On this visit to Addis I was able to become a bit more familiar with the city, as on the previous visit back in September we were stuck in the training centre for most of the ten days stay, focusing on VSO training and orientation for us new arrivals. For these few days I managed to get out and about, walking around large parts of the city or taking the line taxi between points.
Addis Ababa (meaning “New Flower”) is a world away from life back in Abi Adi. The big city is busy, sprawling, polluted and crowded and things such as getting on the line taxi were often hard work. It’s also a lively and fun place, full of businesses and new buildings springing up and has a wide variety of cafes and restaurants. A lot of the time was spent enjoying some ferenji (foreign) food that is not available back in our little town.
Meskel Square forms a central focal point for the city. It is a large open space, with people playing impromptu football matches or exercising up and down the terraces on the edge of the square. Addis is mostly unsignposted and the street names add to the confusion of the city. Some have two or three different names, the locals often using one that is different to the one given on the map. Most streets now are officially named after an African country (due to the African Union having its headquarters in the town) but locals continue to use the previous street name, which was often named after a famous person. On the walk up Churchill Avenue (or Gambia Road) I saw a monument put up by the Derg (the much-hated previous regime in Ethiopia) which surprisingly is still standing. Another interesting landmark is the now defunct railway station (la Gare) which was built by French architects in 1929, linking the capital to Djibouti.
The city feels like it is in transition. Just looking at the mix of architecture, with lots of Soviet style blocks around the centre being pushed out by new skyscrapers, apartment blocks and shopping malls, you can feel the change happening around you. It was nice to visit but living there would be a completely different experience from life back in Abi Adi. So, after a few enjoyable days of exploring Addis, it was onto the south-western city of Jimma…