In 2006 I (Karen) spent a year living in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was one of the best and most challenging years of my life, and I had talked ever since about Ethiopia so Reuben was keen to come and explore it. We arrived at Bole airport at the unfortunate time of 3am (thanks, Egypt Air) and we had arranged for our hotel to pick us up at 3:30am – we were told that they would meet us with a sign with our names on it. By 4:30 we were starting to think that relaxed time was just a little too relaxed and managed to call the hotel using Skype and the free wifi at the airport – only to find that our driver was waiting for us outside, not inside the airport. So, we headed off outside and down the small hill (against the advice of the police guard, who told us that our driver would come inside) and finally found our man waiting outside – he had not been allowed in by airport officials! We finally left the airport at 5am – welcome to Addis Ababa!
Our first couple of days were spent rediscovering Addis. We drank amazing macchiatos (usually for between 30-70 NZ cents), feasted on injera and wat, the traditional Ethiopian food (as pictured above), visited Merkato (the local market), discovered which of my favourite restaurants no longer existed, and caught up with some of the friends I had had when I lived there. We spent a day visiting some of my friends in their homes and drinking a lot of yummy coffee cooked traditionally (beans that are roasted and ground by hand right in front of you…mmm) and I caught up with some of my former colleagues and other friends. This was one of the highlights of our trip – reconnecting with people who had been important to me.
Addis has had a lot of changes – there were parts that I honestly didn’t recognise due to the number of tall buildings that have gone up. Children and beggars asking for money seem to have decreased, but traffic has increased exponentially! Waiting for a mini bus seemed to take much longer than it used to (that was confirmed by some of my friends). Instead of only dial up internet being available, we can now get 3G internet on our smartphone (and buying a simcard is easy). Some things are still the same – the sweet and sour pork at China Bar tastes just the same, the shiro wat at Postebait was exactly how I remembered it – but prices have gone up a lot too. While this was okay for us as the NZ dollar is now worth about 15 birr rather than the 7-8 it was worth in 2006, for people living in Ethiopia and earning birr this has made life a lot more expensive. After four days in Addis we flew to the North of Ethiopia to begin our historic tour of Ethiopia. (Stay tuned for more to come on Addis!)