We had come to base ourselves in Kolbolcha, strategically positioned to visit several famous markets back-to-back, the Sunday market in Senbete and the Monday market in Bati, presumably the biggest market in the country after the Merkato, but definitely more colourful, with people from various ethnic origins coming together.
In the event it turned out that Kombolcha also has its own market, on Saturday. Especially entertaining because the people here are so much less used to tourists, they are friendly and curious, and they have great fun over the photos I take and subsequently show them on the LCD screen of my camera. Here too, an animal section where cows – and those enormous longhorn bulls – and sheep and goats are being traded. Being the only foreigners, again, we were looked at with as much curiosity as we displayed ourselves for the people and the animals. Most impressive was the parking lot, where traders leave their camels and donkeys, and the occasional horse. Complete with occasional traffic jam from the continuous coming and going of donkeys, and sometimes whole trains of camels. The charcoal is traded separately, and for the rest everything else is for sale in the general market place, similarly chaotic as in Aksum, but a little more colourful thanks to especially the women wearing bright dresses and head covers. We easily lost ourselves for a couple of hours, wandering in every direction, from spices to baskets to pulses to chicken – in that respect the offering of goods was much the same.
For the rest Kombolcha proved pretty basic. Our hotel appears to have the only acceptable level restaurant in town, but because of the fasting – perhaps less Muslim than we originally thought? – the only food available was spaghetti with tomato sauce or macaroni with tomato sauce, the minestrone with tomato sauce was finished. Yet the coffee is good, and so are the fruit juices, choice between mango, avocado and papaya: after one of those you are full, full-stop. Round the corner there are a couple of dodgy-looking bars which keep us awake at night, and further downtown we spotted a few coffee and pastry cafes, with very dry pastries. We even discovered the only internet café in town, but that is all I can say about it. I managed to send one email after 20 minutes; obviously, not good enough for posting blog entries with photos – which is why you read this a little later.
next: to the markets of Senbete and Bati