July 18, 2008

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

I "wake" up tired after a sleepness night caused by the high altitude in Addis Ababa.

Even with a foggy mind, I see that it is a pleasant city - it's a typical African town with a plethora of small businesses flourishing around the main roads, housed in iron shack boutiques, painted with vibrant colors. There are piles of clothes, as well as thousands of shoes, neon-colored flip flops, and umbrellas, ready to be purchased by the next judicious bargainer.

The roads are admirably hole-less, and well-paved, flanked on either sides with treacherous, steep, side roads leading to compact neighborhoods of cement, corruguated and iron dwellings. I tense every time we pass security check points, guards or policemen, but we never get asked for a bribe. Addis strikes me as the kind of place where a "muzungu" like me could walk around comfortably during the day. A majority of women are dressed from head to toe in delicate, pleated, white cotton, preferring to layer the many scarves to brave the cold of the rainy season. I honestly didn't think it could get this cold in Africa.

The cars are all relatively nice, a far cry from the banged up vehicles of Kinshasa. There is a profusion of public buses and taxis.

A few things I find out about Ethiopia:

1-It is the birthplace of the Rastafari Movement. From wikipedia:
The Rastafari movement (also known as Rastafari, or simply Rasta) is a new religious movement that accepts Haile Selassie I, the former Emperor of Ethiopia, as God incarnate. Rastas may regard themselves as conforming to certain visions of how Africans should live, reclaiming what they see as a culture stolen from them when their ancestors were brought on slave ships to Jamaica, the movement's birthplace. Another important Afrocentric identification is with the colours red, gold, and green, of the Ethiopian flag. One belief that unites many Rastafari is that Ras Tafari Makonnen, who was crowned Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia on November 2, 1930, is the living God incarnate, called Jah, who is the black Messiah who will lead all those of righteous livity into a promised land of full emancipation and divine justice called Zion. All mankind is of African origin, as the Garden of Eden was in the fertile land of Ethiopia.

2-Injera, the bitter pancake one eats with Ethiopian dishes, is in fact fermented tiff flour

3-Ethiopia operates on a different calendar, called the Ge'ez calendar. The country is gearing up to celebrate its year 2001, and a celebration will be observed at 12 midnight on September 12, 2008, for the new year.

-The coffee ceremony is a really big deal here. Being invited to a coffee ceremony is a sign of friendship and respect, and often, communities members gather around the preparer, and sip and gossip for hours. Some elders prefer their coffee with salt or butter, but most people take it with a lot of sugar. It is performed in three steps, each cup weaker than the last. Often, you are served snacks such as popcorn or peanuts to accompany it.

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