Night is a great time to arrive in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. The city rests peacefully under starry African skies illuminated with colorful LED lighting that accentuates its skyscrapers and surrounding Entoto Mountain.
This is the aerial view; I get of Addis before landing in Bole International Airport shortly after nightfall. Addis Ababa, which means ‘new flower’ in Amharic, straddles between modernity and tradition.
From bearing the rich history of defeating Italians and becoming one of the two African countries that were never colonised, to hosting the ultra-modern African Union Headquarters, the city’s ingenuous charm lies in its ability to respect ancient traditions while also embracing modernity. The city pulsates with life as we silently snake through its heart to Mosaic Hotel in Bole area, just five kilometres from the airport.
Apart from busy crossings and thriving nightlife, perhaps the best attraction for the night in the sprawling metropolis is the countless vintage cars that dominate the roads. This is attributable to double taxation imposed by the government on cars to discourage importation of new cars and to promote local motor assemblies. Therefore, most cars are either old, but in good condition, or locally made.
The following day starts with a cup of freshly brewed world famous Arabica coffee in the comfy confines of a west facing room on the second floor. Early morning breeze and sunrays seep through the windows to choreograph the start of a new and exciting day in Addis.
A mere distance from Bole area, where most of the hotels in Addis Ababa are located, the city gives a glimpse of its ancient roots amidst the fast advancing modernity. An imposing statue of Abune Petros stands in the central business district just west of Addis Ababa’s impressive City Hall.
Petros, an Ethiopian Orthodox Bishop, was executed by Italians for his fight against their rule in Ethiopia near the spot where the statue is erected. Emperor Haile Selassie erected the statue in 1946 upon rising to the throne as a way of honouring the fallen patriot. Perched on a hill along Churchhill Road, the City Hall is an elegant work of architecture built in the 1960s during the era of Emperor Haile Selassie.
Further along the streets, we come across Club de L’union, an antique bar also known as Seytan Bet or ‘work of the devil’. The bar, built by the Italians in 1920s, once served as the first cinema in Ethiopia. It further reflects the culture of preserving old treasures.
A glimpse of the modern Sheraton Hotel within the city, upcoming Chinese restaurants and domineering concrete of new buildings gives an impression of the continuous evolution of Addis. An evening visit to the monumental African Union Headquarters within the political capital of Africa wraps up the day.
As the night creeps in giving way to the attractive city lighting, we venture into a cultural centre within Bole popular with tourists, where the rich Ethiopian culture is displayed. Traditional dancers decked out in large round hats, vests, colorful blouses and shimmery scarfs whirl the night away with captivating tunes as guests sample injera and other Ethiopian cuisines and buy souvenirs from surrounding gift shops.