The highlight of Addis Ababa is a visit to the Mercato Market, by some claimed to be the biggest market in Africa.
Everybody will have their own favourite place in a city, and in Addis Ababa ours is the Mercato Market, a huge expanse of narrow streets and alleys where, according to the Lonely Planet, you can buy everything you want, from camels to Kalashnikovs. We found neither – fair enough, weren’t looking for them -, but we thoroughly enjoyed the place. There is a certain quality in meandering through the market, trying to avoid the donkeys, the handcarts, the pickpockets, and the people carrying heavy sacks of I-don’t-know-what on their heads, or stacks of boxes, or a mountain of enormous empty plastic containers. The most picturesque are the streets lined with farm produce and their sellers, often women with large straw hats against the sun. Or perhaps picturesque is not the right word, and in any case many object to having their picture taken, but it is colourful. A somewhat organized mess. In which we can get ourselves lost for hours, easily.
Some common sense is required for a visit, the place teems with people intend on stealing whatever you have in your pockets. But most people are very friendly, in for a good laugh. Even if they initially react angrily over the taking of photos, they ease up quickly in response to a smile, a joke, or an apology. And it is not only us looking at all these different Ethiopians, we are equally being looked at, the only foreigners in the entire neighbourhood.