Addis Ababa, Ethiopia © Vob08
Sometimes spelt Addis Abeba, Addis Ababa is a diverse
and riotous capital city of well over three million people. Home to
roughly 80 different nationalities, it has a multitude of distinct
religious and linguistic groups.
Nestled at the foot of Mount Entoto, it was founded
in the late 1800s by Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II and was later
occupied by the Italians during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War.
Once the Italians had been ejected, Emperor Haile Selassie
immediately set about rebuilding the capital and formed the
Organisation of African Unity, replaced by today's African Union,
which still has its headquarters in this proud African city.
Addis Ababa is home to the world-renowned early
hominid, Lucy, whose skeleton is housed in the Ethiopian National
Museum. The city also boasts several interesting mosques and
cathedrals, Menelik's old Imperial Palace, which is the official
seat of the Ethiopian government, and one of the largest open air
markets in Africa which suits in the Merkato District.
The city is perfect for tourists to buy souvenirs of
their stay in Ethiopia. Top of the shopping list is likely to be a
pack of Ethiopian coffee beans, preferably vacuum-sealed to
preserve freshness. Decorative metalwork in the form of crosses and
painted religious artworks on carved wooden boards are popular too.
Filigreed silver and gold jewellery are other great buys. Addis
Ababa is the best place in Ethiopia to sample the local cuisine,
which is inventive and flavourful.
The destination is an interesting mix of poverty and
wealth, urbanisation and nature (the city is surrounded by forests
and cultivated land). It is a dynamic capital and not without
charm, but has its fair share of unemployment, petty crime, and
Most travellers merely pass through Addis as it is
the main transport hub of the country, but this transit shouldn't
be rushed. Rather, it is a good two-day tourist city, offering
travellers an authentic taste of urban Africa and enough
interesting attractions to make a decent sightseeing itinerary.