ADDIS ABABA AND IT’S SURROUNDINGS
ADDIS ABABA | TIYA | MELKA QUNTURE | ADADI MARIAM | DEBRE LIBANOS MONASTERY | BLUE NILE GORGE | ANKOBER | Wonchi | Debre Ziet
Addis Ababa (New flower) founded by Emperor Menlik in 1886 at the hills of mount Entoto. Addis situated at an altitude of 2400 meters. This big, sprawling, hospitable city and great city still bears the stamp of exuberant feelings to everyone.
Addis Ababa stands at very heart of Ethiopia and is not only the political capital but also the economic and social nerve- centre of Ethiopia. It enjoys a mild climate, with an average temperature of 16 degrees centigrade. Addis Ababa is an important administrative centre not only for Ethiopia but also for the whole of Africa.
Addis is also hosting global, continental and conferences and meetings throughout the year because the headquarters of the UN Economic Commission for Africa was established here in 1958 and it is the site of the OAU’s secretariat and other multi-national bodies have headquarters here. Addis Ababa is a metropolitan city, which bears the imprints of cultural, historical, religious and natural aspects of the whole nation.
Addis attractions are:
- Churches and mosques
- Market (the biggest open market in Africa)
In relation with this the Major ones are:-
Addis Ababa Attractions
There is plenty to see and do in Addis Ababa, but the journey to the attractions is frequently more interesting than the sights themselves. This is particularly the case should you choose to walk the city and navigate your way to the main museums and buildings yourself. It is a good idea to hire a taxi driver for a daily fee and have him drive you around. Those who do choose to rely on maps and GPS should note that roads frequently change names in Addis Ababa.
You are likely to be offered seats at an alleged ‘cultural show’ which takes place at a backstreet restaurant or venue. Refuse these offers – they are the opening bid in a classic scam that ends with a thorough fleecing of their tourist victims. If you do wish to see traditional dancing and music simply dine at any decent and reputable restaurant where such attractions are provided free.
As for Addis Ababa’s mainstream attractions, don’t miss paying Lucy a visit at the National Museum, doing a bit of shopping at the Merkato – one of the largest markets in Africa – and seeing the wonderful cultural artefacts in the Ethnological Museum and relics of the city’s past in the Addis Ababa Museum. It’s also worth keeping your eyes open for the numerous concrete Soviet statues and buildings that dot the city. The most overrated attraction in town is the zoo, which should be avoided as it is poorly maintained and the conditions may be upsetting for animal lovers.
There is a good tourist information booth off Meskel Square if you need some impartial advice or want a reliable tour guide.
The Mercato is one of the largest outdoor markets in Africa and Addis Ababa’s most colorful sight. There are tinkers, tailors, spice merchants, camel traders, and purveyors of just about every possible commodity under the sun, including, of course, wonderful Ethiopian coffee. Needless to say the market is a great place to pick up souvenirs. Mercato really is an exhilarating place to visit although it is not for the faint hearted. With animals wandering the streets, vendors hollering, the pungent aromas of local dishes and a riot of colour and sensations, you will find a visit here to be a memorable experience. The spice market is particularly interesting with its exotic colours and smells.
The Mercato is a pick-pocketing hotspot so be careful with your valuables. Wear a money belt under your clothes rather than keeping cash in an accessible place. Bargain hard as prices are enormously flexible and foreigners are routinely charged three to four times the going rate. Often you can bargain your way down to as little as 20 percent of the original asking price. Be careful of purchasing antiques and historical artefacts as without a certificate they may not be genuine and even if they are they could be confiscated at the airport. The market is enormous, chaotic and easy to get lost in – many travellers prefer to hire a local guide to show them around.
Shiro Meda Market
Shiro Meda is a local market located near the US Embassy in northern Addis Ababa & one of the best local markets to shop handwoven cotton clothes mainly for women. It is also famous for buying gift items like Tshirts, necklaces, earrings, etc. Shiro Meda is where real Ethiopian clothes and shawls are to be found. Crowded, on a couple of streets. It is an active, bustling market, stopped here on the way to or back to Addis Ababa from Entoto to buy Ethiopian traditional closes called shamma and other traditional shawls. Visitors can buy colorful handwoven locally made scarves, and dresses for women which are made from cotton and decorated with colorful embroidery. Here at Shiro Meda.
This museum has a varied range of exhibits displayed across three floors and covering a wide scope of Ethiopian history from the prehistoric to the contemporary. The museum is not world-class in its facilities or exhibition space but it does contain some genuinely fascinating artefacts and gives visitors a good historical overview of Ethiopia. The most famous exhibit is the replica statue of Lucy, thought to be the oldest hominid skeleton ever found and estimated to be 3.18 million years old. Lucy was discovered in 1974 and named for the Beatles song. The fragile original skeleton is in the vaults of the building. Also of interest is the selection of celebrated Ethiopian artworks from Axum, Lalibella, and the Tana Monasteries, as well as relics from Haile Selassie’s reign. Check ahead of time as to whether there is a power cut scheduled because they are common in the city and it is impossible to appreciate the museum in the dark.
Another great museum in Addis Ababa, ten minute’s walk from the National Museum, is the Ethnological Museum inside the main university campus at Sidist Kilo; the two museums are easily combined on a morning of sightseeing.
St George’s Cathedral
St George’s Cathedral was founded by the great Emperor Menelik to commemorate his 1896 victory over the invading Italian army. A relic of St George was carried into battle by the Ethiopians and the emperor built the cathedral to pay tribute to the saint that ensured his victory. The cathedral is a holy place of pilgrimage for Rastafarians. It has a traditional Ethiopian design and octagonal shape and the outer walls of the building are covered in wonderful artwork and mosaics, including work by Afewerk Tekle. Inside beautiful stained glass windows enhance the sacred atmosphere. In 1930 the church hosted the coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie and he and Empress Menen are two of the famous Ethiopians buried here. Attend a service (enquire for times) to experience the wonderful singing and prayerful chanting so typical of Coptic Christianity. If you do attend a service – visitors are welcome – then be aware that the congregation stands for the duration of the service with men to the left and women to the right. Visitors must take off their shoes before entering the church.
There is a small museum at the church which has some useful information and interesting displays. You can also get some great views of the city by climbing the museum’s tower.
Set within Haile Selassie’s former palace, and surrounded by the beautiful gardens and fountains of the university’s main campus, is the enthralling Ethnological Museum. Even if you’re not a museum fan, this one is worth a bit of your time – it’s easily one of the finest museums in Africa, showing the full sweep of Ethiopia’s cultural and social history across two floors.
The show starts before you even get inside: facing the entrance, look for the intriguing set of 13 stairs spiralling skyward. Each step was placed by the Italians as a symbol of Fascist domination, one for every year Mussolini held power (starting from his march to Rome in 1922). A small Lion of Judah (the symbol of Ethiopian monarchy) sits victoriously atop the final step, like a jubilant punctuation mark at the end of a painfully long sentence.
Within the entrance hall you’ll find a small exhibition dedicated to the history of the palace, and the doorway to the Institute of Language Studies library.
The museum truly comes into its own on the 1st floor, where superb artefacts and handicrafts from Ethiopia’s peoples are distinctively displayed. Instead of following the typical static and geographical layout that most museums fall into, these displays are based upon the life cycle. First comes Childhood, with birth, games, rites of passage and traditional tales. We particularly enjoyed the ‘Yem Tale’, a story of selfishness, dead leopards and sore tails! Adulthood probes into beliefs, nomadism, traditional medicine, war, pilgrimages, hunting, body culture and handicrafts. The last topic is Death and Beyond, with burial structures, stelae and tombs. The exhibition gives a great insight into Ethiopia’s many rich cultures.
Other rooms on this floor show the preserved bedroom, bathroom and exorbitant changing room of Emperor Haile Selassie, complete with a bullet hole in his mirror courtesy of the 1960 coup d’etat.
The 2nd floor is home to two drastically different, but equally delightful, displays. The vibrant hall focuses on religious art, with an exceptional series of diptychs, triptychs, icons, crosses and magic scrolls. Magic scrolls, like the Roman lead scrolls, were used to cast curses on people or to appeal to the gods for divine assistance. The collection of icons is the largest and most representative in the world. Senses of another sort are indulged in the small cavelike corridor that sits next to the hall. Inside, the black surrounds leave you nothing to look at besides traditional musical instruments from across Ethiopia. If you’re lucky you might have a soundtrack accompany you.
It’s well worth coming to this museum twice; once at the start of your journey through Ethiopia and once at the end when you’ll be able to put everything into context.
After you’ve lapped up the treasures in the museum, stop by the double-decker London bus next to the university entrance gates. Brought to Addis by Haile Selassie, it’s now a bar and packed with students.
‘Red Terror’ Martyrs Memorial Museum
As if I bore them all in one night, they slew them in a single night.’ These were the words spoken by the mother of four teenage children all killed on the same day by the Derg, as she officially opened the small but powerful ‘Red Terror’ Martyrs Memorial Museum in 2010. Over a couple of rooms, the museum reveals the fall of Emperor Haile Selassie and the horrors of life under Mengistu’s Derg regime.
The museum is well laid out and incredibly moving, nothing more so than the walls of photos and names of just some of the estimated half a million killed under the Derg, or the display cabinets filled with human belongings dug out of mass graves. Some of the skulls and other bones are displayed alongside a photo of the victim and the personal artefacts they had on them when they died. The watch hanging in one display case was given by its owner to his wife just as he was led away by the soldiers of the Derg. His words: ‘Keep this safe. One day you will need it’. When the museum opened, his wife brought the watch here.
Excellent English-speaking guides are often available, although you may prefer to just look on in silence.
The museum is funded by donations only.
Holy Trinity Cathedral
This massive and ornate cathedral is the second-most important place of worship in Ethiopia (ranking behind the Old Church of St Mary of Zion in Aksum). It’s also the celebrated final resting place of Emperor Haile Selassie and his wife Empress Menen Asfaw. Their massive Aksumite-style granite tombs sit inside and are a sight indeed. The solemnity of the interior design contrasts sharply with highly the charged emotions of many pilgrims. It’s a fascinating place.
The cathedral’s exterior, with its large copper dome, spindly pinnacles, numerous statues and flamboyant mixture of international styles, provides an interesting and sometimes poignant glimpse into many episodes of Ethiopia’s history.
Inside, there are some grand murals, the most notable being Afewerk Tekle’s depiction of the Holy Trinity, with Matthew (man), Mark (lion), Luke (cow) and John (dove) peering through the clouds. There are also some brilliant stained-glass windows (those on the north depict scenes from the Old Testament, those to the south from the New) and two beautifully carved imperial thrones, each made of white ebony, ivory and marble.
The entrance fee also includes admission to a small but impressive museum of ecclesiastical artefacts in the grounds out the back.
To the south of the cathedral is the memorial and graves of the ministers killed by the Derg for their opposition in 1974. Due to the prime minister’s compound being behind this memorial, photographs are strictly forbidden.
The churchyard also hosts the graves of many patriots who died fighting the Italian occupation, including the great Resistance fighter Ras Imru. To the west of the cathedral is the tomb of the famous British suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst. Sylvia was one of the very few people outside Ethiopia who protested Italy’s occupation; she moved to Addis Ababa in 1956. On the north side is the tomb of Meles Zenawi, prime minister of Ethiopia until his sudden death in 2012.
Purchase tickets at the administration office 20m west of the main gate. Self-appointed guides charge Birr20 to Birr30 per person.
Washa Mikael Church
The Washa Mikael Church is a few kilometres east of Addis Ababa’s town centre. Though local priests date it back to the 3rd century AD, it most probably dates back to the 12th century. If you’re mad and not planning to visit the churches at Lalibela or Tigray in the north, this is definitely worth a peek as an example of the extraordinary rock-hewn architecture that Ethiopia is so famous for. Unfortunately, from July to October it’s usually flooded with rainwater.
Lion of Judah Monument
Long the symbol of Ethiopia’s monarchy, the Lion of Judah is ubiquitous throughout the country – and although images of the almighty animal abound in Addis Ababa, it’s the storied history of the Lion of Judah Monument that makes this statue significant.
After being erected on the eve of Haile Selassie’s coronation in 1930, it was looted by Italians in 1935 and placed in Rome next to the massive Vittorio Emanuele II Monument. In 1938, during anniversary celebrations of the proclamation of the Italian Empire, Zerai Deress, a young Eritrean, spotted the statue and defiantly interrupted proceedings to kneel and pray before it. After police verbally and physically attempted to stop his prayers, he rose and attacked the armed Italians with his sword while screaming ‘the Lion of Judah is avenged!’ He seriously injured several officers (some reports say he killed five) before he was shot. Although he died seven years later in an Italian prison, his legend lives on in Ethiopia and Eritrea.
The Lion of Judah Monument was eventually returned to Addis Ababa in the 1960s.
Bete Maryam Mausoleum
The Bete Maryam Mausoleum is located just south of Menelik’s palace and offers what could be an enchantingly eerie experience for travellers (were it not for security personnel at every turn). If you’re lucky, after the priest has rolled up the carpet and pried open the large metal door in the floor, you will descend into the thick air of the creepy crypt. There you find four elaborate marble tombs of Empress Taitu, Emperor Menelik, Empress Zewditu and Princess Tsehai Haile Selassie.
At least that’s how a visit should go. The reality is that – thanks to the prime minister’s residence being next door – the whole complex is guarded by an inordinate number of very surly and unhelpful soldiers, who, if our last visit was anything to go by, try to make visiting the church as problematic as they possibly can.
On Wednesdays and Fridays the mausoleum closes for prayers between 12.30pm and around 2pm.
Yekatit 12 Monument
Rising dramatically from the roundabout Siddist Kilo is this moving monument, dedicated to the thousands of innocent Ethiopians killed by the Italians as retribution for the attempt on Viceroy Graziani’s life on 19 February 1937. ‘Yekatit 12’ is a date in the Ethiopian calendar roughly equivalent to 19 February.
Afewerk Tekle’s Home & Studio
A member of several international academies and with a drawer full of international decorations – about 100 at last count, including the British Order of Merit – Afewerk Tekle is considered among Africa’s greatest artists. His former home and studio was closed to the public after his death in 2012. Renovations were still taking place as of late 2016, but we were assured that there are still plans to reopen…one day.
TIglachin (struggle) Monument
The towering Tiglachin Monument is one of the more poignant reminders of the country’s communist rule and Ethio-Cuba Cooperation against Somalia invasion of Ethiopia with Ethiopia’s victory . Topped by a massive red star and emblazoned with a golden hammer and sickle, the cement obelisk like structure climbs skyward in front of Black Lion Hospital.
Institute of Ethiopian Studies
Inside the grounds of Addis Ababa University, this institute boasts the world’s best collection of books in English on Ethiopia. It’s free for a half-day’s casual use. If you’re having trouble finding it, ask at the ticket office for the Ethnological Museum.
Entoto Panoramic Viewpoint
High on Entoto Mountain, there’s a terrific but windy panoramic view of Ethiopia’s modern capital spread out below through the towering eucalyptus trees.
Built in 1961 by Emperor Haile Selassie, Africa Hall (near Meskal Sq) is the seat of the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). The Italian-designed building isn’t very interesting, apart from the friezelike motifs that represent traditional Ethiopian shamma (shawl) borders. It’s well worth a visit, but this is only possible by prior appointment (call the number above). You’ll need to bring your passport and they generally prefer it if you visit as part of a group.
Addis Ababa Museum
Despite only being founded on Addis’ centenary in 1986, the Addis Ababa Museum is the city’s scruffiest museum. That said, perusing candid portraits of the redoubtable Empress Taitu, rakish Lij Iyasu and the very beautiful Empress Zewditu, along with pictures of the capital in its infancy, is still worth an hour or so. It’s unbelievable that the raucous city outside was nothing more than tents on a hill just over a century ago.
There’s also a ‘first-in-Ethiopia’ room, with pictures of Menelik with Bede Bentley in Addis Ababa’s first motor car (1907) and the first telephone in Ethiopia. This was brought from Italy by Ras Makonnen in 1890, and it’s said that local priests, when they first heard the disembodied voices, thought telephones the work of demons.
Natural History Museum
Unless you’ve a particular interest in Ethiopia’s animals and birdlife, this is more a case of rainy day tourism. Go eye to eye with a bloated leopard – sometimes the stuffers just don’t know when to stop stuffing! – and other stuffed wildlife, but sadly there’s neither Ethiopian wolf nor lion. Of most interest are the bird specimens – reportedly around 40% of the country’s 862 species are represented here.
Entoto Maryam Museum
This rather dusty museum has the usual collection of royal garments, valuable coins, ceremonial drums, poor lighting and bored-looking attendants, but there are some highlights. These include the royal bed and royal crown once used by Menelik II.
Entoto Maryam Church
The octagonal Entoto Maryam Church hosted Menelik’s coronation, but sadly for a church of such historical significance, the only time you can catch a glimpse of the interior is during Sunday Mass, and even then, casual visitors (as opposed to genuine worshipers) are not welcome. Down the hill on the back side of the building are the remains of Menelik’s rather modest palace.
Kidane Mehret Church
The unremarkable new church on this site is far less interesting than the reconstructed original, complete with Aksumite architectural traces, alongside it.
Newely developed sites are:-
Unity Park:– part of the grand palace, let to public visit having majorities of the fauna & Flora of the country. Visit sites includes historical buildings, Ethiopian regional states representations, shops coffees center etc.
Enitoto Park:- towers high above Addis Ababa. A historical protectorate with the reliability of a cliff fortress. A canyon of adorable beauty and lush greenery. The resting place from the era of dreams. Towards fresh well-fragrance of highland. Clear and pleasant hiking trails. The rising shoulder of the mountain’s massif. Spring water bath of the high plateau. The wild forest of the ancient. The healing capacity of native wildlife. A newely Constructed Enitoto park is well provided for sporting, Biking, kids recreation, game for all age groups, Horse ride, gallery site, trekking, food testing and many more activities.
Sheger Park: Newely constructed another park in Addis Ababa, includes all in one with a number of luxury recreation centers, shopping & restaurants with event areas.
What Makes “Addis Ababa, a third diplomatic center of the world”?
The foundation of the current capital city Addis Ababa in 1886. In the 134 years since then, this city has evolved from a simple village of hot springs and encampments into a global diplomatic center. The city’s diplomatic relevance has grown especially rapidly since 1950. Today, it hosts continental and global institutions such as the African Union (AU), a number of United Nation institutions (UN-ECA, UNDP, UNESCO) and others, in addition to diplomatic institutions for bilateral relations.
The establishment here of headquarters for the new Organization of African Unity has given substance to the contention of Emperor Haile Selassie that Addis Ababa is the “heart of Africa.” Glistening in the Ethiopian sunshine, the new African Union Conference Center and Office Complex is the crowning symbol of Addis Ababa’s growing prominence as Africa’s diplomatic hub. The massive, an office tower that has become one of Addis Ababa’s tallest building. Strikingly modern but taking aesthetic cues from various African artistic traditions, the Chinese–built AUCC is an architectural marvel by any global standard.
Addis Ababa is also the headquarters for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. The commission’s 200 technicians, advisers and other personnel form an increasingly effective nucleus of continental planning for economic development.
Addis Ababa Surrounding Sites
Tiya is best known for its archeological site, which is distinguished by 36 standing stones or stele, “32 of which are engraved with enigmatic symbols, notably swords,” marks a large, prehistoric burial complex. Tiya is the most important of some 160 archaeological sites in the Soddo region, 82KM south of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia.
This is a site of an ancient Ethiopian civilization that are visible in Tiya are their monuments, including carved stele with strange symbols that have yet been interpreted.
The most outstanding monuments in Tiya are the standing stones or stele that marks a prehistoric burial complex. The stele are engraved with ancient symbols; most notably swords. Tiya is one of Ethiopia’s World heritage site registered on 1-5 September, 1980.
Melka konture is the only open Palio-anthropological site in the country located 60km away from Addis Ababa. The museum displays varies old stone tools which dated over 1.7 million years. Melka Kuntre is located 60 km south of Addis Ababa on the way to Tiya. Stone Age site (between 1.5 and 1.8 Million years old), contains many samples of Stone Age tools of the early Homo sapiens. The collections are results of the excavations of the last decades. The samples are well exhibited in show rooms and there is very good scientific explanation about Stone Age tools in general and the site in particular.
ADADI MARIAM CHURCH
The south most extant rock hewn church in Ethiopia, Adadi Mariam lies along the road to Butajira and it is the only rock hewn church to exist as far south as this region. The church is not as monolithic as the rock-hewn churches in Lalibela but it has a lot of similarities with some of the rock churches in Lalibela and further north in Tigray.
DEBRE LIBANOS MONSATERY
After 104 km north of Addis Ababa on the road to the historic route there is a 13th century religious center. Debre Libanos is a monastery in Ethiopia, lying northwest of the capital. Founded by the monastery’s Ichege known as the chief abbot was the second most powerful official after the Patriarch in the church. The monastery complex sits on a terrace between a cliff and the gorge of Jama Valley on the drainage system of Blue Nile River. St. Tekle Haymanot, the most valued saint in Ethiopian Orthodox church, which was a critical figure in establishing Ethiopian national identity. He was influential in “restoring” the Solomonic dynasty and revitalizing monasticism, which were central to both religious and cultural life.
BLUE NILE GORGE
The Blue Nile Gorge is situated 225kms north of Addis Ababa. This majestic and massive gorge is the most captivating gorge in Africa. You feel completely hot when you drive down to the gorge. The area has a magnificent, captivating physical feature and natural beauty. One of the nicest canyons in Africa and the earth’s greatest gorge systems remain mysterious and for the most part unexplored. These geographical regions were unique as they remained, in many cases, undeveloped, natural and cultural gardens, perhaps much like the mystical definition. It is related with Grand Canyon of America.
Ankober is situated 155km of north east of Addis Ababa off the road from Debre Birhan and one of historical place in the history of Ethiopia in the late 18th and 19th century. It was the seat of the shoa kings during the reigns of King Sahle Sillasie, Hailemelekot and the early years of Menlik II. The palace is situated on a commanding height with a spectacular view of the rift valley up to the Harrergie Mountains. Gelada Baboons (endemic to Ethiopia) are plenty sporting on the cliff edges of Ankober.
Ambo (Wonchi Creator Lake)
Wonchi Creator Lake is situated 157 km south west of Addis Ababa and 32 km south of Ambo. Covering an area of 560 hectares, the lake and its surrounding are one of best sights for nature admires. Horse riding and boat trip is the lively activities you can perform it. The lake is surrounded by the mountain with dense forest. The alpine nature of the climate is worth enjoyable. The scenery is a breath taking while to the lake and an island monastery dotted there.
Debre Ziet Creator Lakes
Debre Ziet 45 km south east of Addis Ababa on the highway to the eastern and southern part of Ethiopia. Debre Ziet (Bishoftu) is found at an altitude of 1950 meters with moderate type of climate. It lies within 7 creator lakes which were formed as a series of volcanic explosions. The lakes are Hora, Bishoftu, Babogaya, Kuriftu and Chelaka Lake. It is the holy place for boating and waterskiing with an experience of many species of birds and plants.
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