Dirty Details – Addis Ababa

Welcome to Addis Ababa!

You’re going to want to hire a tour company if you’re planning on going to Ethiopia. Tourism is relatively new, which might be surprising to some since it is so rich with religious and anthropological history, geographical wonders and the many indigenous tribes who still exist today.

However, Ethiopia’s transportation infrastructure is not set up for individual travel. The roads are not great but more so, the complex and beautiful topography means travelling between cities would take up most of your trip’s time.

It is for that reason that most travellers to Ethiopia fly from Addis Ababa to the northern cities of Bahir Dar, Axum, and Lalibela as well as between them. For southern tours Arba Minch is usually the starting point and it’s an hour’s flight from Addis.

Here are my suggestions of whom to hire:

YAMA TOURS I had the privilege of working with Tariku, the owner at Yama Tours. I cannot say enough of how great his team is. What sold me was how quickly Tariku responded to my needs and how quickly he put the tour together. His ground staff was professional and knowledgeable and I wouldn’t look any further for a ground handler in both Northern and Southern Ethiopia.

CONTACT Tariku at:  info@yamatoursethiopia.com / yamatours@gmail.com

WINGS ETHIO TRAVEL (DISCOVER ETHIOPIA BY PRIVATE PLANE) – Many quickly rule out discovering a country by private plane because it would seem too expensive. However, booking your tour with Wings Ethio Travel makes sense because Ethiopia is a country where so many domestic flights are needed. Don’t automatically rule it out, especially if you’re travelling with a small group, are short for time or want to travel in luxury. Captain Abebe, a trained pilot in Toronto, Canada has returned to his roots and caters to those who want to maximize their time on the ground and fly into destinations not as easily accessible by larger commercial planes. Wings Ethio Travel also books tours by land, hotel/flight reservations etc so I would recommend contacting them as well and finding out what works best for you.

CONTACT Capt. Abebe at: info@wingsethiotravel.com

TESFA TOURS (TREKKING TOURS IN NORTHERN ETHIOPIA) – If you’re looking for a different experience in the north you might consider community based trekking tours with Tesfa Tours. I didn’t get the opportunity to work with them but I’m told that their main focus is trekking with their guests through stunning scenery as guests of local farming communities who then host you in their specially built local style. Sounds like the real thing to me and my trek in the Simien Mountains was truly breathtaking!

 

My Addis Ababa Guide Booked by Yama Tours –

Mr. Abel Abebe (also does tours in Kenya and Tanzania): 254 727 083303 or iethiopiai@gmail.com

 

ADDIS ABABA ACCOMMODATIONS

Budget:

Lion’s Den Hotel – Approx. $65 USD/night

Weygoss Guest House – Approx. $45 USD/night

Luxury: 

Siyonat Hotel – I loved this hotel. Check out my review here.

Sheraton Addis Ababa – This is truly the epitome of luxury and it looks more like a Westin than a Sheraton. Approx. $350 USD/night.

Radisson Blu

 

ADDIS ABABA ATTRACTIONS 

Note: There is often an additional fee for those taking video but it is collected more for those carrying professional video cameras.

 

1) National Museum – Extensive collection of musical instruments, history, section of indigenous tribes and their customs, culture and crafts.

I found this museum to be the most interesting. It is located in Haile Selaisse’s former palace but do not expect opulence as it is quite plain and the main floor of the building is a study hall for the University of Addis Ababa.

If I were to choose one museum over another it would be the Ethnological Museum to see the Lucy replica and visit many of the same exhibits as the National Museum, only smaller.

Website: N/A

Cost: 10 birr / $1.50 USD

Opening Hours: 7 days/week, 8:30am – 5:30pm, except on public holidays.

 

2) Ethnological Museum – What sells this museum are the skulls, the replica skeleton of Lucy and the history of humankind. Ethiopia has done well in offering museums which are quite similar but differ by one small but important exhibit/detail. I think I’d stick with the Ethnological Museum if you want to save money and time.

Website: N/A

Cost: 50 birr / $2.95 USD

Opening Hours: 08:00-17:00 Mon-Fri, 09:00-17:00 Sat & Sun

 

3) St. George Cathedral – “is an Orthodox cathedral in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and it is noted for its distinctive octagonal form.

Empress Zewditu of Ethiopia was crowned at this Cathedral in 1917, and Emperor Haile Selassie was crowned there in 1930. It also became a pilgrimage site for Rastafarians. The Cathedral has a museum and an Imperial throne is on display.

St. George’s Cathedral is located at the north end of Churchill Rd up the hill from the Piazza. Visitors are welcome to attend services. As in all Ethiopian Orthodox services, everyone stands throughout the long ceremony, men to the left and women to the right.”

Website: N/A

Cost: 10 birr for the museum. ($0.55 USD)

Opening Hours: 8-9am and 12-2pm daily.

 

4) Holy Trinity Cathedral – “known in Amharic as Kidist Selassie, is the highest-ranking Orthodox cathedral in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was built to commemorate Ethiopia’s liberation from Italian occupation and is the second most important place of worship in Ethiopia, after the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Axum.

To the south of Trinity Cathedral is a martyr’s’ memorial and mausoleum containing the remains of the 60 officials of the Imperial government who were massacred by the Dregs on November 23, 1974.

Website: N/A

Cost: 50 Birr / $2.95 USD

Opening Hours: Daily, 8am – 1pm and 2pm – 6pm

 

5) Entoto Maryam Church & Emperor Menelik’s Original Palace

This was the first attraction I visited in Addis Ababa and in Ethiopia. I hadn’t seen a round church before and it was covered in “Rasta” colours so it was interesting in that regard.

We were not able to visit the inside of the church at that time. But to the side of the church is a small museum that we did visit. Each museum in Ethiopia seems to have has royal robes, crowns, relics and information on Menelik the 2nd and Haile Selaisse. As well, instruments, holy books, and pottery.

After one museum you begin to feel like you’ve seen them all so pick and choose carefully on what you want to spend your money on.

Website: N/A

Cost: 50 birr / $2.95 USD

Opening Hours: Daily, 8am – 1pm and 2pm – 6pm

 

6) Merkato – Merkato means “market” so you might expect an open-air market under a roof, much like I was. In fact, the merkato in Addis Ababa is simply their downtown area overrun and crowded with stores and stalls selling anything you’re looking for.

It’s extremely busy on the weekend and interesting to walk through. Wait to buy souvenirs and crafts from the cities and villages you’ll be visiting; they’ll be much cheaper. However, if you need to buy anything for your trip, toiletries, clothing etc then this is the place to go.

 

VOLUNTEERING IN ADDIS ABABA – I found it difficult finding information on options for volunteering in Ethiopia, specifically in Addis Ababa. The only option I found is Mother Theresa Missionaries of Charity and it looked like a good option. I wasn’t able to find an email to contact them but I did find a phone number, 251.1550.895, although I did not try it. It was also recommended to me by my travel doctor to get a meningitis vaccine when working in close quarters with children in developing countries.

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