Addis Ababa, known to locals as just “Addis,” is a quickly-evolving city whose recent economic growth is one of Africa’s greatest success stories. Founded just over one hundred years ago, the capital is a multifaceted city that towers 2,400 meters above sea level on the Abyssinian plateau. There isn’t a cloud in the sky for about eight months out of the year, and the warm sun beats down on culturally-stimulating museums, world-class restaurants, fashionable boulevards and hip clubs. The city has many surprises up its sleeve, ready to impress even the most well-traveled visitors.
The thought-provoking National Museum is a great introduction to the rich history of both Ethiopia and the continent as a whole. The highlight of the extensive collection is Lucy, the famously-fossilized hominid dated at 3.2 million years old. Four main exhibition sections nearly overflow with artistic treasures, historic artifacts and cultural gems, including memorabilia from former rulers, ethnographic displays and archaeological finds from throughout the country.
Between 1977 and 1978, the ruthless dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam murdered as many as 100,000 Ethiopians. The Addis Ababa museum dedicated to the victims of the “Red Terror” opened in 2010, honoring the dead through haunting photographs and detailed exhibits with the aim of educating visitors and locals on tolerance, peace and unity.
The city’s Ethnological Museum is another fascinating museum, showcasing body art, music, religion, burial rites, traditional games and more from thousands of years of Ethiopian history. Housed in Haile Selassie’s former palace, the grand building itself is just as interesting as its collections.
Visitors can delve into the spirit of Addis Ababa at the Mercato, a huge open-air market nearly overflowing with aromatic spices, handmade carpets, vibrant cloths and authentic artwork. You can find everything from souvenirs to weapons there, and bargaining is welcome and expected by the sellers. If you are looking for something specific, hire a guide because the labyrinthine layout can be overwhelming. You won’t have to look far for an expert; local boys are always hanging around the entrances looking for tourists to guide through the dizzying array of shops for just a few dollars.
Although a number of religions are practiced throughout the country, Ethiopia is largely Orthodox Christian, and Addis Ababa’s St. George’s Cathedral is central to the faithful community. Constructed in 1896, the small but beautiful church contains a museum featuring weapons and battle uniforms from the war for independence from Italy, and the walls are lined with fine examples of Ethiopian artwork. Visitors are welcome even during services, but they must remove their shoes before stepping inside.
The city’s nightlife really gets going around 11 pm and the party lasts until dawn. High-end bars stocked with top-shelf international spirits sit next to traditional pubs serving up tall glasses of tej, Ethiopia’s national drink. A mixture of honey and beer-like tela, the alcoholic drink is sweet and strong. Although many night spots feature international DJs spinning the latest hits, don’t leave Addis Ababa without seeing a traditional music show. Belly dancers often sway to the azmari music, the traditional style played on single-string acoustic violins.
The only thing hotter than the nightlife in Addis Ababa may be the cuisine. World-class restaurants abound in the city, serving up spicy dishes that are usually eaten without utensils. If you visit during the Lenten season, be prepared to feast on mostly vegan cuisine, as the Ethiopian Orthodox Church forbids meat for the 40 days before Easter.
Addis Ababa Geographical Location
Addis Ababa is located in center of Ethiopia at the foot of Mount Entoto. It is the largest city in Ethiopa and has a population of 4,570,000 people in the metropolitan area.
Addis Ababa Language
The three official languages of Ethiopia are Amarigna, English, and Arabic while Oromigna and Tigrigna are official regional languages. English is used predominately as a second language that is taught in school.
Addis Ababa Predominant Religion
- 44% Orthodox Christian
- 34% Muslim
- 19% Protestant
- 3% Other
Ethiopia has historic ties to both Christianity and Islam and was one of the first countries to make Christianity the official religion in the 4th century.
Addis Ababa Currency
The Birr is the official currency of Ethiopia.
Addis Ababa Climate
Due to its high elevation Addis Ababa has a moderately warm temperature throughout the year with little variation. There is a distinct rainy season from June to September in which it rains the majority of the month.
Addis Ababa Main Attractions
- Ethiopian National Museum
- St George’s Cathedral
- National Palace
Other Attraction in Addis Ababa
- The Menelik Mausoleum
- Trinity Cathedral
- The Ethnological Museum
- The old Imperial Lion Zoo