Mumbai to Johannesburg, with an 8 hour stop in Addis can only mean one thing - LETS GO.
Some delays, yes the immigration counter at Bole does feel like you are at the fish monger's (renovations and a new airport is underway), but overall we got there without incidences and was soon picked up by our pre arranged driver. Away we went then, driving around the city and exploring what we could during our short trip.
This was my first time in Ethiopia and I must say, it's so easy to be struck by the beauty and mystery all around. Addis is on a plateau and the air feels light. The city like a hive, low, sprawling and always in a buzz. It is right by the Entoto Mountain which is shrouded by tall pines and is an excellent spot for some quality sunset gazing. Half way up Entoto is an Orthodox church. I don't know if it's ancient but it definitely feels like it. We went around sunset and it was surrounded on all sides by locals sitting and listening to the Amharic prayers with intense devotion. I noticed that many of the families had brought along their sickly relatives, almost like the prayers would absorb in to their hearts and provide some respite and resolve. With so much devotion, deep religiosity all around, it was an otherworldly feel for sure.
The city feels largely safe. Except perhaps that area around the Mercato where even from our car we could see people high on some local plant based drug (I think its called kati?). Maybe because it was evening already, but the Mercato afterall is the largest open air market in Africa, so some shady behavior is only but expected in the never ending aisles of stores selling everything under the sun.
Also people. Ethiopia appears to be a country of beautiful people because literally everyone I saw was incredibly beautiful. Big shiny eyes, a smile on their face. The fact that appearance is a matter of pride is evident in how it is easy to see that everyone has taken time to dress up. Beautiful colors, women's hair done up like it means business. Joie de vivre everywhere you look.
It would be unholy to leave Ethiopia without stopping for a good meal. And of course, I found another dish for the keeps, which I now look for in every Ethiopian menu I lay my hands on : Firfir. Beef cooked up with fried bits of injira. Divine.
Kategna Restaurant. Don't miss it.
Can't wait to explore more of Etheopia. This was just a dip and it's pulled me in.