Saturday, January 26, 2013

Trip Report: Addis Ababa

On our court trip we spent 5 days in Addis before leaving the capital to explore other parts of the country.  Then we came back to Addis for another 2 days.  We really enjoyed our time in Addis and outside of the city.  The people in Ethiopia are very friendly and enjoy talking to foreigners - especially the children.  We learned a small amount of Amharic (about 50 words and phrases) before going on the trip so we were able to exchange pleasantries and ask where the bathroom is, etc.  People would really get excited when we would speak a bit of Amharic with them.  Then they would say "You know Amarigna?" and we would have to answer "tinish" (just a little), so they didn't assume we were fluent and say a lot of things we couldn't understand.  During our time in Addis we were able to visit the main sites: Holy Trinity Church, Lion Zoo, Addis Ababa University and Ethnological Museum, National Museum, and Entoto Mountain, including Menelik's Palace and St. Mary's church.

The Ethnological Museum was really neat and is located in the former palace of Emperor Haile Selassie on what is now the campus of Addis Ababa University.  The focus of the museum is the diversity of the tribes found in Ethiopia.  It also includes the bedroom and bathroom of the emperor and some very nice religious art on the top floor.

The National Museum includes ancient cultural artifacts and relics from the old empire on the main floor, art work on the upper floor and the archaeological finds on the basement level.  This is where Lucy, Ardi and Selam are on display.  They are the oldest known hominids and it is really amazing to get to see their castings in the country where they were discovered.

The Lion Zoo is small and needs a facelift, but we were fortunate to see the lions eating their big slabs of raw meat for lunch and walking around their pens.  These lions are the black-maned Abysinnian lions that have been kept for centuries by the kings of Ethiopia.  The zoo also has a couple of gelada baboons, vervet monkeys, duikers, antelope, turtles and birds.  Christie loved the tiny duikers!

The structure of the Holy Trinity Church is much like you would see in Europe, but with pieces of Ethiopian history mixed into the paintings and other decorations.  It is large and towering with stained glass windows and pews set up facing the alter.  This is not the normal shape or set up of the Ethiopian Orthodox Churches.

We drove up the side of Entoto Mountain, which is covered in Eucalyptus trees.  At the top of Entoto is St. Mary's church, which is the traditional octagonal shape, but brightly painted in blue, yellow, green and red.  There is a great view out over the city, but through a camera lens you can barely see the horizon for the smog.  There is a small museum next to the church where a tour guide will explain the interesting items from the beginning of Addis.  The guide will then walk you through the buildings around the church, including Menelik's Palace and the first church of Addis Ababa, built in 1877.

 We visited other places suggested by Gladney: Yod Abyssinia Cultural Restaurant, Sabahar Silk Factory, Alert Hospital, Kechene Girls Home, Kolfe Boys Home, and Kebebe Tsehai orphanage.
The Silk Factory was a lot of fun, because you could see the process from start (silk worms) to finish (beautiful scarves).  The weavers were really friendly and were obviously proud of the work they were doing.

The Hilawe Children's Home is the new facility that Gladney has partnered with.  We went there to visit two children that have been matched to Gladney families.  We were really impressed with the building and the care the children were receiving.  The place was clean and the staff very friendly.  Families that have children at Hilawe should be comforted knowing that their kiddos are in good care until they get to come home to their forever families.

We also managed to visit lots of different eateries: Antica, Island Breeze, Avanti, East Dragon Chinese, Kaldis, Top View, Tabla Indian restaurant, Arcoboleno, and Lucy's.  I think our favorite meals in Addis were the pizza at Island Breeze, the delicious pasta dishes at Avanti, and our milkshakes at Kaldis.  We visited each of these places more than once.  We got to share a couple of meals with other traveling Gladney families, Kim and Jeff, and Jean and Robert.  We also got to have a meal with our friend Nahom who is Ethiopian, but hadn't been back to Ethiopia in 3.5 years until this Christmas.

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