Ethiopia: Kent’s trip report #1 – Addis Ababa

January 19, 2011  By: Kent

My trip to Ethiopia started with a pleasant flight direct from Washington D.C.’s Dulles International Airport to Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa. With their new specially outfitted 777s, Ethiopian Airlines can now fly non-stop. That makes the trip just 12 hours, much faster than with any other airline. The planes are modern and comfortably outfitted, the service is good and the fares are reasonable. Ethiopian Airlines also has an extensive flight network within Africa, making it a reasonable choice for people traveling to other countries in East and Southern Africa.

Ethiopia has had its share of negative press over the years–famine, war, etc. which has led many people to imagine it to be a dry, barren wasteland. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. Much of the country sits on a high plateau which is incredibly fertile. Grains, vegetables, herbs and more are grown in abundance. Ethiopia is purported to be the birthplace of coffee and they make it thick and strong and unbelievably tasty. The people are extremely friendly and crime is relatively rare, even in Addis which has 3-5 million people.

Most visitors to Ethiopia spend one or two nights in Addis. Undoubtedly the best hotel in town is the Sheraton. It is very luxurious, has incredible gardens and a huge, beautiful pool. Next up is the Hilton, which is frankly looking tired, but has a lively atmosphere. The Intercontinental is a great choice and I really like the Jupiter, which currently has Jazz nights on Thursdays (awesome) and Soul night on Saturdays in the bar.

With one day in Addis you can see most of the major sites. I enjoyed both the National and Ethnological museums, and a trip up Entoto Hill afforded great views of the city. The “palace” and church near the summit are mildly interesting. Back in town, the Mercato is purportedly Africa’s largest open air market and is very lively and for me, a little claustrophobic. It employs somewhere near 13,000 people. As with any crowded city market, you’re best to keep an eye on your wallet. The Holy Trinity Church is worth a visit if only to see the tomb of Haile Selassie.

Next stop: Lalibela

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