Addis Ababa

After 14 hours of flying and 7 hours waiting in Frankfurt (where we rented a small, in-terminal hotel room for 3 hours to sleep), we got to Addis Ababa at 10pm just in time to get in a huge line at immigration. 90 minutes later, we got to the front of the line only to be told that our eVisas were not authorized. It took another hour following guys around to keep our passports in sight when they finally straightened it all out and we were admitted. During this process, we saw another American woman’s passport sitting on a desk – no woman in sight, so who knows what happened to her. We got our bags, then found our driver who took us to a clean 3 star hotel.

This morning, we got up, had a somewhat strange breakfast. The coffee, here in the birthplace of coffee, was excellent. At 9, a guide and driver came to the hotel and collected is for a day of sightseeing. There were 6 of us in all, two other couples our age, one from Connecticut and the other from San Francisco.

Addis Ababa is a modern administrative city and the itinerary looked pretty much like boring filler for the newly arrived travelers resting after the flights before the real tour starts tomorrow. However, the first place we went was the cathedral and there was a wedding in progress so the place was literally jumping. Drums playing, chanting and dancing, women ululating. We started taking pictures of the festivities, then a woman tapped Maria on the shoulder, pulled her in to the line and signaled her to clap along. Unlike most of the onlookers, Maria was wearing a headscarf that Rita had given her, so that might have been her ticket.

Haile Selassie built the cathedral in 1941, and is buried there. Other than that, it’s pretty boring, as was the rest of the tour, which included a drive up a mountain for a view of this fairly ugly city, and a visit to a museum of poorly maintained artifacts from the various people of Ethiopia, which was okay, but the pace of our visit was slowed to a crawl by the tedious descriptions of the guide who, like every tour guide, spewed out facts and dates, some wrong, instead of showing us just the interesting stuff and telling a compelling story

Lunch was really good, in the city’s oldest restaurant (1906). Ethiopians are very religious and they “fast”, going vegan on Wednesdays and Fridays and all through Lent. So their vegan fare is really good as well as nutritious, and without the sanctimony that accompanies our cruelty-free set. Ethiopian food is kind of a cross between Arabic and Indian flavors, served with injera, a soft bread made of teff, which you use to scoop up spicy deliciousness with your hand.

Tomorrow, we fly north to Lake Tana, the headwaters of the Blue Nile.