Exploring Addis Ababa with Martina

Trip Start Oct 11, 2012
Trip End Nov 19, 2012

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Where I stayed
Addis Regency Hotel Addis Ababa
Read my review - 4/5 stars
What I did
St George Cathedral and Museum

Flag of Ethiopia  ,
Saturday, October 27, 2012

It was a lie-in morning at the Ghion Hotel.  I woke up at 7 am and started to do some small things before Martina woke up.  We both worked at our packing:  I, to prepare for my move to the Addis Regency and she, for her flight at 1 am.  We had decided to explore the area around the
Regency Hotel, which included St George's Cathedral which Doris recommended and the Merkato - the market said to be the largest in Africa.

We relied on our own food supplies for breakfast since the Ghion did not include breakfast in our room rate.  Martina desperately needed money and I would need more for my second Exodus trip so we had to go out in search of an ATM when the machine in the Ghion Hotel failed to produce any money with any of Martina's cards.  We tried a few more ATMs along Meskal Square - none of which worked.  Finally someone suggested the Hilton and Martina located it on the map.  We had to walk uphill past the Ghion Park and the African UN building.  We passed the security scanner only to find that the ATM was outside.  Fortunately we were able to get our cash and walk back to the Ghion in time for me to pack up and check out by 11 am when my transfer to the Regency arrived...more or less.  Our problem came when it took so long for Martina to leave money for Kibrom at the desk, but eventually it was left safely - we hope - and we were driven to the Regency.  The Regency is a more modern hotel with all kinds of amenities so it is a nice change - even with the construction work happening a few feet away from my room.  Luckily, it would be Sunday tomorrow and the workmen might be off.

After I was settled, we walked to St Georges Cathedral only to find that the church and museum were both closed until 2 pm.  We went in search of lunch and ended up back at the Regency because I was too chicken to try a local restaurant on the street - with 2 weeks of traveling in Ethiopia left to go - I didn't want to get sick.  We enjoyed our lunch and set off again for St Georges.  Once we paid our 50 birr entry fee, a guide let us into the church...by the women's entrance if I remember correctly.  The building is an octagon - a variation on the usual circle that symbolizes the world that is used in Ethiopian Orthodox churches.  There are 3 classes (representing the trinity):  the inner sanctum for the priests, an outer area for worshipers and the grounds maybe as the third.  I can't remember exactly.  There are 3 doors into the church:  one for priests, one for men and the third for women.  You have to take your shoes off before entering the church.  Within the church, our guide showed us various religious paintings as well as one of Queen Sheba and quite of few of Haile Selassie whose coronation ceremony was held here.  We did not see the inner area and some things were covered with cloth as a sign of reverence.

The museum is housed in the Bell Tower building and has church vestments as well as other garments including soldiers' uniforms from a war 180 years ago. One had some fur that our guide said was lion fur to represent the soldier's courage.  There were silver vessels and crosses and more pieces related to the Emperor Haile Selassie - chairs, rugs, cloaks.   Old photos of churches and important people completed the exhibition.  I can't remember any more at the moment.

From the Cathedral we decided to try to walk to the Merkato.  It didn't look that far from St George's but it was a bit difficult to tell which streets led to the huge market area.  We asked several people and got several different answers - seemed to be walking in circles - and then took the last person's advice and took a taxi there.  The cab driver left us off after driving through a bit of the market and cautioned us to watch our belongings.

At first glance, all we could see was shoes.  We walked indoors for a bit when it seemed to be starting to rain and were accosted by a man wanting us to see his souvenir shop.  We relented and went in but wouldn't buy any of his tablecloths, napkins or scarves.  We left to see what else we could find.  As we approached a section of jewelry shops, a man came out of one of the shops and started to accompany us.  I saw some interesting earrings but wasn't ready to buy any.  The man kept walking with us as we tried to find something interesting.  He suggested that he show us some spices and so we followed.  We were beginning to be uneasy about acquiring an unwanted tour guide.  Yet, the spice section was interesting:  we saw pieces of incense, some vials of kohl, some seeds and powders for various ailments as well as spices and herbs for cooking.  The market was closing as we passed stalls.  I wanted to take some photos and this man said it was alright since he was there, but most of the women did not want their photos taken.  I managed to take some of their wares though. 

After the spices, I think we ended up asking him about fruits and vegetables, so he led us to another section.  Did we see fruits and vegetables - no, I don't think so.  Finally, he asked if we wanted to see baskets and we did, so we went.  I really loved the huge colorful injera serving baskets and would have loved to get one but they were much too big for me to take home.  I did get a little basket and may have to store it in my bag at the Ghion.  By this time, we were ready to leave and ready to leave our unwanted guide. 

We walked over to the musicians that were playing to a large crowd.  Our would-be guide wanted us to move somewhere else, but we were resisting.  Some men's hands were reaching and beginning to tug at my purse and red tote bag.  It was time to leave.  We went in search of a taxi with our would-be guide in tow.  The first taxi driver didn't know where the Regency or St George's was.  A second driver started telling him.  Our guide was getting involved and neither Martina nor I liked that so Martina got a third taxi to drive us to St George's.  From there we walked - partly uphill and these uphills were taking their toll on me now - to the Regency.  Then up the 2 flights to my room.  We chatted for awhile until Martina was ready to move on to the Ghion to await her transfer to the airport.  We said our goodbyes.  It had been great to have Martina to pal around with today.  The Merkato was fun but stressful, and it is always comforting to have someone to help deal with the discomforts of dealing with difficult situations.

So now I have settled back into my room - finally with internet - although I haven't been able to get onto my road runner email account.  I am feeling a bit tired - I think it is partly dehydration - and I may go to bed earlier than the last few nights.

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