QUOTE: "It was a great privilege to visit what is perhaps the most unique country on this continent."
My boss recently instructed me to travel to Ethiopia. Hoping to be better prepared by conducting some 'pre-travel research', I emailed my well travelled friend Ohanga for some information. A couple of hours later I received this reply:
"Well, there's some good food at the Zebra Grill on Bole road in the capital Addis Ababa. They do have a sour tasting thing called 'injera' -which I doubt you will enjoy-and even more bizarre, is that uncooked meat is a delicacy there. Their best beer is St Georges and there are a couple of good nightclubs like Memo.
The price for most commodities will be quoted in dollars when they actually mean birr, their local currency. The local scenery is also worth a mention, Ethiopian women are drop dead gorgeous. English is scarcely spoken and when done, connectors are largely superfluous.
Please don't forget to carry some Axumit wine back as a gift for your friends; it's indigenous and very sweet. Stay away from Saba Tej, the local brew, we were told it is the medicine for real men.
Have a Safe trip."
My research done, I boarded a comfortable Ethiopian Airlines flight for Addis Ababa a few days later. It was quite an eventful trip and as soon as I got back, I eagerly wrote back to Ohanga letting him know how it went.
"Ethiopia was very much like you promised. When I arrived, I befriended a toothless cab driver called Chernet. His box-shaped "Lada" was a Russian-made excuse for a car that was so old it had surpassed the maximum kilometre reading. He was however quite resourceful so despite fearing that the car would fall apart at any moment, I decided to retain him for a drive around town that evening.
He arrived at about 10pm, white-less smile in tow. English, or more appropriately the lack thereof, is as you described – not a conjunction in sight. "We go music and woman" is what the man thought I wanted to hear.
We headed to Memos club which initially played American music but as midnight approached, the monotonous din of Amharic tunes began to rule without interruption. To the untrained ear, it sounds like one very long song that never ends so I did not last very long on the dance floor. Instead, I sat close by and watched the locals engage in a very entertaining dance.
You were right about the women. One would not be blamed for thinking that entrance for ladies was limited to those who prevail upon the barometer of beauty. I am yet to see a bigger collection of angelic faces outside of a carefully casted TV show. Sensing I was foreign, a number of 'working girls' approached me with steep demands. I finally discovered a place where dark skin is actually the colour of money. Man to man, all I can say is that this is most certainly a city with plenty of A Dis and A Dat for a Baba.
I decided to call it a night and headed back to the hotel.
The following morning, Chernet took me to Haile Selassie's tomb which is placed next to that of his (Selassies) wife at the back end of a historic chapel. The tomb is made of beautiful grey marble and is placed upon four creative platforms in the shape of a lion's paws. This is fitting as the former emperor wielded power similar to that of the king of the jungle and not only locally. Years after his death, he remains a kind of messianic figure in Rastafari culture, a relationship that persists as evidenced by a group of Jamaicans living in Shashemene, a village south of Addis Ababa.
My visit to the museum thereafter was quite informative as a trail up and down the massive hall documents the various empires of the only country in Africa never to be colonized. The archaeological remains of a famous figure in the timeline of human evolution christened 'Lucy' can also be found here.
At lunch, I indulged in some 'injera' with ribs and contrary to your initial assessment, I loved it! It was so good I demolished it in seconds. I also managed a sip of the near-blinding Saba Tej which made me instantly dizzy and induced a high two minute fever. I spent the afternoon in the Mekhato which I came to learn is a leading contender for the title of Africa's largest market. Gold items, Ethiopian clothing and wine were all sold at what seemed to me to be throwaway prices. I also purchased their unique calendar that has thirteen months and is written in their ancient alphabet.
My flight out of Ethiopia was mostly uneventful. I slept most of the way only to be woken up for landing by a sweet smelling goddess shouting in her broken English "Give it to me!" It's a pity she was only referring to the blanket.
All in all, it was a great privilege to visit what is perhaps the most unique country on this continent."