We’ve been in Addis Ababa for less than 24 hours and I’m already in love with it.
I’m not a city person at all, but this place immediately captured my imagination. It might have been the mountains and thin air in this Green Roof of Africa. Maybe it was the yellow half-moon hanging above the city as we drove in from the airport. It could be that the friendliest people I’ve met anywhere seem to live here. Maybe it was the call to prayer that infiltrated my sleep this morning, so that I woke up to Steve saying “did you hear music last night?” Maybe it’s the smell – roasting coffee and incense and herbs and cold air. Whatever. I love it.
I’m still processing, but I wanted to share some photos of our first day here. I had three goals for our time in Addis:
Goals one and two were priorities. Immediately on waking up we took a taxi to a café where we ate chechebsa – the number one thing I wanted to try. Chechebsa is torn and fried bread seasoned with berbere and doused with honey. We ate that Ethiopian-style, eschewing the cutlery they gave us and digging in with our right hands. It was accompanied with a side of the best ful I’ve ever had. And coffee – finally. Strong, dark, delicious coffee.
Breakfast went like this:
Me: This food is killing me.
Me: I mean this food is KILLING me.
Me: I’m dead. This food killed me and I’m dead.
It really was that good. I’m fairly sure all culture have a phrase for “this food has killed me and I’m dead” – I know there’s such a phrase in Setswana. I have no idea what is it is Amharic, but it would probably be the most useful thing I could learn here.
After that we headed to the Merkato, the largest outdoor market in Africa. It was a little overwhelming at first – it is massive and chaotic, a cacophony of vendors and taxis and donkeys. But I loved it. I love markets, and as we wound our way through it I became more and more comfortable, snapping photos and taking it all in. It’s a sensory onslaught – noise and smells and colors everywhere. Words don’t do it justice.
Steve does not love markets as much as I do. He gets to a point where he’s sick of the shoving and the touts and the general madness of it all. Our differing reactions stems from the way we interact – or don’t – in big crowds. Steve is naturally friendly and outgoing. He’ll make eye-contact and when someone calls out “hey you” or “want a ride” or “what are you looking for “ or “farangi” (foreigner) he’ll say hi or chuckle or no thanks. I do none of these things – save for an occasional wry glance at the person who has just shouted “farangi” at me.
It dawned on me this morning, though, that this all might have to do less with personality and more with gender. You don’t move through the world as a woman unless you figure out how to ignore people on the street. So I feel no qualms about walking on by, all the time, which makes the whole thing considerably less mentally exhausting for me. It also helps, in my case, that Ethiopians are generally very small and slight. I could get lost in them. Steve stands a head above almost everyone here and sticks out like a, well, farangi.
Still – less than a day here and we hit my big three. Enjoy some photos of the Merkato. I’m going to rest now so that I can be killed by breakfast again tomorrow.