I had no real clear plan of what to do in Addis Ababa. My first night was on a bed made of concrete, much like typical Chinese beds. Yes, Chinese businesses have firmly set up shop throughout the city and also rebuilt the Addis Ababa to Djibouti train line. Claire arrived on the redeye from Toronto and to help the driver find her, I went for a drive back to the airport, to be part of the hustle and bustle with the taxi drivers and hotel shuttles. It was worse than the night before, but thankfully my presence and ability to find Claire meant the process was smooth and we were enjoying a western-inspired Ethiopian breakfast in no time. A mix of spicy injera and omelettes went down well with some delicious coffee.
We decided to go to the National museum only to be turned away when we arrived, due to something involving the Ethiopian PM and his Nobel peace prize going into the museum. There were a lot of police, military and marching bands gathering for his arrival, so on a whim, we decided to direct the taxi driver to Tomoca Coffee.
Tomoca coffee is an Addis Ababa institution and walking through the door, you instantly knew these guys were the real deal. The aroma of coffee permeated everywhere, the coffee machines had mostly Ethiopian men huddled around waiting for their coffee. It felt hectic and my first instinct was to keep an eye on my belongings, while we tried to work out how to order a coffee.
After a while, we realised it was very much like an Italian coffee bar. Order the coffee at the register and collect tokens. Find your way through the guys and place your tokens next in the line. Fortunately one of the men helped me to put the tokens down. The system was all the tokens for one order were stacked, then the next person put their tokens down and so on, each colour representing a coffee. Forget your coffees though with 7 different adjectives. The choices here were mostly limited to a short black or locally know as just coffee, macchiato or a cafe au lait. We stood and finished our coffee while watching the organised chaos.
We decided to walk to a museum next but this is where the good turned sour. Beggars asking for money are a common thing when visiting many countries. Generally a no or ignoring them works. But here in Addis Ababa on many occasions, I was grabbed by a boy and had to forcibly shake his hands off my arm. It wasn’t a pleasant experience and the first time it happened I was somewhat shocked. However, my faith in the locals was restored when some adults told off some kids for getting a bit too hands-on with me. The hotel staff also suggested they may have been trying to pickpocket me, fortunately, my pants had zip-up pockets!
The “Red Terror” Martyrs’ Memorial Museum was at least worth the less than enjoyable walk. I wasn’t really aware of this part of Ethiopian history. The last Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie, was ousted in a coup mostly due to a famine in the early 1970s by the military. He’d been in power since 1930, but towards the end of his reign his decisions were not as well received and thus the military took over in an interim government. This interim government spent most of its time killing those who were a threat, like scientists and great thinkers, politicians who opposed them and then those who formed a resistance. It wasn’t until 1990 the military government were ousted from power. It is scary to me that governments still try and silence the scientists and experts because it doesn’t suit their political agenda.
So that was our first day in Addis Ababa, a city I’m struggling to like, but one I feel I need to get to know. Oh one last fun fact, the arabica coffee bean is actually the Ethiopean coffee bean that grew naturally in Ethiopia. So the Arabica bean is more appropriately the Ethiopica bean.