (above the Boston Day Spa). The energetic atmosphere is dark yet comfortable and fashionable, and the bar serves a variety of drinks. Live jazz jam session every Th night.
  • Champions (across the street from Boston Day Spa building). Hookah lounge with drinks and Turkish style atmosphere, makes for a nice relaxing night.
  • Club Deep. There is a small cover charge, but the drinks are inexpensive. Avoid the bathrooms as they are filthy beyond belief.
  • Divine. Bole Rd (on the top floor of Sheger House). Very Western-oriented playlist, with ample space for relaxing and a pumping dance floor on weekends.
  • Dome Club. Concorde. Debre Zeyit Rd. Sticky and dark, more of a dive bar/club.
  • Gaslight. Fancy nightclub at the Sheraton. Inside it feels like an upscale Western disco. Don't wear jeans or trainers/sneakers, as they have a fairly strict dress code. Although there is no entrance fee, be prepared to pay heavily for drinks.
  •    Illusion, cnr Ras Desta Damtew St & Itegue Taitu St (under the Ambassador Theatre). Dance till 5AM. Very crowded on weekends, yet that adds to its charm.
  • Meda Sports Bar and Grill. Large, spacious bar which is comfortable for chatting or watching a game. The downstairs lounge provides a more intimate setting for quiet conversations. Upstairs, the loft has a relaxed, casual dining atmosphere.
  • Memo. This club is popular for its late night atmosphere. It is one of the few clubs that charges admission, and be warned about the price of drinks. But the music is loud and good, the kitchen is open late and it makes for a great night.

Shopping

  • Mercato. The mercato (Italian for market, as the main covered market still in use dates from the colonial administration of the late 1930s) is the largest outdoor market in the world, and you can get anything from tourist goods (t-shirts, wood crafts, etc.) to fabric to metal goods there. Haggling and bargaining are standard procedure, and foreigners (especially those of European ancestry) should expect to be charged higher prices. To ensure a positive experience, maintain a sense of humour, don't be afraid to negotiate aggressively, and above all don't let yourself be bullied by the many "brokers" who frequent the market, and will try to steer you towards certain stores in exchange for a kick-back from the merchant. You will be able to negotiate lower prices if you can avoid brokers, and especially if you have a local friend or guide to buy things on your behalf. Closed Sunday.
  • Shiromeda Market. Between Sidist Kilo & Mt Entoto. If the madness of Mercato isn't for you, Chiromeda is a pleasant alternative. Haggling and bargaining is still the status quo, but you could walk away with a traditional dress from as cheap as 100 ETB.
  • Friendship Supermarket. Bole Road (airport end). Well-stocked western-style supermarket - and they accept Visa.
  • Edna Mall on Telebole. Contains a large book store, and Ethiopia's only 3D multiplex cinema (three screens), which plays both Amharic and English-language films. Western films typically are shown within a week to a month of their U.S. release, though occasionally they may operate on European release schedules (for instance, Skyfall began showing at Edna Mall over a week before its U.S. premiere). The center of the mall features an indoor amusement park with carousel, climbing tubes, and bumper cars; it's a fun place for small children, but really crowded on the weekends and holidays. Also located nearby are several dance clubs.
  • Dembel City Centre
  • Getu Commercial centre
  • Addis Sheraton Shopping
  • Loyal Shopping centre
  • Arat Kilo Shopping centre
  • Piassa Shopping centre
  • Bambis department store, expensive euro-style supermarket located in Kazanches, near the Radisson, Hilton, and Sheraton hotels. Features an extensive selection of Greek products, and high quality fresh/frozen meats.
  • New York Supermarket, near Bole Olympia
  • Shoa Supermarket on Bole Rd.
  • Novis Supermarket on Bole Road, near Friendship

Get money

Ethiopia operates a cash economy. Domestic credit cards are non-existent, and international cards are accepted in very few locations (mostly those catering to expatriates).

ATMs/cash machines - are found throughout Addis Ababa. Dashen Bank is a principal member of both VISA and MasterCard International and has ATMs. Some of the ATMs found at D.H. Geda Tower (next to Friendship City Center) accept both VISA and MasterCard, Dembel City Centre (quite hidden, use the main entrance, than to the left, at the window), Edna Mall, in some hotels (Hilton, Sheraton, Intercontinental, Wabi Shebelle Hotel, Ethiopia Hotel, Semein Hotel, Harmony Hotel). Also near the National Museum (Lucy Gazebo Restaurant), ground floor of Getu Commercial centre just at the entrance and some branches of Dashen Bank. Note that not all cards are accepted everywhere, Dashen Bank ATMs accept VISA/MasterCard/Cirrus/Plus while Zemen bank ATMs do not accept MasterCard (which seems to be hit or miss in Ethiopia). Most ATM machines have a 4000-6000 birr limit per day, but most do not charge a local ATM fee (international or third-party ATM fees from your financial institution may apply, however).

Warning: Some ATM machines are targeted for "skimmer" scams, allowing thieves to steal your ATM card information. To protect yourself, the safest ATMs to use are the ones located at the Hilton (Dashen, Zemen, CBE); Radisson Blu (Dashen, Zemen, Wegagen); or Sheraton (Dashen) hotels.

There is an illegal black market where you can get a slightly better rate, especially if you bargain. Check your money very carefully before you leave and do not allow it to leave your hand after your final count. Most souvenir shops off Churchill Rd and Zambia St do it.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Addis Ababa on Wikivoyage.

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