Museum Hopping in Addis

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

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Where I stayed
Damu Hotel Addis Ababa
Read my review - 2/5 stars
What I did
Ghion Park

Flag of Ethiopia  ,
Saturday, October 13, 2012

I am not being as positive as I could be here.  I slept a little fitfully...the time difference and the mosquito buzzing around.  It was too late to ask for a mosquito coil and, of course, my repellent was all in my missing checked bag.  I was up early and went to breakfast around 7:20.  The hotel staff here really try hard.  I got to eat on the balcony in the warm sun with my little Ethiopian espresso and some watermelon too.  

I should have been braver and tried to get directions for a bus or something.  The taxis might be reasonably priced but they feel very expensive.  The little ride from the airport to Damu was 300 birr - 180 is $10.  I wanted to go to the National Museum and that cost 200 birr, another 80 to get to the Ghion Hotel to check on meeting the group and then another 200 to get back to Damu.  Meanwhile I had a big lunch for 63 birr that included all kinds of VATs and stuff.   I did try to walk from the museum to the Ghion but then couldn't totally find my way on the map so gave up.  I think I have a better idea of the main center of the city now.  I should have booked the Ghion, but early on I read a negative review so I wasn't upset when it was fully booked - on Expedia, that is.  Damu is just too far away from everything...except the airport.

Enough whining.  I got to the National Museum and a serious middle-aged man informed me that the Museum was without electricity and so the downstairs exhibits - the famous Lucy bones especially -- were in absolute blackness.  So he suggested I come back in half an hour or so after the electricians work on it or the electricity is back on.  I didn't quite understand the bilateral approach here--maybe they didn't know the cause of the blackout.   I got directions for the other major museum - at Haile Selassie University -- about half a km away, and headed there.  After asking many new students where the museum was and their not knowing, I finally got some directions...only to find that the museum was closed yesterday and is also closed today.  Two strikes....It was still early - what should I do now?

Well, I went back to Lucy museum and luckily they were back in business, with tourists, and busloads of adorable young children - some of whom wanted their photos taken.  I first went to the Lucy rooms and saw the skulls - quite amazing looking - the differences in shapes...and the teeth.  I love those large teeth protruding out.  I overhead some students or volunteers from the US saying that Lucy's bones are actually in the US - Chicago they thought.  I checked out some of the Museum's ethnographic exhibits that I enjoyed.  I always like the regional dress, jewelry, pots and food processing implements.  One of the guides pointed out the injera griddle - where the traditional Ethiopian flat tortilla-like (but spongy) bread is made.  There were some early artifacts from the pre-Axum period as well.  Finally there was an art exhibit.  I took some photos of the more religious paintings and it is amazing how the camera creates a lightened image of the darkened canvas.

After the museum, I headed for the Ghion Hotel.  I was thinking my activities today would comprise of visiting one of the two major museums and contacting the group leader at the Ghion.  It took some while for the reception desk to get a contact.  I talked to someone connected with the Exodus tour - maybe the local company manager - who said the group would be arriving at 8 am tomorrow morning at the airport and I could meet them at the Ghion at 9am.  By now it was only around 2 pm but I was a little hungry and thirsty so I found a garden below the hotel - not realizing it was the hotel garden - huge, it is.  There was a sort of chanting by male members of a wedding party as a photographer took photos of the bridal party next to a fountain in the park.  So I took a few photos of them as well.  A traditional Western white wedding gown for the bride and tuxedos for the groom and groomsmen.

I stopped for a while and had a Fanta alternative.  For some reason, when I asked for a menu, the waitress said that she had none, so even though I saw some food, I didn't order any.  I wandered around the whole garden and adjoining Ghion Park - not sure whether it  was separate or not.  It was quite an impressive garden - lots of palms and other large trees, lots of flowers blooming - annuals and otherwise.  I saw a few poinsettia trees - quite amazing always to see them growing out of the ground.   The landscaping was pleasant with lots of staircases, little nooks and crannies, winding paths.  In places it seemed deserted and I wondered how they maintained it so well with no one working on it.  Then I went into another section that had all the workers:  watering with hoses, trimming grass and dead palm fronds, digging -- working very hard indeed.

After seeing all this work, I thought I might as well seek a light lunch in the Ghion restaurant and look for a restroom too.  I did not get a light lunch.  I might have chosen some soup though.  I don't remember any real salad options.  And it really wasn't an Ethiopian menu either.  Another odd thing was that since it was a weird time for lunch, I was sent to an area across from the bar and cashier where the table cloths hadn't been touched since earlier.  It seemed that all staff were congregating and chatting in this area and setting out to do stuff elsewhere.  Then they started moving out all the tables and nice chairs from around me and leaving the uglier chairs.  After I left, I saw many people around tables on the outdoor patios so I assumed that there was some function requiring all the staff outside.

During my lunch though, I was feeling a little out of place...or something, but still the wait staff was lovely.  When I tried to clear off one extra chair of my bag, a waiter said, no, no, and put my bag back on the chair.  Oh, another little incident.  I had watched the waitress bring my plate over to the cashier area and take off the cover and wrap a towel around it.  I hadn't realized how hot the plate was and burned myself when I touched it to move it over.  Yikes!  Back home, the waitstaff are probably required by law to warn diners about hot plates.

After lunch, I took a taxi back here to the Damu - tried negotiating with the driver with no luck.  He was a nice friendly guy - Solomon.  We almost missed the hotel but luckily he stopped to ask at the curb and the guys pointed across the street.  I wouldn't have recognized it myself.  On to my next negotiation...which I also lost.... I tried to convince the reception lady that I should get a ride out to the airport and back tonight with the airport van...since I never got one to come here and won't be using one when I leave.  But they said the airport van wasn't allowed to be used if you weren't going to the airport.  But I AM going to the airport.  I should have just told them I was flying, but since I hadn't, now I was stuck. 

So instead I have decided to try to meet the group at the airport tomorrow and catch a ride to the Ghion with them.  Hope it works.  I forgot to mention that I got charged for the call to the Exodus person from the Ghion.  I wonder if the Damu will charge for the call to find out whether my bag had been located.  It would be a risk to go to the airport tonight without knowing whether or not my bag makes it on tonight's flight from Frankfurt, as I was informed.  I hope it does.  I don't want to have to buy a whole new wardrobe and a new sleeping bag, etc.

I have been a pest here at the hotel...what with my lost bag and desire for shuttle van to the airport, I got the lock fixed on the closet door so I could lock up my valuables.  The cupboard above the closet has locks and keys but the keys don't seem to leave the locks once they're locked.  I also got a new table lamp since the old one didn't work with a replacement bulb.  Now all I need is mosquito repellent.  Maybe I will let it go....we'll see.  I am not usually so assertive - wonder what's up??

They have some great music downstairs - pop music including a lot of good oldies, rock and blues.  Will be good for going to sleep I hope.

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