Exploring Addis Ababa Part 2

Well.  We have enjoyed our rooms and lovely breakfast served with tea each morning.  The only thing lacking is a more comfortable bed.  Over the last 15 years we have traveled to the US about every 2 years for about 3 months.  While there, we move around quite a bit, usually not staying in one place for more than 2 nights, and often just 1.  It used to be no big deal — the sleeping in a different bed on a different pillow every other night thing.  It’s become more of a big deal now.  Wonder why that could be…?  ANYWAY – the fact is that these days it takes more than 1 night to get used to a new bed.  In other words, we don’t really get used to any beds when we travel.  Our bed at ‘Z’ was the only downside to its many ‘ups’.  First of all, it was a double.  We don’t both fit very well into a double.  It’s doable, but difficult.  Then this particular bed sort of sloped on both sides, making it seem even smaller.  Add to that it was quite hard.  Quite.  On the 3rd night, Neal gave me the bed and he moved to the couch in Tobi’s room.  He slept much better which was great given his sacrifice.  I however was awake most of the night – but I don’t think it was because of the bed.  More on that later in this post…

We had planned our day the night before.  Visit some cathedrals, go to  Entoto Hills (overlooks the city), and end at Little Italy.  In the evening Neal’s high school friend, Steve Olson,  invited us to come for dinner.  We were ready to start our day!

Since it was going to be a pretty full day, a taxi was in order.  Todd arranged one for us and taximan was on time.


First stop was St. George’s Cathedral.  You can see it in the distance.


The cathedral was built in 1896 by Italian prisoners of war.


We were dropped off at the bottom of the hill and we walked up.  There were people everywhere.  Not crowds of people, but just people everywhere.  We assumed the cathedral was catholic, but we were wrong.  It’s Orthodox – the main religion in Ethiopia.  There was a very reverent feel as we walked around outside. People of all classes were there from beggars to business men in 3-piece suits.  They would walk up to any part of the cathedral and kiss it and bow down to it.  It was fascinating.


While we wandered around a man approached us (we were a little conspicuous) and asked if we’d like to see inside.  It wasn’t a mass time, so all the doors were locked.  We of course said we would, and hoped that he had the authority to take us inside.  He explained that we should first purchase tickets for the museum, and the inside tour would be included in that.  There was a small museum on the cathedral’s grounds.  We went and purchased our tickets and our guide, who was now dressed in a white robe, returned to take us into the building.  He explained that we should first remove our shoes and meet him at the door.  He had to go around to open and enter.  In the next picture Tobi is taking off his shoes while worshipers kiss the door.  The door you see is the door we went in.  Fortunately we were allowed to keep our shoes inside.  It felt awkward though asking the kissing people to move so we could go inside their cathedral.


Once inside, our mild-mannered guide was suddenly in character.  Here, he is demonstrating ‘slow’ worship.


Next he modeled ‘fast worship’ where he danced around, sang (chanted) while he played the drum.  He even asked us to clap.


The cathedral is an octagon so we walked the perimeter of it while he gave us the history.  It was quite interesting and he was well versed.  Sadly, I can’t remember a whole lot of what he told us.  I should have taken notes.  In writing this post I did search a few things, but I’ve decided if anyone is interested they can search for themselves.  I am so behind in my writing so I’m going to be as quick as I can.  That means resisting the urge to research.

The center – where only the priests are allowed to go – was the holy of holies, modeled after the Holy of Holies in the jewish temple which was home of the Ark of the Covenant.  (The Ethiopians claim to have the Ark of the Covenant, but no one is allowed to see it).   During mass, the masses of people are allowed inside – but only around the perimeter.  We felt fortunate to be getting our own personal tour.

What I do remember is something I’d not heard before.  In the Book of Kings, the Bible tells us that the Queen of Sheba (from Ethiopia) heard of King Solomon’s wealth and had to come and see it for herself.  She was awed by it and blessed Solomon’s God.  King Solomon then gave her everything she desired and asked for.  I knew that part.  What I had never heard was the ‘rest of the story’ according to Ethiopian Legend.  Apparently he seduced her and after she returned home she gave birth to Menelik I who became Ethiopia’s 1st Emperor.  So the story goes.  I have no idea if it’s true because the Bible isn’t clear on that, but knowing what we know about Solomon, it wouldn’t surprise me…

The artwork inside was pretty impressive.  Our guide also wore the photographer hat for us.


I felt awkward taking pictures outside, but I was fascinated by the variety of people that were there.


We finished inside and our guide escorted us over to the museum where it seemed again we would be getting a private tour.

This guy greeted us in front of the museum.  I can’t remember his name.  But I know he was significant.


It was a maze as we walked through, and it displayed a throne, stained glass art and items and clothing of the Emperors of Ethiopia.  Unfortunately we  weren’t allowed to take pictures inside.

At the top of the museum was a working bell.  Eleven tons of brass.  It was impressive and we were invited to climb to the top.  Which we did.


It wasn’t an easy climb.  Mostly because it was narrow and had no guard rails.  A bit intimidating.


This is one serious bell and I was glad it didn’t bong while we were up there!


This is just a replica.


Needing to find some ‘facilities’ before our next event, we decided to ask our multi-talented guide.  He said that yes they had what we were looking for but he wasn’t sure if they were up to our standards.  I felt like saying, “You jest.  Do you have any idea where I live – and what type of ‘toilets’ I’ve experienced?”  But I held my tongue and assured him that whatever they had would be just fine.  And they really were.  Real toilets with water in them.  When we were done, he even turned the water on so we could wash our hands.

Next up was to find a taxi and negotiate a price to Entoto Hills.  All we knew was that this place was high and overlooked the city and that there was another cathedral up there.  I remember when we were talking with different taxi drivers I overheard one comment that he wasn’t going to ruin his taxi going up there.  I didn’t know what he meant until we were on the way.  We did find a taximan that agreed to take us and wait for us while we looked around, and then bring us back.

The road was steep.  And rough.  Our taximan didn’t really speak English.  He just kept saying ‘yes’ to everything we said.


Some scenery IMG_1736along the way.  Not sure what it is, but it says, “Jesus is Lord.”

It was no surprise to us when the taxi overheated.  Now I understood the other taxi drivers comment about ruining his car.   This was a seriously rough road and it was all uphill.  It was clear though, that this wasn’t a first occurrence.  He was equipped with a bottle of water and the skill to continue to reuse the same water to cool his engine down.  It only delayed us about 15 minutes.


We finally reached the top.  This is Addis Ababa but it’s hard to see because of the smog.  Sad, I know.  IMG_1747

HIMG_1742ere’s the cathedral that was at the top.  Love the colors!

Again, we were approached by a man who inquired if we wanted a tour.  This was becoming familiar…  We weren’t invited inside the cathedral, but we were given a tour of Emperor Menelik’s ‘Palace’.  I don’t know if he was Solomon’s son, but I do know that this was some ancient history!


This is inside his house.


This is what I call the ‘pantry’, where the fresh meat was hung.


There were priests and nuns currently living here.  But the nuns have to beg to live.  Didn’t sound right to me….


There were also beggars around the cathedral.


And people worshiping.


A statue or picture of Mary is behind the curtain.


Lots of people sitting around.


There was another museum here as well.  No pics allowed.  It was small and mostly contained clothing of Emperors and their wives.  Though fancy and all, made me thankful that I’m living in this century.

We finished with this tour.


And were ready to make our way down the mountain to find some food!  This was the entrance/exit.


For some reason our taximan took us a way that seemed much easier — even though it involved incline/decline, it didn’t involve a rocky dirt road.  Maybe he just wanted to show us what his little taxi could do.

On our way down we saw something that to me was heartbreaking.  I know it’s part of the culture there, but it still made me sad.  Which is interesting since I live in a nation that has again recently been determined to be the poorest nation on earth (Niger).  So I see heartbreaking things there every day.  However I realize that because I see them so much I can get immuned to them to a degree.  That ‘commonness’ doesn’t make them any less heartbreaking.  Just normal.  Sadly.  It was kind of a wake-up call or reminder.

So on our way down the mountain we passed many women loaded down with what I learned to be loads of eucalyptus wood on their shoulders.  They were carrying these loads on their shoulders all the way down the mountain.  I can only imagine how heavy they were.


I could only get pictures from behind because they were going down the mountain, the same direction as us.  But they weren’t young people, that I can tell you.


Niger isn’t the only place that has lots of donkeys.  What I wonder though is why these old woman have to carry those loads of wood when there are donkeys that can do it.


Lots of donkeys.


I wish pictures could capture the full beauty.


We made it down the mountain and asked our taximan to take us to the ‘Italian District’ for lunch.  He dropped us off here.


Can’t get enough Italian (pizza), but we also wanted to have some real Ethiopian food as well.  Probably the most well known Ethiopian food (my opinion) is injera – a sponge like bread.  It’s made with teff flour (no idea what that is) and has to have a starter that takes 5 days to make.  But once you have that, apparently it’s a cinch.  And I’m pretty sure the locals eat it every day.  From what I can tell, injera is really an edible utensil of sorts – to carry whatever other food you are eating.  So we ordered our faithful pizza, some italian pasta and a traditional ethiopian meal and shared.  You can see the injera rolled up on Neal’s plate.  That’s how it’s served – in rolls.


It was all good, but wouldn’t compare to the meal we had that night.

We made our way ‘home’ for a brief rest before venturing out to another part of the city to meet Steve at his workplace.  The traffic wasn’t as bed as anticipated so our taxi dropped us off earlier than anticipated.  That gave us some time to people watch.  Well, maybe people were watching us.  This is where Tobi would have been pick-pocketed if he would have anything in his pockets to pick.  (Say that 3 times, fast).  A sneaky looking older boy got very close to us when we were getting out of the taxi.  I turned around and saw him by Tobi trying to be sneaky and man did I react – I started chasing him away.  He only went a short distance and turned him around.  I just stared him down.  I was surprised by my response. Anyway….

Steve arrived.  He was in Neal’s high school class in Jos, Nigeria and has done many exiting things and lived in different places.  It was fun to hear his stories.  Seven years ago (I think), he married his beautiful ethiopian wife who’s name was as beautiful as her but hard to pronounce.  The English version is Jerusalem.  Though it’s something they normally do on Sundays, they planned a coffee ceremony for us.  What an honor!  It starts with roasting fresh beans over a fire.  Did you know fresh coffee beans are green?  My, being the coffee connoisseur that I’m not, didn’t know that.


Here everything is set up for the traditional coffee ceremony.


The beans are getting darker.


They’re done.  Next step is to grind them.  And that won’t be done by your run of the mill electric coffee bean grinder…


They are pounded by hand….


With mortar and pestle.




Now that’s fresh-roasted coffee!


In the meantime, we looked at wedding photos while Jerusalem worked on dinner.  She didn’t want me to help – said her kitchen was too small for more people.  I think she was just being gracious.  They have 4 children ages 6 and down. All sweet and social.  Tobi drew pictures together with the 3 older ones.


He enjoyed the kids and they enjoyed him.


Meanwhile, our coffee is being served.


You may remember in a previous post that I described in a fair amount of detail my dislike for coffee and my love of tea.  So here I am, being honored at a real Ethiopian coffee ceremony and I have no intention of not drinking what’s offered to me.  However, neither do I have an expectation of enjoying it.  And this is some SERIOUS coffee.  It’s not the picture that’s making it look that dark.  It is that dark.


Hey Mikey!  She likes it!  And I’m not kidding.  I am more shocked than anyone. I don’t know if it was the ceremonial part of it or what, but I amazed myself.  I wanted more!


Neal liked it too.  Despite the momentary look of concern on his face.


That was just the first round.  I suspect it has an official name.  But the same grounds are used again, and maybe again.  All I know is that I had 3 cups of this black liquid.  Infused with sugar of course.

With me still amazed at my new love, dinner was served.  This too was the real thing.  Injera.  Here Steve is passing it to Neal.  You roll it out on your plate and add whatever else is being served with it.  Notice the lack of utensils.


In this case that was lentils, beets, green beans with tuna, spinach and eggs.   You pull off a piece of injera and fill it with what you want to eat and pop the whole thing in your mouth.


The kiddos had their own table.  Tobi loved this stuff!


What a wonderful time we had with a wonderful family.

The Chef Extrordinaire


By the way, this family runs a tourism business – setting up all kinds of tours in Ethiopia (and believe me, there’s a lot to see – all over the country)  If you’re in need of his services, contact: EthioGuzo Tour and Travel plc.


What a special ending to a wonderful day.  Steve graciously drove us back to Z where we were faced with packing our suitcases for the next part of our journey.   The taxi would be picking us up at 6:30am to get us to the airport.   One of my very least favorite things to do is pack.  Funny, I know, since I do it so much.  You think I’d be better at it.  But I’m not.

Oh, and remember how I mentioned I didn’t think the bed was the reason I didn’t sleep all night?  My last ‘shot’ of coffee was somewhere around 7 or 8pm.  And that coffee was introduced to a system not at all used to it’s effects.  So sleep?  Wasn’t gonna happen.

Next up – Lusaka,  Zambia!

2 thoughts on “Exploring Addis Ababa Part 2

  1. Lenoir Randle

    Loved this entry…coffee… Ahhhh. David and Gayle brought us a 2lb. Bag of coffee beans from Ethiopia, so we have it almost every morning. I agree…when I first saw how dark it was, I didn’t think I would like it. But I did!!! I’m praising God that it doesn’t affect me like it did you!!!!! Loved the pics and all the descriptions! How fun to meet up with your school friend and meet his family. Can’t wait for the next blog!
    Love y’all,
    Joe and Lenoir

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