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Addis Ababa (Addis Abeba) Ethiopia

Meskel Square, Coptic church, airport

Addis Ababa (also spelled Addis Abeba), is the capital of Ethiopia. My flight from London LHR to Addis Ababa landed, as do all international arrivals, at Bole International Airport (airport code ADD). From Addis, I flew Ethiopian airlines to Bahir Dar, Blue Nile Falls, Gonder, the Simien Mountains and Debark, Aksum and the Aksum stele fields.

Meskel Square and a Coptic Church could be seen from my room at the National Hotel. Visit the Ethnological Museum in Addis (no photos allowed) for its wonderful Ethiopian artifacts. Related: Ethiopian coffee ceremony; books about Ethiopia.

Central Addis Ababa view of Menelik II Avenue from Meskel Square Central Addis Ababa ethiopia with hotels and government buildings.

Addis Ababa is a hive of heavy traffic with choking exhaust fumes during the day, but it quiets down at night.

The Hilton Hotel Addis is the red roofed building.

In this picture, I am looking north from the National Hotel on Menelik II Avenue near Meskel Square.

This area is home to government buildings with lush gardens, and a luxury hotel and condos.

Youngsters on the street hawk packets of tissue for 1ETB (Ethiopian birr - see Ethiopia page for exchange info). It's a good idea to always keep a pack with you since restrooms may not provide any.

Addis Ababa Street ~ Menelik II Avenue close up city street and workers in addis ababa ethiopia

Menelik II Avenue runs north (top, center, in this photo) from Meskel Square, past the front of the National Hotel, and then becomes a divided avenue as it continues north up the hill, and past the Hilton Hotel.

This photo shows Menelik's east side.

Early morning sunshine bathes the workers (right) swinging hammers and picks to break large rocks into gravel.

Separated by a tall green hedge, passersby walk along the sidewalk, unseen by the workers.

Meskel Square Addis Ababa Meskel Square in Addis Ababa the heart of ethiopia capital.

Meskel Square is the centre of Addis, and this is the view from my room at the National Hotel.

Six to eight lanes of traffic cross at the intersection, and yes, it's an adventure at times.

Bole International Airport is about 5 kilometres (3 miles) to the southeast.

Note the large sand-colour area in the photo -- these are the stadium bleachers. The pointed red rooftops mark a small shopping mall.

Stadium at Meskel Square - Ethiopian runners in white track outfits

olympic runners train in the stadium at Meskel Square in addis ababa ethiopia.

A closer look at the scene above shows the runners on the stadium bleachers.

Early each morning, members of the Ethiopian Olympic track team trained by running back and forth along the length of the rows of bleachers.

One theory as to why Ethiopian runners excel at marathons is that they often live and train in the altitude of these Highlands.

Residents claim the altitude is 8700 feet (2,650 metres), though I have seen Addis' elevation proclaimed as 2300-2500 metres (7500-8200 feet).

The important point is, it's high, the third-highest capital in the world.

Coptic Christian Church near Meskel Square Addis at Christmas addis ababa ethipia coptic church

On Coptic Christmas Day (in January) the tolling bells called the faithful to three-hour-long services twice each day, broadcast on outdoor speakers at a healthy volume.

The entire Coptic service is clearly audible from the National Hotel, located right across the street from this church.

This was more local colour than I required. Some visitors remained outside the church, on the stairs, asking for handouts from those in the Christmas spirit.

Addis Ababa city bus full at rush hour

addis ababa ethiopia city bus and passengers

Rush hour commuters packed the buses that crossed through Meskel Square.

Around the corner from my hotel was a National Tourism Office, closed for the Christmas holidays.

At the nearby Hilton Hotel, I learned a city tour could be had for $76 USD, though I could not find out what sights were included.

However, armed with a guidebook, it's fairly easy to take a cab to many museums and markets, and no doubt less costly.

National HotelĀ  Addis Ababa Ethiopia

I stayed at the National Hotel, centrally located near Meskel Square. It's a little shabby (this is a poor country, after all) but it was comfortable and clean (no critters), with elevators, in-room satellite TV and bathroom with hot water. There's internet access in a business center off the lobby. From the lobby towards the licensed dining room, there are a few shops selling T-shirts, cards, costume jewellery.

Credit cards were accepted, one of the few places that did. I paid the going rate of $99 USD for a 5-night stay, including daily breakfast. You can charge meals and laundry service to your room, and buy bottled water from the bar. I booked the National Hotel (via email, with no deposit requested) through (state-owned) National Tour Operator. The Ghion Hotel offers similarly priced rooms, and an outdoor pool in nicely landscaped grounds that back onto the National Hotel property.

Downtown Addis Ababa 'laundry' area ~ Lady in red washing clothes in creek a woman washes her laundry in a creek outside a hotel in Downtown Addis ababa ethiopia.

From the vantage point of my hotel window, I looked out over flowering jacarandas near this creek that separated the grounds of the Ghion and National hotels.

Even on a closer look from the street-level bridge, the water seemed as far from clean as it could be.

Yet several people were rinsing out garments, then spreading them to dry in the hot sun. Apparently, the sun will bleach out any impurities.

Addis Hilton Hotel ~ Addis Ababa EthiopiaAddis Ababa Hilton Hotel grounds

Ex-pats living in Addis, and others, can enjoy a day at the pool at the Hilton, and other large Addis hotels.

I had hoped to try the spa services offered here, so I had a tour of the facilities, which looked most inviting, especially after the long road trip of the previous week (see links below).

Unfortunately, I had a flight to catch, so the spa visit will have to wait till next time. There are some nice shops at street level, as well as the hotel's lower level.

Addis city park Bihere Tsige recreation centre addis ababa ethiopia city park

Bihere Tsige is a large and wooded park with extensive gardens of thousands of species of plants, trees and shrubs.

It's located about 5 km (3 miles) from Meskel Square.

Bihere Tsige is a popular spot to take wedding photos, and indeed, on the Sunday afternoon when I came here, a large wedding party was doing just that.

The park is open daily 8:30-5:30, and a great spot for a walk or a picnic. Admission was a few birr.