The Africans Bookshop looks a bit rundown but is an old favourite with backpackers. They sell second hand books and their selection depends a lot on what people have brought in. They are open Monday-Saturday 9am-1pm & 2:30-7pm.
Located just north of the Piazza and across the street from the British Council
In many places in Africa this is known as ‘Chewy Stick’ and it works as good as a toothbrush – with toothpaste! Locally known as ‘Mafakia’ it has been proven to have antimicrobial qualities. You chew on this very hard piece of wood and scrape your teeth with the top edge. I used it and found it helpful. Expect to pay about 1 Birr (11 US Cents). The sellers are found in the Merkato, Piazza, Meskel Square and Bole Road. Give it a try!
The Mega Book Shop is an interesting mixture of mostly English Books. Their range of books varies from cheap romance novels to Engineering and medical textbooks. I think they even have some guidebooks. The staff are friendly and helpful and they have plenty of reading books, both fiction and non-fiction.
They have expanded over the last year and have at least 3 other locations that I have seen now. Obviously I can only list one address below. They actually have 2 locations in the Piazza area alone. They can also order books and textbooks for you. Just pop in and see them.
Inside Bole International Terminal is a series of privately owned shops selling ‘Duty Free’ goods. Alcohol, cigarettes, traditional & modern clothes, luggage, souvenirs and books. It really is a good collection. Some of the prices are shockingly low. I paid $16 for a litre of Scottish whiskey and $15 for an Adidas backpack at 2 different shops. I found the EXACT same items in 2 other shops for exactly DOUBLE the price. So shop around and compare. There are some real bargains. And the only lady selling fridge magnets at $7? I have told her on 3 separate occasions she will never sell them and she is overpriced.
This gift shop has the cheapest and largest collection of postcards in Addis Ababa that you can access easily. In fact their prices are a bit surprising given that it is actually a government owned shop. This explains 3 things: their location next to the Tourist Information Office, their weird name and the fact they will NOT haggle over prices. Anywhere else in Addis will either have a smaller range of post cards at stupid prices (Piazza shops and upscale tourist hotels). The only other place to get better cards, for at least a stupid $1 a piece, in the Duty Free at the airport. That’s right. You can get better looking cards when you leave. No, you cannot get stamps or post them inside the airport.
Go here. Easy to find, cheap and easy. The lady who managed it is also nice. Other souvenirs are limited, but the have some great posters, art works and books.
Sally Beauty Supply is an international chain that has small, but well stocked stores. They sell a range of North American and European brands of cosmetics, shampoos, toothpaste and other beauty items. They also have hard to find items like good tweezers, hair brushes and dental floss. Expect high prices as there is a 100% import tax on everything sold, but cheaper and with a better range than any other shop in Ethiopia.
I you like to buy some clothes, go to a market in Shero Meda, near the US embassy. It is a cheap and good shopping area.
Traditional Ethiopian clothes for women can be easily be used for an American or European woman. The dresses are really nice.
If you are in Addis , you better go for ‘made in Ethiopia products’. Most of the modern shopping centres such as Friendship and Dimple sell Chinese and Thai stuff. If you are looking for Ethiopian leather, ask the taxi driver to take you to Stadium area. I am sure you wont regret it.
What to buy: Leather and Silver
What to pay: Between 800-900$
What to buy:
Shopping in Addis is a great but taxing experience. If you are a type who does not like to haggle then you are in trouble. About 99% of the cases, the price of items/goods is not displayed anywhere, so you have to ask for it. Invariably, if you are a 'Ferengie', then they will tell you an inflated price. Never, ever accept the first thing the quote you. The rule of thumb is, start haggling at about 50% of the quoted price and expect to pay about 75% of what they tell you initially.
For jewelry Piazza area is absolutely perfect. Ethiopians love their gold but everything is available. Most shops now take Visa card as well - with about 6% commission. By European standards, you will find cheap jewelries, especially silver. Ethiopian silver is about 10Bir per gram (1USD) so go ahead and indulge. Gold is much more expensive.
If you want souvenirs, go to Merkato. Lots of shops sell everything you need there. However, you must go with a guide otherwise, you will be lost.
I found that the area of Algeria Street, which is all the way up by the American Embassy, had the widest selection of locally made fabrics. For just under $12 US, I got a huge stack of cotton fabric which I will definitely be able to make something nice out of. There are also a lot of beautifully embroidered items besides the plain fabrics. Just one thing though, a lot of the fabric smells like smoke for some reason, so no doubt you will want to dry clean it if you decide to purchase some.
What to pay: around $10 to $20
What to buy:
I have bought many gabbies over the years and frequently wrap myself in one whilst watching television during the winter here in England.
They are massive cotton sheets, actually four long sheets sewn together ( the loom is the width of a person's body ). Some times they have a decorative border at each end. They get softer the more they are washed and the little black bits, in them when new, the seeds of the cotton plant, eventually wash out.
There are many ways of wearing them, you need to ask someone in the shop to show you.
Both men and women wear them.
There are some beautiful green ones that I'm told are woven only up country. I didn't manage to find one.
The price varies considerably from £8.00 - £20.00
I found the selection of Ethiopian crosses at the Addis Ababa Museum gift shop to be the best selection for "antique looking" items. They ranged from 200 to 300 for the most part and are "silver plated"...or so I was told.
What to buy: art, ethiopian crosses
What to pay: $20+
This is a small shop set up like most US/European coffee houses. It is usually full of people.
I don't drink the stuff myself but I did buy some 1/2 and 1/4 kilo bags as gifts.
They do sell sweets in here and tea so all is not lost but while I don't like drinking the stuff I do like the smell. You will find locals and expats in here
What to buy: Coffee...some say the best in the world????
What to pay: It's cheap....
Piazza in Addis Ababa is an urban place of the city. There are many street stalls and small business along the narrow sidestreets and walking streets.
What to buy: Second hand clothes for women, bags, shoes, etc.
Fresh Fruits and vegetables can be bought on the streets in Addis Ababa. Some shops have delicious assortments, like this shop in Bole road.
What to buy: Fruits and vegetables
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