I met Haile Gebrselassie! He is one of the greatest long distance runners in history, This amazing man has set 27 World Records! At the age of 35 he managed to record the fastest Marathon in the Berlin Marathon - beating his own World Record of course. He has also won 2 Olympic Gold Medals (different games) and 4 World Championships. He is also a very nice man and he even signed my Ethiopia Guidebook (last photo). And no, he did not drink the champagne he opened. He drinks milk and has to maintain a very good diet to keep turning in amazing performances. It was a real pleasure to meet the most famous Ethiopian in the world and a real champion.
I came across this colourful and interesting scene in the Entoto Mountains above Addis Ababa. Emperor Menelik II founded a large church up here before going on to create the capital of Addis Ababa. It’s a very important church for Orthodox Christians and the priests hold large ceremonial processions here and in Addis itself. The priest (draped in yellow) is trying to choose a ceremonial umbrella that is to his liking. He is assisted by another member of the church. I watch the priest try just about every umbrella over several hours. When I left he was still out there trying umbrellas!
Some things just should not be equal. This sign is at the Fasika National Restaurant. The management of this fabulous eating establishment seems to only have the 2 rules. 1) No hats and 2) No guns. Fair enough. Please have a read of my Restaurant Tips for more information on this wonderful dinning experience!
Fondest memory: There are plenty of shoeshine workers in Addis Ababa, and most of them doesn't have too much customers. Some of them wanted to do shoeshine on my runningshoes, but it's not exactly the most suitable shoes to do a shoeshine on.
Fondest memory: Make sure to change back money before you leave Addis Ababa. The bank in the airport's departure hall in the second floor doesn't change your birr back to other currency. In that case you have to walk down to the exchange bureaus at the arrival hall in the ground floor. On your way you pass the security, who ask you why you are doing this... It is possible, but very bothersome.
- Arriving at Bole Intl. airport is convenient. It's easy to find what you are looking for. Shortly after you enter the building you find the "visa on arrival" counter. If you have a nationality from a socalled tourist-generating country, just line up in queue. 4-5 officers will issue the tourist visas quickly. Make sure to have your passport and 20 USD ready. For a single entry visa you don't need photos and you don't need to write anything. The visa is valid for 3 months.
- 20 meters away from here you find 2 different exchange bureau (Dashen and Ethiopian Bank). The exchange rate here is the same as it is in the city. Change only USD/Euro to Ethiopian Birr. Other currencies gives a terrible bad rate. Make sure to keep the receipt because you need it when you shall change back the Birr when leaving Ethiopia.
- Shortly after that you line up in the queue for the immigration police. Have your passport and the immigration card ready. If the police ask for the visa receipt, just show him that. They have a webcam for photo.
- Then turn right and walk 30 meters to pick up your checked baggage at the baggage belt.
- The custom officers are in the same hall as the baggage belts. There are no green and red entrance, so the custom officers will ask what you have in the bags. In most case they just smile and let you trough.
- You are now entering the last door and will come into a hall full of people. But it's safe and well organized. Many dealers will ask you for transport to the city. Just look after dealers with registration ID card walking around. Take your time and bargain the price. Normal price is 80-100 Birr. Then follow that person out of the terminal and walk 200 meters to the parking area. The taxis and matatus are waiting here. There are no taxis waiting right outside the terminal as there is in other airports.
I was in Addis Ababa the first time in 2008. A foreign SIM card was at that time very hard to use. Roaming was difficult, and only one of ten attempts of sending SMS was successful. The situation was totally changed when I visited Addis for the second time in May 2010. Using a foreign SIM card was easy.
Anyway, it's much cheaper to get an Ethiopian SIM card in one of the many phone shops here. And you can recieve calls without credit, so it doesn't cost you anything. The country code is +251.
Addis Ababa is located at 2450 meters (8,300 feet). It's colder than other cities in Africa. The days are never too hot and the nights can be cold. When I was there in mid September I had to wear a warm jacket in the nights. It was also a heavy rain weather every afternoon. Prepare your self for more rain here than the rest of Ethiopia. The rainy season is from June through September.
The high altitude of the city may also cause some health problems with the thin air, so some be careful when walking fast around.
Best viewed on a Saturday and with a guide, this huge series of streets, alleys and buildings goes on for several kilometres. If it isn’t sold here – it’s not been made. Some sections specialised in just 1 or 2 products. There are clothes, vegetables, meat, household plastic items, you name it. There are no written prices and polite negotiation is the order of the day. Some will not give you reasonable prices because you are a foreigner – walk away. Also never take the first price. Your guide should get you near or at the local price.
There are some interesting things to see in the market. You will see reengineered items. I have seen many large tin cans of cooking oil provided by United States Aid cut down to form kitchen utensils of various uses. There is the secondary market where handicapped and poor people sell odd shaped vegetables or scraps left my other traders. You can go into the chicken market and buy one for about $5 and you will be handed the live chicken by his/her feet. They won’t move and you can get on a bus with them without any difficulty. Definitely pick up some coffee for gift if you go to someone’s house and to take home. There is also an amazing spice Market where, unfortunately, most thieves hang out in. That’s why you need a guide.
A guide for a few hours in the market will cost you $2-3. Pickpockets will go right after you. They went after me in the middle of the street at high noon and someone was with me! There are also kilometres of streets and at least 7,000 businesses to find – or to get lost. If you want to arrange a guide before you arrive, email me and I will get you someone to help you out.
You don’t want to miss this mass of people, colours, smells, sights and even flavours in one of the many eating establishments. There is also the dominant Al-Anwar Mosque to see, but do not get too close and do not take photos close by. The men go nuts about that.
Favorite thing: The city possesses a complex mix of highland climate zones, with temperature differences of up to 10°C, depending on elevation and prevailing wind patterns. The high elevation moderates temperatures year-round, and the city's position near the equator means that temperatures are very constant from month to month.
You will find beggers all over the place here. If you shake your head they will leave you alone after a few minutes..they will walk between cars at stop lights when the cops are not around to shoo them off. You will see everything you can imagine and some may break your heart but giving them money will only make the problem worse...
There is a solution...Hope Enterprises on Churchill St.
You can buy meal tokens here to hand out to the local kids so they don't waste the money on something they don't need. Like the LP books says..they feed alot of hungry faces each day and this is the best way to go if you feel the need to help out.
This is another main avenue here, where you can visit the National Museum (the Lucy skeleton, Haile Selassie throne...), Holy Trinity Cathedral, The Lion Cage etc.
It goes from Arat Kilo square (Main stop for many minibuses) to the nearby Entoto Hills.
This is the main avenue in Addis, joining the Railway Station and Piazza area. Here are the Post Office, Commercial Bank main branch, National Theatre, Telecommunications office, Lufthansa, etc.
It is a reference point and many minibuses go along this way.
Favorite thing: There are actually quite a few breweries in Ethiopia. Harar might be the most popular, with Bedele running behind it (St. Georges was my least favorite). When I first tried Harar in the United States I was blown away as it had a sweet edge to it that almost mimicked a Belgian style beer! Alas though, I have no idea what has happened but, it is not like that anymore (either in the U.S. or in Ethiopia itself) and basically is just beer now.
Favorite thing: If you are not too keen on passing out money to street kids - and believe me you will have plenty of opportunity to - there is something else you can do. Hope Enterprises sells books of 8 coupons that are each good for one meal at the organization. For 8 tickets, you will pay 4 birr, which is less than $0.50 U.S. My only question is how exactly does a 2 or 3 or 4 year old read this long letter on the back of the coupon. Either way I can vouch for the fact that they do feed a lot of kids there as I walked by one day and saw over 100 kids waiting around for something to eat.
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