Most of the Ethiopians we had contact with were very eager to know what thought about Ethiopia and Addis Ababa. The thing is, we saw very little of Ethiopia except for the areas between our guest house and the orphanage. Even though our driver took many different routes, we really didn't get to see a whole lot. Once while we were riding along the driver just happened to spot his friend and pulled over to say hello. His friend happened to be a tour guide and offered his services if we wanted to see more of the city. I felt like it was quite a coincidence that the one time we were alone with the driver he ran into this tour guide buddy. (We shared the driver with another family and we were almost always together in the car.) Later the other family was in the car alone with the driver and they happened to run into the tour guide as well.
So, we didn't see a whole lot, but here are a few tidbits from our trip.
One evening we went to an Ethiopian restaurant where we had injera and wot and watched traditional dances and musicians. Injera is a spongy bread, similar to a pancake. It's used to pick up and eat wot, which is any type of stew.
Injera and wot at Yod Abyssinia.
It was pretty good, but some of it was really too spicy for my taste. The restaurant had murals of famous sites in Ethiopia. Our driver, who joined us for the meal, sat next to Brian and told him about each of the sites. And, he said, his tour guide buddy could take us to some of the sites. I really liked our driver and rather enjoyed that he was trying to help his friend's business.
There's a lot to say about the driving in Ethiopia. We only saw one traffic light the whole week and there seemed to be few driving rules. Even the lanes were subjective. The roads usually had at least faint lane markings, but they were often ignored. A road could be vary from one to four or more lanes just based on the traffic at the time. And the roads were not just for vehicles, but for pedestrians and animals as well. Here's a short video of one of our drives. There wasn't a lot of traffic on the road at this point, but there were a lot of pedestrians.
And the polution! It was unbelievable. It wasn't unbearable most of the time, but when we were on the road it was awful.
Many of the vehicles reminded me of Pig-Pen from Charlie Brown. Only it was a cloud of exhaust rather than dirt that followed them around.
The blue and white taxis became a very common site. We drove past a couple of locations where the taxis would collect to pick up passengers. The taxi vans were the most common. They had 5 rows of seating with 11 or 12 seats -- and usually 20 or more passengers -- all in about the size of a U.S. minivan. My guess is that they work similar to city buses and there are designated pick up and drop off areas rather than door to door service.
Another common site was the women cleaning the streets. They wore pink coveralls, large straw hats and a scarf cover most of the their face. The scarf, I'm pretty sure, was to keep out some of the exhaust and dirt. They worked in pairs or small groups -- one with a wheelbarrow and everyone with brooms.
Another thing of note was the construction. There were half-built buildings everywhere. Brian read that there was a big construction boom in Addis Ababa, but with the recent economic conditions many building projects were put on hold or abandoned. Some of the buildings were still being worked on, but it looked like many were just sitting there. In any case, we found the scaffolding quite impressive.
You can check out all of the photos here.