Addis Ababa is a vibrant city where a visitor can find different extremes and contrasts of people, culture, city life and more.

Addis AbabaIt is a bustling city with more than three million residents. It is the third highest capital in the world situated at an elevation of more than 2,000 m above sea level.

It is the diplomatic and political capital of Africa where many organizations like the African Union Head Quarters, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and more than 100 embassies are found.

There are many features that characterize the city which are also part of the city’s life.

I was thinking how Addis would appeal to travelers and what visitors would want to know about the city. Things like the airport, shopping centers, and hotels which are important for visitors as they visit or pass through the city.

Bole International Airport
Bole International Airport is one of the best airport terminals in Africa where the traveler can find excellent services like good selection of shops, cafes, banking facilities, baggage handling, immigration and customs services all provided in a generous space.

If you are leaving or just in transit, there’s plenty to fill in your time. Stretch your legs and do some last minutes shopping of important duty-free items.

Ethiopian Tourist Trading Enterprise (ETTE) duty free shops are filled with a numbers of outlets and a wide range of Ethiopian artifacts, jewellery, books and souvenirs as well as a fine selection of spirits, cigarettes, perfumes, sweets and chocolates.

The departure area has coffee shops selling hot snacks and you can visit the well-stocked restaurant for a more leisurely meal. If you still have a spare time you can check your emails or surf the internet at the internet cafes available there.

Hotels and restaurants
Addis Ababa has hotels that are available in a wide range of types to suit all pockets.

One is the Addis Ababa Hilton which has 356 guest rooms including suits, executive floor rooms and self contained apartments. You will love the Hilton not only for the service but also for its beautiful and unique architectural designs and motifs. It has exotic and cozy restaurants, popular bars, health club facilities, and much more.

Sheraton Hotel - Addis AbabaAlso the Luxurious Sheraton Addis is unique for its luxury collections combining the richest elements of Ethiopian culture with the international neo-classical architecture.

Addis Ababa has a great number of restaurants that serve injera and all the delicious wots (sauses). You will find yourself tempted to try the food at some of the wonderful cuisines and traditional restaurants.

Many of the restaurants feature live singing and dancing to keep you delighted as you enjoy the exotic foods.

Ethiopian traditional restaurants serve wonderful Ethiopian fare and usually feature a local ‘Azmari’ band and traditional dancing. But if you are keen on international styles, there are good number of restaurants serving European and Asian cuisines as well as cafes, discos, and art galleries.

You should also try the thick and undiluted fruit juice in Addis. It is absolutely great!

Coffee is one of the country’s strongest icons. “I have been to other African countries and drunk coffees that taste great, but Ethiopian coffee is far better and even the best of all”. These are the words of Mickle one of my guests when I asked him about Ethiopian coffee.

For those who have time and want to have the real Ethiopian experience, the coffee ceremony should not be missed. Be prepared for three delicious cups if invited to some one’s house for coffee.

Ethiopians themselves love to drink coffee. For my wife and I, one of the best times of the day is our coffee time. I think coffee is more than a drink for Ethiopians. It is also one of the biggest export items of the country, even though almost 50% of the harvest is consumed locally.

So if you arrive in Addis, try the coffee. The city has cafes on every street serving excellent black coffee or macchiato.

Museums, Shero Meda and Souvenir Shops
If you have time for a city tour you may want to visit the important museums found in Addis which exhibit some of the world’s famous archeological, cultural and religious treasures. Among them the national museum possesses ‘Lucy’ the bones of one of the oldest hominids ever found.

Church PaintingsTrinity Church Cathedral attracts many visitors being renown for its impressive architectural design.

The churches are filled with wonderful paintings and ancient manuscripts all well worth a visit.

Also not to miss a wonderful birds eye view of the city from above. Take a trip to the two churches on the hills of Entoto.

Another exciting experience for a guest in Addis is shopping for exotic and traditional woven clothes at Shero-Meda. There are beautiful traditional dresses hanging in all colors and designs available for all ages and at affordable prices.

You are sure to find something for yourself, your children and the whole family, traditionally woven or with printed design on a variety of cotton t-shirts, scarves and handbags.

Merkato Africa’s largest open air market
If you like shopping in Addis, Merkato should be the place. It is the largest open-air market in Africa where you can find anything from electronics to garments, from spices to automobile spare parts and a whole lot more.

Merkato is Addis’s most crowdest, bustling, and colorful area. If you have time and just penny in your pocket, go to Merkato, you will always find something there.

Of course if you prefer a more modern shopping experience, you may need to go to Bole where a good number of new malls have sprouted up. Also walk up on Churchill road if you want to purchase great souvenirs for the best deals.

Buses, taxis, listros, woyalas, and beggars
Much seen in the streets of Addis are the blue taxis transporting most of the city’s population. A slight annoyance are the woyalas (drivers assistants) calling on passengers and naming city areas as you travel in the city.

Also to be seen on the streets are the friendly and hard working listros (shoe shiners) who always want to polish your shoes.

A sad sight in the city are beggars, nagging everyone for money. Hundreds flock to the city for jobs and a better future, but many of them unfortunately end up on the streets. However, giving them money may not be a good idea or helpful for the beggars. Thanks to some rehabilitation projects they are decreasing in number.

Addis Ababa has lots of faces, which leave a visitor with mixed feelings and experiences. It is also a very safe city and base to explore the country’s great historical, cultural, and diverse attractions.

One thing for sure, the city provides you with the feeling of being at home and the people are courteous and helpful whenever you go or wherever you want to explore.

Eskinder Hailu - Manager, Highway Tours

Eskinder Hailu
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