October 17, 2008 / 12:35 PM / 9 years ago

Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Addis Ababa

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters Life!) - Got 48 hours to spare in Addis Ababa -- Africa’s diplomatic hub and one of the highest capital cities in the world? Reuters correspondents with local knowledge give tips on how to make the most of a short stay.

<p>Children walk to church to attend Orthodox New Year mass in Addis Ababa in a file photo. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti</p>

FRIDAY

5 p.m. Have a couple of cold beers by the pool during happy hour at the Hilton Hotel. You’ll rub shoulders with African Union diplomats, United Nation’s workers and government ministers so the conversation is always controversial and interesting.

8 p.m. Ethiopians serve their food on a spongy pancake called injera. Well-cooked pieces of lamb called tibs are particularly good as are the array of vegetables eaten during fasting times. Hop in a taxi (the blue ones are cheapest and perfectly safe) to Fasika. It’s one of the swankiest restaurants in town but a great place to try the local cuisine for the first time. A lively dance show takes you on a whistle-stop tour of Ethiopian culture.

10 p.m. With a belly full of Ethiopian food, now’s a good time to head to a traditional bar known as an Azmari bet. Try the Kazanchis area and ask your taxi driver for recommendations. Fendika is a good one. Azmaris are the performers who sing songs often made up on the spot. If you’re lucky they might even sing one about you.

SATURDAY

9 a.m. Many visitors to Addis are overwhelmed by the scale of visible poverty and the street children they see on almost every corner. Instead of doling out change randomly, pay a quick visit to Hope Enterprises on Churchill Road and buy some meal tickets. Every day almost 700 children redeem the tickets for a healthy dinner at the center.

9:15 a.m. Now you’re in the right spot to indulge in some souvenir shopping. Shops carrying everything from Ethiopian silver to memorabilia from Ethiopia’s brief Italian occupation line Churchill Road. Take your time to compare prices across a few stores.

11:00 a.m. If the shopping bug has bitten, why not hop in a taxi to the Mercato? Some say it’s Africa’s biggest open-air market but nobody really knows. Just watch your pockets. But don’t worry too much. Addis is one of Africa’s safest capitals and crime is rare.

1 p.m. After a trip to London at the turn of the 20th century, Princess Taitu asked her husband Emperor Menelik II to build a hotel like the ones she had seen there. The Itegue Taitu Hotel was the result and is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Addis. Go for a bite and ask to be served outside the upstairs bedrooms in the main building.

3 p.m. Time for coffee. And you’re in the best place in the world for that. Legend has it the coffee bean was discovered centuries ago by a shepherd in northern Ethiopia and Ethiopians take their coffee very seriously indeed. Tamoca on Algeria Street is the oldest coffee shop in town and serves a great macchiato (espresso with milk). Coffee beans roast in front of your eyes in stylish Italian art-deco surroundings. They’re for sale too.

5 p.m. English Premier League football obsesses Africans. And Meskel Square -- where all Addis roads meet -- is a truly unique place to witness their passion. A giant screen illuminates the west end of the square and hundreds of Addis Ababans regularly congregate in the square to cheer on their teams. Arsenal is by far the most popular.

8 p.m. Said to be Bob Geldof’s favorite Italian restaurant, Castelli’s elegant wood-panelled dining room has played host to Swedish royalty, Bill Clinton, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Consistency is the seller - the restaurant has served up its tasty selection of pastas, seafood and steaks through all manner of strife. It famously stayed open the night Ethiopia’s communist regime was toppled in 1991. The antipasti buffet is a must.

11 p.m. If you fancy late drinks, you could start at the Sheraton Hotel’s Gaslight and watch the city’s rich at play. Then across town to Memo’s nightclub for a recharging snack in its courtyard restaurant (order the chirro), before a dance with the less spoiled locals and a smattering of expats. Or you could head to Le Bateau Ivre in Kazanchis -- one of the most reliably raucous and fun late, late bars in town.

SUNDAY

9 a.m. - The best thing about the wonderful Ethnological Museum/Haile Selassie’s Palace on Algeria Street is that you get to see the real former bedrooms, bathrooms and dressing rooms of the famously regal and elegant Emperor Haile Selassie and his wife.

12 p.m. A leisurely lunch at Blue Tops across the road. You have to try the ice cream.

3 p.m. The Derg Monument on Churchill Avenue is a surprisingly haunting reminder of Ethiopia’s difficult years of communist rule. The site also houses a moving pictorial memorial to Cuban soldiers who died fighting alongside Ethiopian troops during the country’s war against Somalia in 1977/78.

6 p.m. Watch the sun set over your Addis weekend at the fine Top View restaurant.

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