First Tastes – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Modern buildings in Addis Ababa.

Modern buildings in Addis Ababa.

It’s been simply ages since I wrote about my favourite African country, Ethiopia. Today in ‘first tastes’ I will refer back to 2009 when I flew into the capital to begin an amazing three weeks in Ethiopia. For those flying into Ethiopia, odds are you will be flying into the capital, you’ll be landing at 2,355 metres. This means you won’t be touching down in a sweaty, humid city, but a cooler, dryer one. For me this made me at ease quickly.

My previous African introduction had been Accra, one of the most humid and sticky cities I have ever visited. So this was nothing like that at all. The airport was reasonably well laid out as well, easy customs check (I already had my visa) and because Ethiopian is one of the bigger airlines in African, their hub is a decent size to match their volume.

Leafy suburb.

Leafy suburb.

The first thing I noticed after the cool air was that Addis is a pretty hilly sort of place. I shared a taxi van into town through the suburbs and ended up at my hotel, the Ras Hotel which itself has a fair bit of history behind it. It’s a bit of a relic, but it certainly has its charm. The room was cheap, the bed was too soft and I went to turn on the lamp and got a small electrocution, but you know, it was $20 or less so who can complain?

Inside the Ras.

Inside the Ras.

The Ras Hotel Exterior.

The Ras Hotel Exterior.

The carpets were a deep red, and there seemed to be an awful lot of dust about the place. I got the impression that it was rather popular in the 70s, although the building was more art deco I think with curves and semi-circles on the outside. The busy train station was not that far away, there weren’t a lot of restaurants around but the Ras had a pretty decent restaurant with a huge menu from Western to Ethiopian food. The quality was okay as well, although all things are relative and if you expect a French dish that’s similar to the quality of France, well you’re going to struggle to find it in Africa, even in the French-speaking countries. If you want a basic steak with some chips, well, you’ll be okay in Addis at the Ras.

Injera under several different Ethiopian foods.

Injera under several different Ethiopian foods.

My friend Graham tries some Injera with goat stew.

My friend Graham tries some Injera with goat stew.

Speaking of first tastes, Ethiopian food is simply one of the most unique cuisines of the world. A very sour bread is used to eat all sorts of stews, the bread being called injera. The stews are wise and varied, some with vegetables, some with meat such as goat. They CAN be very very spicy, however I managed to avoid the really spicy stuff and actually didn’t mind the food in Ethiopia at all. Restaurants will often do a dish with injera and a few dish stews and sauces for you to try if you want to get a bit of a summary of the food there.

Outside the Ras Hotel, my mate Graham plans.

Outside the Ras Hotel, my mate Graham plans.

I was joined by two friends within 24 ish hours. We had a splendid time. The museum was really interesting, again very dusty and something from an early Bond film in some ways. We found a decent place for pizza, walked around a bit and rather enjoyed ourselves. There are some interesting and definitely communist monuments to be seen in Addis, friendly people to be met and I don’t recall any real hassle at all.

Hijinks in the museum.

Hi-jinks in the museum.

Ras was our home though, we made our detailed plans for the rest of the country outside on the outdoor tables and whiled away the evenings. The service was okay, the machine for credit cards was not (got charged four times I think it was because it hadn’t received a confirmation) and in general Addis internet speed was dire. But it was a fairly chillaxed beginning to my time in Ethiopia and that’s exactly what I had wanted.

Monuments aplenty in Addis.

Monuments aplenty in Addis.

Addis is the perfect start to Ethiopia. Have you been? It’s really an amazing place! Until Next Time – May the Journey Never End!

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