November 29, 2006
My walk into town: Favourite place in Ethiopia #6
Head off an hour after dawn on the road past Menelik Hospital (my beautiful new neighbourhood – who needs Bole). Turn left and take a look at the forested hills that surround Addis Ababa, packed with hyenas and who knows what else. If you were really keen you could have climbed them an hour earlier and watched Haile Gebrselassie on one of his early morning training sessions.
Turn right and start walking past the straggled taxi stand, past Sandford English/International School, past the well-heeled parents dropping off children in their 4x4s. Past the old men a few yards down the road, taking their grandchildren to playschool (the one with the Teletubbies painted on its metal gate.)
The road curves down to a T-junction – St Matthew's Anglican Church and the Ras Amba hotel to the left, Arat Kilo to the right. Turn right and then almost immediately left, crossing the road and its endless stream of line cabs and taxis. This takes you down a rural back lane – Lovers Lane or Robbers Lane depending on who you believe.
Past the shacks and the children. Past the cemetery with spooky old photos of dead people on the gravestones. Past the armed Red Berets. Past the hardest working street youths in Addis who live behind four big skips and scrape a living recycling the city's waste.
Head straight across the crossroads with the crowds of secondary school pupils, past the Prime Minister's Palace on your right. If you are lucky and it is a Saints Day, get caught up in the crowds of worshipers and beggars and candle sellers and shiny umbrella stalls that pack the road around St Gabriel's church
You are at the top of the dual carriageway that leads down past the still un-opened Africa Park with its untouched slides, climbing frames and benches. Head down and left into the Hilton for a reminder of how the other 1% live. Walk through the grounds, skirting round the back past the barbers, the mini-supermarket, the tourist shop and the bakers.
Walk down through the back gates, past the uniformed guards and their wobbly salutes. Cross the road, braving another stream of line cabs, taxis and WFP Toyota Landcruisers. Head left, then right after the petrol station, past the beggars and street children waiting for the UN staff to turn up for work. Past the barricaded back entrances to the UN compound.
Head down to the junction with Jomo Kenyatta Avenue, past the two young polio-crippled beggars who came to Addis a year ago, all the way from Arba Minch. Turn right where the dual carriageway crosses the trash-choked river. Keep going for another couple of minutes and there you are - in Meskel Square.
Posted by aheavens at November 29, 2006 6:45 PM
Nice article. I followed your path by checking Addis Ababa map from http://www.EthioPortal.com
(Click on the map on the right hand side to see Addis).
Posted by: Mimi at November 30, 2006 5:28 AM
Hey Andrew - you make me want to be living in Addis...even though I know you must be leaving out the bits about 'you, ferenji';) - or maybe distance makes me cynical!
Posted by: Terri at November 30, 2006 7:04 PM
Andrew-nice post! Minor correction about how the other 1% live.
Ethiopia has a pop of 77 million. 1% is 700,000 people. 700,000 Ethiopians can not afford the Hilton. Those who can are maybe 70, 000 or 0.1% of Ethiopia at best.
Posted by: safiya at December 5, 2006 4:37 PM
What’s up Andrew, something happen to you while taking a walk into town or what?
Posted by: abyssinia at December 7, 2006 6:03 PM
Hi Abyssinia - no, I've just been the worst kind of busy. The kind when you miss deadlines, ignore friends' emails, get incredibly stressed and, in the end, get nothing done.
I've also been stranded on the bank of a swollen river in South Omo - but more of that later.
Posted by: Andrew at December 8, 2006 4:38 AM
Nice maths Safiya. Now do it again for the Sheraton. 0.01%? Or even fewer?
Posted by: Andrew at December 8, 2006 4:40 AM
7000 Ethiopians can probably afford a cup of coffee at the Sheraton, while only 700 can afford a dinner there. lol
The last time I had a brunch at the Hilton, I paid 100 birr (about 11 US dollars), which is the monthly salary of my friend's zebegna. Ethiopia's poverty is just.......shocking.
Posted by: safiya at December 10, 2006 6:25 PM