Addis Ababa, or ‘new flower’ in Amharic, was founded in 1886 by Emperor Menekik II with the encouragement of his wife, the Empress Taitu Betul, and remains the centre of government today. The city was occupied by the Italians from 1936 until 1941. In 1963, Emperor Haile Selassie helped form the Organisation of African Unity, headquartered in Addis, which was dissolved in 2002 and replaced by the African Union. Entoto Mountain, the highest peak overlooking Addis, is 3,200m above sea level. Emperor Menelik II built his palace here when we founded the city of Addis Ababa, and lived here until the end of his life. The mountain is considered sacred, and has many churches and monasteries including Saint Raguel and Saint Mary. The eucalyptus trees on the slopes, planted by Emperor Haile Selassiek have given
rise to the name: the lung of Addis. The National Museum has a selection of historical, archaeological, anthropological and artistic exhibits, the most famous of which is Lucy. Discovered by paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson in 1974, and apparently named after the Beatles’ song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds which was a hit at the time, Lucy’s skeleton is dated to about 3.2 million years ago. The Ethnographic Museum, the first university museum in Ethiopia, is located at Addis Ababa University. The museum houses a diverse and interesting collection of memorabilia of Ethiopian history, and the life cycles and rites of passages of the Ethiopian peoples. Built to commemorate Ethiopia’s liberation from the Italian occupiers, Holy Trinity Cathedral is the second most important place of worship in Ethiopia. It is the burial place of Emperor Haile Selassie and Empress Menen Asfaw, and those who assisted them during their exile. Also buried here is the famous British suffragette, Sylvia Pankhurst who spent much of her life in Ethiopia. The octagonal St George’s Cathedral was built on the ruins of a church of the 15th century. Emperor Haile Selassie was crowned in the cathedral in 1930, which then became a pilgrimage site for Rastafarians who revere Haile Selassie as a messianic figure. A museum and an Imperial throne are also found here. Merkato, Italian for ‘market’, is the largest open-air market in Africa. With products from around Ethiopia and beyond, including agricultural, gastronomy, textiles and artefacts, this is a wonderful place to spend a day. The Piazza, originally the economic heart of Addis and home to the 1905 stone Bank of Abyssinia building, is an interesting place to stay, eat, shop and experience Addis’ nightlife. Bole, one of the more upmarket parts of the capital, stretches from Bole International Airport to Meskel Square, and is where most of the international restaurants, hotels, gyms, shops and malls are found. Other more unusual activities on offer include an art day, visiting Addis’ fascinating art galleries and photography exhibitions; a food tour, sampling Ethiopia’s famed cuisine in a selection of the best restaurants; or a horse riding expedition up to a hill overlooking Addis on which a picnic will be served. Sites of interest around Addis include the 13th century rock-hewn church of Adady Mariam; the Tiya Stele Field of an ancient civilisation, one of the most important of about 160 archaeological sites in Soddo region and a UNESCO World Heritage Site; and a bridge constructed of ostrich shells and rock over the Blue Nile with fabulous views, that might have been built by the Portuguese in the 16th century or by the Ras Darge Sahle Selassie in the 19th century. To the south of Addis, Bishoftu, also known as Debre Zeit, and Adama, also known as Nasret, are resort towns popular with residents of Addis for weekends away from the city.