MEDA Blog - Stories from the Field

Impressions of Addis

Dusty, sprawling streets. The roads may be paved but the sidewalks give way to dirt and rubble. Bare feet to leather boots, Ethiopians share the muddy roadside, as the rainy season showers soak the ochre earth. People swathed in coloured wraps, brilliant white Arab robes, decade-worn western brands, and tattered rags swerve left and right, jumping to the discordant rhythm of traffic.

A child leaps forward giggling. Her eyes joyfully fixed on a rubber tire she is rolling forward with a metal rod.

A row of small coal fires sizzle freshly husked corn, wafting sweet charcoal smoke.

A barren plot of land where sixty sheep are lined up for slaughter. A pile of heads already await market, their opaque eyes glazed blue-white.

The sultry aroma of dark roast Ethiopian coffee. Macchiato brimming with bubbling foam.

Compounds with barbed wire fences, the paint faded down the forbidding walls. Stray dogs roam the alleys rabid, abandoned or unloved.

Cool moist mornings. Icy breath forms in front of faces.

The striking African Union building pierces the skyline. Its sophisticated architecture dominating the disorganized clutter of corrugated tin roofs below.

A skinny man loosely holds a rifle beside the ATM.

Someone grabs my arm with an uncomfortably fierce grip. I look up to see a small woman pulling me away from the aggressive rumble of an oncoming caravan.

Genuine smiles from locals.

Addis Ababa is sometimes called the City of Africa or New Flower. My boss aptly named it One Big Village. To me, Addis Ababa is a city of juxtaposition. Nothing is segregated, everything mixed into one. Poverty sits next to modernity. Authenticity beside security. Wintry mornings to sweaty afternoons. Affluence and absence. A rustic metropolis.

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