The capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa also lays claim to being the third highest capital city in the world. The name means “New Flower” and as an introduction to the country is perhaps one of the best ways to get used to being there. With comfortable temperatures and only occasional rain, the weather is often a surprise to those who arrive expecting the desert climate of Ethiopia and this along with the lively, bustling atmosphere makes it a pleasant place to explore.
The city centre is defined by Mexico Square in the southwest, Meskel Square in the southeast, the Hilton Hotel to the northeast and Tewodros Square in the northwest. The main road through this centre is Churchill Avenue. There are a good many places to take lunch here, and it has some excellent international restaurants which are affordable and good value. There are also a number of bars which have pleasant atmospheres and cheap yet tasty food. For teas, there are plenty of pastry shops which sell savoury and sweet pastries, as well as milkshakes and ice-cream.
An area to the north of the city centre, known as the Piazza, is a large and busy shopping centre, with a large number of restaurants and hotels in its vicinity. The oldest restaurant in Addis Ababa can be found here, and it specialises in pasta dishes, grills and seafood which are reputedly the best food in the city.
To the east of the Piazza is an area known as Arat and Siddist Kilo; this has a number of outstanding places to eat in, and there is a large selection of foods to try, from traditional Ethiopian to Italian.
Bole Road is thought to be the best place in the city to go for a meal, with a large number of excellent eateries within the area, so that you need never eat in the same place twice over a two week period, and still be satisfied with the quality of the food each time. Most nationalities are sold here.
The night-life in Addis Ababa is lively, with plenty of restaurants and hotels that do not cater to a primarily Western audience putting on live music and dancing for the locals on a night out. Westerners are, however, warmly welcomed to these, and it is an excellent way to experience the Ethiopian culture.
For the technologically minded, there are a good few internet cafés around that make it possible for you to stay in touch with the rest of the world. There are plenty of well-stocked shops in the city, and these are both permanent and curios stalls and stands.
If you are exploring the city on your own and want to look at the sights, the book, “Old Tracks in the New Flower: A Historical Guide to Addis Ababa” is an excellent place to start. This describes more than 130 of the buildings in the city, as well as recommending day walks. The city has a rich and interesting history that seems to come from a fairytale, and there are plenty of museums in which you can learn about this and explore the other more historical aspects of the country.
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