This is probably the most African city in Africa. It is big and loud. Sidewalks run incomplete into beautiful buildings. It is among the 5 largest cities on the continent yet there is a donkey that eats grass out of the road median near our hotel and today we had to walk around a flock of sheep being herded the opposite direction. It is where the Africa of old meets the Africa of new.
Addis is unique in Africa for the same reason Ethiopia is unique in Africa. Ethiopia is the only country in Africa never to have been conquered or colonized. Every other country we’ve been to on this trip, including our own USA, is a country born from colonization. This lack of European influence (save Mussolini’s occupation during World War II) has yielded a country that can say it is wholly African. As a result, Addis Ababa, the capital city, is the only one on the continent free of European history and thus serves as a beacon for the rest of the continent, as the center of African diplomacy.
This role as the diplomatic center of Africa gives Addis Ababa its modern edge. It is the reason Addis is home to one hotel (a Sheraton) rumored to be one of the nicest in the world, with a night in a villa starting at $12,000. It is the reason every country we’ve ever heard of has an embassy here. It is the reason I was just able to enjoy good ice cream with chocolate cake for the first time months.
We’ve had a lot of time to pass here in Addis, waiting for visas to Egypt and then to Sudan so that we can complete the remainder of our trip. It is the first time, in over a year of travel, that we’ve set foot inside a US Embassy (to get additional passport pages) and I can honestly say I was never so happy to see a photo of Hilary Clinton in my life. We saw a copy of the famous ‘Lucy’ skeleton, ate a lot of Ethiopian food, and even watching Ethiopian dancing. This is a nice city, a real city, but it still doesn’t make me want to spend more time on the continent.