Riots in Addis, and Dire Dawa

Trip Start Aug 31, 2005
Trip End Aug 25, 2006

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Sunday, November 6, 2005

After the trekking we headed back to Addis. Easier said than done, in total it took us 3 days by public bus and a lot of worry. We had heard all about the riots that had been happening all over the city in protest of the election results. The election was held in May with the Government winning with 60% of the vote. The whole country protested it was an unfair and corrupt election, and EVERYONE we have spoken to (with the exception of a few in the Axum, hometown of the Prime Minisher) was against the government. The night before the riots, the police arrested thousands (most reports I have read say 3000) opposition party members, journalists, and basically anyone against their regime. The next day, the people took to the streets. The police fired upon them, and at least 55 were killed (some reports say hundreds).

Needless to say, we wanted to spend as little time as possible in Addis. Our bus finally pulled into town on Saturday, to find the entire city on strike. No buses, no taxis. So we put our backpacks on and trekked across town to find a hotel. The city was a far cry from the bustling city we had found 4 weeks ago - now the streets were deserted - it was very uncanny. We found a hotel, did our washing, got clean and set about finding something to eat. We eventually found a Chinese Restaurant open (!!) and enjoyed the few available dishes on the menu.

The next morning we woke at 4am and set about trying to hitch to the bus station (about 5km away). Easier said than done when no taxis are running. We stopped a few cars but got turned down because they were going to church (at 5am!) but eventually found a nice family who happily took us to the bus station where we boarded our bus.

The bus journey was great - sealed roads all the way! A first. The bus was comfortable and the bus assistant befriended us, wanting to be our little brother.

We found out that the East is Qat (the stimulant leaf) capital of Ethiopia. Our bus stopped on numerous occassions so half the bus could go and buy small trees to chew on for the remainder of the journey. Feeling peer pressured, we joined in.

Eventually, 10 hours later, we arrived in Ethiopia's 2nd most populous town - Dire Dawa. It's a lovely wee town of only 160,000 (Addis is 5million, Dire Dawa is next in size!!) with large tree lined avenues and a large Muslim population. We checked into a hotel and our bus assistant set about showing us the local culture - raw beef and photos taken in photo studios. We had fun before crashing for the night, and excited about heading to the colourful Muslim town of Harar the next day.
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