by Aida B. Solomon

Addis Ababa Ethiopia

After five years, I recently returned to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The last time I stayed in the city, I extended what was originally meant to be a three-month vacation to almost a year.

Addis Ababa, is a dynamic, energetic city that is quickly expanding with a huge spike in economic growth. Things have certainly changed in Ethiopia’s capital, and if you like myself are planning on coming back anytime soon, lookout for these major changes!

Watch out the traffic!!!
I was amazed to see the increase of traffic congestion in Addis Ababa. New neighborhoods have emerged, high-rises are being built, and an influx of residents have all contributed to an increase of traffic.

Five years ago, I took ‘mini-bus’ taxis on a daily basis for my commute to and from work. While mini-bus taxis are still among the least-expensive mode for transportation, expect waiting in line for an hour or so during peak traffic times.

Obviously, if you are visiting Addis for holiday, mini-bus taxis may not always be the most convenient or sometimes safest choice. I highly recommend checking out EthiopiaTaxi, a relatively new company where you can dial 8707 from any phone and have a taxi dispatched to your location.

Not only are the taxis in great physical condition compared to the blue and white ‘lada’ taxis, the ETTA taxis are metered – taking away the stress of negotiating a price with your drive. Arrive at your destination safely, quickly, all while paying a fair price!

Prices?, yes they are rising
One of my favorite past-times in Addis is exploring the diverse food scene. If you’re a foodie like myself, you’re in for a treat – there has been a number of exciting new restaurants, cafes, and lounges popping up all over the city. However, the increase in prices reflect the changing times.

An average meal for one can cost anywhere from 150-250 Eth birr depending on the restaurant. Five years ago, I can very easily remember paying less than half of that price range for a meal. The same goes for alcoholic beverages – a mixed drink is usually around 80-150 Eth birr. The increase in prices for dining out, alongside the increased need to hail private taxis, one can easily spend 1,000 birr a day.

Make sure to budget your expenses and try to cut some costs if possible. For example, it might be worth more for your buck to hire a private driver for the duration of your stay as opposed to paying for different taxis on a daily basis.

Great new eateries
Aside from some of the more challenging additions to Addis life, there have many exciting additions to the Addis food scene. One of my new favorite cafes has to Garden of Coffee, a spacious café located in Bole Rwanda. Not only do they serve excellent quality macchiatos, the location offers a stunning ambiance with traditional and modern décor.

If you’re looking for a delicious sandwich, then check out La Nouvelle Café in Bole next to Ambassador hotel. The restaurant showcases an open kitchen with a menu featuring sandwiches, burgers, pasta, and daily specials. A customer favorite is the smoked salmon panini, with smoked salmon often times a hard find in the city.

Another great addition to the Addis food scene is Five Loaves. An unassuming brick house from the outside, Five Loaves is a gorgeous two-story restaurant featuring a live-piano band. For a self-proclaimed brunch addict, the best part of the Five Loaves menu for me is the inclusion of eggs benedict, reportedly the only restaurant in the city that features the dish.

Finally, another hidden gem that I found was Opium in Kazanchis close to Atlas Hotel. Opium features a small but tasty menu featuring hard to find items including Philly Cheesesteak and my personal favorite, chicken quesadillas.

Nightlife
It’s no secret that every night of the week in Addis offers an energetic and lively night of fun. The Vault, a spacious lounge located in Bole at the same building as Boston Day Spa, is one of the newest go-to spots for Happy Hour in the city.

Aside from impeccable service, enjoy special events such as “Trap Brunch” featuring hip hop music and brunch specials put together by local brand Nomad. Another go-to spot is high-end club AV Lounge. Located in Bole Medinhalem across from Monarch Hotel, AV Lounge is arguably the hottest nightclub in the city, featuring a two-floor club with modern décor.

If you are looking for a more laid-back night out, then check out Monarch Hotel on Friday nights. Also located in Bole Medinahelm, Monarch Hotel has a beautiful outdoor veranda and restaurant. Friday nights features a live jazz band playing contemporary and classic hits. Finally, Vanquish is another popular new lounge that features drink specials as well as shisha.

Concerts you don’t want to miss
Concerts are increasingly becoming more and more popular in Addis. In recent months, musical acts such as Davido, Diplo, and Damian Marley have held concerts at various venues in the city. Concerts are becoming a fun new alternative to the usual nightclubs and bars. Be on the lookout for future concerts taking place in the city!

Witnessing the various changes in Addis Ababa has been challenging, rewarding, and exciting! In 2016, Ethiopia was named the #1 place to visit in the world by EU tourism board and also by many outlets. No doubt, Ethiopia is going to see a continued rise in tourism from visitors all over the world.

Whether you are a first-time visitor or returning to Ethiopia after a long time, expect to find not only these listed changes but discover some of your own! Leave a comment and let us know of any other major changes or tips you have discovered in Addis!

Aida S

Aida B. Solomon is blogger and strategist based in Los Angeles, California. Aida is the founder of HabeshaLA, a blog featuring creative talent in the diaspora.

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