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Ethiopia Musings: 1) Getting to Addis

Ethiopia National Bank. A unique round building that house the National Bank

 

I recently had the wonderful opportunity of going to the Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to teach pathology at the University of Addis Ababa. The University was founded in 1950,  with 7 campuses in and around the city. I visited the sciences campus, where the medical school, public health and other such schools were housed. With exceedingly limited resources, this was a unique opportunity to test my philanthropic side, and see how I would fit in my goals with theirs.   

 

Addis Black Lion (The Black Lion of Addis Ababa)

 (the black lion of Addis Ababa)

 

Getting there.  Several sites say you don’t need a visa, other places say you do. I used a service (PassportsandVisas.com) to get the Ethiopian Visa issued about a week in advance, since it is only good for 30 days from the date of issue. Hassle free, really – and I usually don’t “promote” a product or service, but this was an amazingly efficient company.  When I arrived at the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa (at 12:45 am) and was waiting to go through immigration, I saw several people standing outside a kiosk – waiting.  I asked the immigration agent who was helping me why these people were standing aside. “They do not have a visa, and so must wait.” When I asked for how long, she replied “The visa office is open from 6:00 am to midnight.”  It was about 00:45.  I was so glad that I ignored the “pay as you enter” advice, and had gotten an entry visa before leaving.  My flight was originally supposed to have arrived at 11:50 p.m. – but still, that is just cutting it too fine, when you are dealing with international flights. Pick your battles, and this was one I did not have to fight today!

 

Addis shanty towns. Notice the tall buildings behind the shanty towns

Addis shanty towns. Shanty towns along the hillside

 (shanty towns along the hillside)

 

Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, is the largest city in Ethiopia, sprawling across a grassland plateau at 7,500 feet above sea level, with a population of about 3.5 million inhabitants.  The city is growing at a rate of 3.8% annually, as there is a major migration from the rural, agricultural-based society to a more urban, commercial and government-sponsored society. This is a significant transition or shift in their society, with an amazing lack of infrastructure to support the remarkable influx of people.  Thus the traffic is a nightmare, smog is choking, and it is faster to walk in the city than it is to drive.

 

Construction. There are many unfinished buildings(there are many unfinished buildings)

 

There is construction everywhere, with tall, incomplete buildings all over. Shanty towns and shacks are seen everywhere.  However, these “hovels” are being demolished by government edict, as they “plan” to build “condos” instead.  Thus, the sprawl outward is limited by a climb upward (the city is about 45 miles across). Mount Entoto rises above the city at the north (about 9,800 feet), with Bole International Airport at the lowest point on the plain to the south. The city has 10 named subcities or boroughs, and 99 wards, which make it almost impossible to know where you are at any given moment.

 

Ethiopia Street Traffic. Cars and trucks galore

 (street traffic.  cars and trucks galore!)

 

The driving is similar to Egypt, Vietnam or Madagascar, where you just go anywhere, at any speed, with a constant honking alerting you to nothing! Seriously, if everyone is honking all the time, you become immune, and don’t really pay attention to it at all. It seems like it is just a greeting between drivers. You feel like a salmon swimming upstream, dodging in and out of “your lane,” although there are no lane lines.

 

Ethiopia Street Traffic. We are driving at 35 mph and you can see what is ahead

(we are driving 35 mph and you can see what's ahead)

 

Where normally two cars would be side by side, 4 cars, trucks and buses merge and jostle back and forth—with pedestrians walking down the middle of the road, seemingly oblivious to the crush of traffic around them, while motorcycles zip between the cars, generally giving you a dizzying movement in all directions. Further, they are all driving at breakneck speed to try to get 2 meters ahead of you, before slamming on their brakes for another car that has decided now is the time to U-turn into 4 on-coming lanes of traffic in the opposite direction or perhaps have just stopped to get directions from some random person on the side of the road, ignorant to the snarled traffic around them. 

 

A few more photos for you:

 

During the heavy rains, the roads are impassible.....

Ethiopia Street during the Rain floods the roads into impassable swamps

 

On a holiday, there is no traffic.  Walking is a breeze.....

Ethiopia Street on a Holiday. Walking to work is a breeze without traffic.

 

Addis Ababa market.....

Ethiopia Addis Merkato Books.

Ethiopia Addis Merkato Foods and Spices. The small bottles contain plant colorings used for mascara

Ethiopia Addis Merkato Coffee Pots. Ceramic coffee pots used to make delicious Ethiopian coffee

Ethiopia Addis Merkato and More Shoes. Shoes stacked to the ceiling

 

 Bundles of wood for burning or construction....

Wood for burning or construction

 

(cont'd next week:  Ethiopia Musings: Languages and People)

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Images (14)
  • Ethiopia Addis Merkato Books.
  • Ethiopia Street Traffic.  Cars and trucks galore
  • Ethiopia Street Traffic.  We are driving at 35 mph and you can see what is ahead
  • Ethiopia Street during the Rain floods the roads into impassable swamps
  • Ethiopia Street on a Holiday.  Walking to work is a breeze without traffic.
  • Ethiopia Addis Merkato Foods and Spices.  The small bottles contain plant colorings used for mascara
  • Ethiopia Addis Merkato Coffee Pots.  Ceramic coffee pots used to make delicious Ethiopian coffee
  • Ethiopia Addis Merkato and More Shoes.  Shoes stacked to the ceiling
  • Addis shanty towns.  Shanty towns along the hillside
  • Addis shanty towns.  Notice the tall buildings behind the shanty towns
  • Construction.  There are many unfinished buildings
  • Addis Black Lion (The Black Lion of Addis Ababa)
  • Wood for burning or construction
  • Ethiopia National Bank.  A unique round building that house the National Bank

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