Ethiopia: Addis Ababa
Bicycle Africa / Ibike Tours
 
       
 

Most journeys in Ethiopia start in Addis Ababa.  From there, depending what kind of mix of experiences you want, you can choose one of the roads that radiate out from the Capital and head northeast, southeast, south, southwest, west or northwest.  Addis Ababa, itself, has undergone a radical transformation in the new millennium: new highways circumnavigate the city; there are new buildings and construction cranes on the skyline in almost every direction;, the Chinese are building a commuter rail system; and the economy is becoming more vibrant.  It's not very photogenic, but a few snapshot start to give a sense of the city.

 
Welcome sign, Bole International Airport, Ethiopia
 
Welcome is the message that greets you as you exit Bole International Airport.
Construction of commuter rail line, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
 
Traffic can be fierce in Addis Ababa.  During commute times it can take hours to get across the city by vehicle -- it is faster on a bicycle but you don't see many.  One of the product of the intense congestion is a serious air pollution problem.

To help move people faster the Addis Ababa commuter rail system is under construction (2014) (left).  The system is being engineered by the Chinese, but there were numerous headlines about technical mistakes and constructions delays.

The system began operations in Oct 2015 (right). Chances are, even when fully operational, it will be good for the people who use it, but won't change traffic congestion very much.
 

Electric tram, light rail, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Electric tram, light rail, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The oldest part of modern Addis is Piazza. It took a lot of its current form when the Italians annexed the country between 1936 and 1941. Just above Piazza are a traffic circle dominated by Menelik II. Menelik II proclaimed Addis Ababa (new flower) the capital of Ethiopia in 1889 and began laying the foundation of a modern state. In 1903, telephones and electricity were installed in Addis Ababa. His army went on to defeat the Italians at Adwa, in 1896, protecting Ethiopian Independence for a while longer.
Shopping arcade in Piasa, Addis Ababa
 
I like the Piazza area because it has a lot of historical character and a variety of businesses in a relatively small area. This is a shopping arcade with clothing boutiques, jewelry stores, music shops, cafes, restaurants, assorted emporiums, et cetera. Shopping arcade in Piasa, Addis Ababa
Churchill Ave from Piasa, Addis Ababa
 
Monument on Churchill Ave, Addis AbabaLooking down Churchill Ave from Piazza (left),  the haze is thick enough to begin to obscure the view beyond a few blocks.  If the air were clear the monument would be visible.

In the digital age, the old Piazza Post Office (right) is pretty quiet.  Much of the building seems to have been leased out to other businesses, but you can still buy stamps there.
 

The old Post Office in Piasa.
An older retail / commercial street in Piasa
 
An older retail / commercial street in PiasaThe older retail / commercial streets in Piazza (left) have a human scale and some character.  But Addis Ababa is a city in transition, so it is very likely that within a few years, these buildings will be knocked down to make way for more austere multi-story replacements.

Off the commercial streets the land use is primarily residential and there are a few more trees. Here a Jacaranda tree is in bloom on a back road in Piazza (right).
 

Jacaranda tree in bloom on a residential, back road, in Piasa
Men's clothing stores, displaying there wares with rows of manikins
 
This snapshot of life (left) is intriguing because on the first two stories of the buildings are men's clothing stores with their wares display on manikins -- these are not real people. There is a school on the third story where the boys break come out on the balcony for some fresh air, stinking poses similar to the manikins.

(Right) Across the streets is another row of men's clothing stores, also displaying there wares with rows of manikins outside on the sidewalk.  This must be the men's fashion district.

Men's clothing stores, displaying there wares with rows of manikins
Kiosks selling dry goods, Piasa, Addis Ababa
 
Street of book sellers, Addis Ababa, EthiopiaA side street -- predominately residential -- has been populated on one side with kiosks selling dry goods (left). Again, it has more vegetation than the main arterials.

Another side street is lined with book sellers (right).

Italian era building, Piasa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Corrugated metal fence painted to look like bamboo
 
This is the nicest corrugated metal fence I have ever seen (left).  It has been very artistically painted to look like a bamboo fence.

The formal and informal economies mix with street vendors selling tomatoes and bananas (right) in Piazza, not far from the jewelry district.

Street vendors in Piasa with tomatoes and bananas
Italian era building, Piasa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
 
Italian era building, Piasa, Addis Ababa, EthiopiaVariations of mustard yellow seems to be the color of choice on this :Italian era stone and brick building, in Piazza (far left). In a before and after: The same corner a year later, only the bottom levels of yellow brick show (near left).  A long row of one story buildings have been knock down and salvaged to make way for Addis's building boom. Italian era building, Piasa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Italian era building, Piasa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
 
Italian era building, Piasa, Addis Ababa, EthiopiaItalian era building, Piasa, Addis Ababa, EthiopiaSome larger Italian era building in Piazza where shades of pea green have been added to the pallet. Italian era building, Piasa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Italian era building, Piasa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Older building, Piassa, Addis Ababa, EthiopiaOlder building, Piassa, Addis Ababa, EthiopiaItalian era building, Piasa, Addis Ababa, EthiopiaA multi-use and residential Italian era building (left), in Piazza. Bay windows and balconies give it texture and character.
 
Older building, Piassa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Greek Orthodox Church, Piasa, Addis Ababa Armenian Orthodox Church, Addis Ababa, EthiopiaThe Greek Orthodox Church (left) in Piazza is a reminder that the district was not only home to a large number of Italians, but also the center of a substantial Greek community that resided in the Piazza area until the Derg took power. There is also an Armenian Orthodox Church (right)  which looks like it dates from about the same era.

With the churches come shop specializing in clothing and accessories associated with the orthodox church.
 

Clothing and accessories associated with the orthodox church, Addis Ababa.
Jewelry stores, Piasa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
 
Jewelry stores, Piasa, Addis Ababa, EthiopiaItalian era building, Piasa, Addis Ababa, EthiopiaStores in the "jewelry district", in Piazza, were active.  It seemed like almost everyone had a customer inside examining the display cases of sparkling accessories. Jewelry stores, Piasa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Che Bar, Piasa, Addis Ababa Africa Coffee, Addis Ababa, EthiopiaOslo Cafe, Piassa, Addis Ababa, EthiopiaExpressing the cosmopolitan side of Addis Ababa are the Che Bar (left) and Oslo Cafe (right).  Unbranded coffee shop are the norm and ubiquitous, but the branded are beginning to make an appearance.

This is even more grandly demonstrated by the massive Sheraton, Elilly International, Radisson Blu, Intercontinental, Hilton and similar hotels.
 

Alem Bunna (coffee), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Russian built Lada taxi, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 1980's Volkswagen beetle, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia1980's Volkswagen beetle, Addis Ababa, EthiopiaAddis Ababa can't compare to Havana with its fleet of 1950's automobiles, but the Ethiopian are managing to keep a lot of 1980's era cars still running. In this category are Russian built Ladas that are use as taxis, and candy-colored Volkswagen beetles that are mostly in private ownership. The Volkswagen beetle has a dubious role in Ethiopia history as the vehicle that Emperor Haile Salassie was unceremoniously trundled into the back seat of as he was overthrown by the Derg and whisked from the palace on his final trip.
 
1980's Volkswagen beetle, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Main building, Taitu Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
 
Main building, Taitu Hotel, Addis Ababa, EthiopiaThe oldest hotel in Addis Ababa is the Itegue Taitu, which was built in 1898 (Ethiopian Calendar) (1905 Gregorian Calendar). Taitu Betul (1851 – 1918), an Ethiopian Empress and the wife of Emperor Menelek II, established this hotel to provide guests a place to rest and dine. Parts of it show its age more than others, but it is hanging in there.  There seems to have been a stronger effort to maintain the main floor of the older building that serves as the restaurant.  Even if you don't stay there, it is worth a visit to soak up its charm and partake of the excellent Ethiopian vegetarian lunch buffet, which is served daily. Main building, Taitu Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Main building, Taitu Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Main building, Taitu Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Main building, Taitu Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Main building, Taitu Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Egziabher Ab Betekristian (Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
 
New blue Mosque, Addis AbabaBeyond Piazza there is more to see as the city is expanding in every direction except to the north, which is bounded by Entoto Hill.

On a knoll, halfway up the hill is Egziabher Ab Betekristian (Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church) (left).

Lower down the hill is a brilliant new blue mosque (right).
 

New blue Mosque, Addis Ababa
Federal Supreme Court of Ethiopia Clustered around King George VI Street are a number of notable attractions:

The Federal Supreme Court of Ethiopia (left).

The entrance to the Archbishop's house is flanked by two huge birds (right).

Archbishops house, flanked by two huge birds
Gates to the grounds of the main campus of Addis Ababa University
 
The main campus of Addis Ababa University used to be the palace complex so it is surrounded by a wall that is periodically interrupted by ornate gates. Gates to the grounds of the main campus of Addis Ababa University
Palace of Emperor Haile Salaisse
 
On the west side of the main campus of Addis Ababa University is the palace and formal gardens of former Emperor Haile Salaisse.  The palace is now the Ethiopian Studies department of the University and houses the Ethnology Museum.  The museum has information on many of the ethnic groups in Ethiopia and some of their customs. There is a large exhibit on musical instruments and religious art, and you can walk through the living quarters of the last Emperor and his wife. Garden of Emperor Haile Salaisse
traffic circle monument shrouded in scaffolding
 
Monument in the traffic circle on King George VI, Addis Ababa(2014) The monument in the traffic circle on King George VI Street was shrouded in scaffolding.  I will have to return next year to find the answer to the mystery of what is hidden.

(2015) The unveiled monolith includes a Lion of Judah and scenes of battle but there is no easy to find plagued explaining the event(s) it memorializes. It is probably part of dozens of memorial recently erected in towns around the country to commemorate the liberation war that toppled the Derg in 1991.
 

Monument in the traffic circle on King George VI, Addis Ababa
Pop-up Christmas store, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Pop-up Christmas store, Addis Ababa, EthiopiaIt your timing is right, you can catch Christmas on the streets of Addis Ababa. This is not the one or two months of aggressive commercialism that you find in North America. About ten days before Christmas, which the Orthodox Church celebrates on January 7, pop-up Christmas store blossom on the sidewalks of Addis Ababa. Most of the items for sale are decorative. Pop-up Christmas store, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
 

 

Westeners bicycling in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
 
Time to leave.  Even though you can count on one hand the number of Ethiopians you see bicycling on most days, it is not a bad bicycling experience, if you miss rush hour and take some secondary roads.

Having said that it is an even better bicycling experience as you travel out into the countryside, where it can be sublime.  Read on.......................

Westener bicycling in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
   

Index

 
    Hwy 2 (webpages under construction)  
    Hwy 3 (toward the Nile River, Bahar Dar and Gondar)  
    Hwy 6 (webpage under construction)  
       
     
       
 

touring tour eco-tour safari responsible travel journey adventure expedition trip active vacation culture cultural holiday budget

Unique Programs To Special Places For Memories Of A Lifetime!

Please write if you have questions, suggestions and comments about our program or want to be added to Bicycle Africa's mailing list. (Also let us know how you found this site.)

Bicycle Africa Homepage        Ibike Programs       IBF Homepage     To Search
"Hosted by DreamHost - earth friendly web hosting"
Created by David Mozer.
Copyright ? 1983-2017  Ibike LLC.  All rights reserved.

--

 

Ethiopia Bicycle Tour: Addis Ababa