As in so many developing country capitals, the streets are full of people of every walk of life. There are shoe polishers everywhere, in rows on the pavement; interestingly, as many people wear sport shoes these days, the shoe polishers have branched out into shoe washing. Really, bucket, brush and soap! Most disturbing though are the beggars, especially the lepers amongst them, something I thought wasn’t of these times anymore. And those with an arm missing, or a leg, you cannot fake that. And the old, they have no safety net, no social security. Then there are the opportunists, those who cross the street at the sight of a ferenji – a foreigner – to put up their hand. And there are those who want to strike up a conversation with the foreigner, often with good intentions, occasionally not. And all those casual pedestrians who seem to continually study of all the pockets you could possibly keep money in. We have a tendency of walking a lot, and after a while it can become overwhelming.
But back to the sights. The guidebooks claim Addis Ababa has some very worthwhile museums, and a number of interesting churches. But all the churches we tried to visit where closed, even on Sunday (admittedly, we came well after mass had finished, but still). And the museums, well, mixed feeling here, too. The ethnological museum was touted as perhaps the best museum in Africa, and if there is one subject we would be interested in, it would be ethnological. But I was disappointed. The museum, on the first and second floor of one of the former emperor’s palaces, looked run down, some of the vitrines were empty, the impressive chandeliers at the ceiling only had one or two candlesticks working, half of the spots illuminating the artefacts had burned. Most importantly, the artefacts were just not as impressive. As you would have expected, within 24 hours we had located the small shops where to buy our souvenirs, and the things for sale there, like drums, other musical instruments, pots, pans, baskets etc. – you know what we collect – just looked nicer than the ones in the museum. The other museum, the National Museum, just down the road, was a bit the same, large empty spaces where obviously exhibits had been in the past. The skull of Lucy – a replica – was interesting, but mostly because she seems to have a similar status here as the Mona Lisa has in Paris: impossible to get close because of the many other people trying to get a glimpse (while the rest of the museum is virtually empty).
All together, you know, somewhat disappointing, our first impression of Addis Ababa. We didn’t have high expectations, and the real Ethiopia is outside Addis Ababa, but still, a capital city – you know what I mean. And just when we ran out of things to do, just when we had seen it all, in one-and-a-half day, I got mugged.
The good news – for those following my blogs for a little longer – is that next to our hotel we have found a supermarket, which we re-christened the tonic-palace. Gin we had found earlier, so we are in business again….
next: the Nile Valley