Addis Ababa, which means ‘new flower’ in the local dialect, is the lively capital of Ethiopia. This rugged landlocked nation lies in the Horn of Africa and is one of the planet’s oldest settlements. The local population of 6.4 million affectionately refer to their relatively new city as ‘Addis,’ which was established by Emperor Menelik II in the late 19th century.
While displaying a heady mix of old and new – from traditional mud houses and dirt roads, to modern high-rises, contemporary hotels, restaurants and shops – the city is a doorway to an alluring and mystical world.
It presents a taste of almost everything that Ethiopia is famous for: history, culture, religious empathy and of course, coffee.
HOLY SHRINES Ethiopians are religious, and a large number of churches and mosques in the city bear testimony to this. Amongst several Christian shrines, the most visited is the Holy Trinity Cathedral, which was built in the 20th century. Its external facade is dominated by a large copper dome, lanky pinnacles and several statues while the interior displays decorated glass windows, ornate ceilings and exquisite artworks.
Another venue of significance is the colourful St. Mary’s Church, which is in the city’s founding parish. It’s perched outside the city limits on the top of Mount Entoto at 3,200 metres above sea level. The journey up there is scenic and the summit offers a spectacular view of the Addis cityscape. Next to the shrine lies a former royal palace built in typical Ethiopian style using mud.
NATIONAL MUSEUM This is a ‘must visit’ site where the collections range from extensive Ethiopian art and historical items to millennia old archaeological finds. The star attraction here is the partial skeleton of a 3.2 million-year-old woman discovered by archaeologists in 1974. They named her ‘Lucy’ and she is famous as the world’s earliest human.
ETHIOPIAN TIME Travelling in Ethiopia generates the ecstasy of time travel as the nation’s traditional calendar lags seven years behind the Gregorian version that’s followed worldwide because of the ancient belief that Jesus was born in 7 BC. The new year starts on 12 September since, according to Biblical legend, this was when heaven and Earth were created, and the sun and moon were given equal time before setting.
COFFEE MAKING Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee. The age-old ceremony associated with its making, particularly on special occasions, is worth experiencing.