Riding a Matatu is a whole different vibe
Addis Ababa, I have heard a lot about it and I have patiently waited to experience it myself. As fate would have it, I landed at Bole International Airport at 2 am. As the chilly Addis air blew through my rasta, I took a deep breath, as if to suck in all of this magnificent City. I was at the beginning of an adventure that would take me through the intricate culture and history that has shaped not just Addis but Ethiopia as a whole. I was ready to try the food, dance to the music and wish my Ethiopian brothers and sisters good health in their own tongue.
The very first thing anyone will tell you about Ethiopian food is “Try injera”. Injera (እንጀራ) is a soft flatbread that is a staple for most Ethiopians. It is eaten with a variety of relishes and stews. Most injera is made with teff, a grain which has recently become famous around for its health benefits and rich nutritional value. Injera and Ethiopia’s altitude might also explain the performance of Ethiopian athletes in long-distance races.
I got my first injera experience after 2 days in Addis, at a lovely restaurant on Airport road, called the Garden Court. The cosy restaurant would make you forget the big avenue that runs right next to it. After enjoying the taste of Habeesha beer we ordered a huge serving of injera to share as is the custom in Ethiopia. Once we got our serving of injera our Ethiopian hosts explained that was custom to feed your partner injera. Which Sabrina enjoyed, I have included the video on my First Impressions of Addis Ababa video on Youtube.
Since my first injera experience, I have gone on to enjoy it as much as possible, mostly because I love the soft feel of it. I also enjoy how it can be paired with almost any relish including my favourite, Shiro, which is a chickpea stew.
If you are ever in Addis Ababa make sure you try some injera with Shiro and consider washing it down with some Habesha beer.
One of the biggest things I enjoy collecting when I travel is music, and Addis Ababa has been awesome for discovering new music. One of the first tastes of Ethiopian music has been Betty G, who is also the UNHCR’s ambassador. Her music is very catchy pop songs which will get you dancing. Betty G is not everyone’s cup of tea but there is always something for everybody when exploring music in Ethiopia. I have also dabbled in some older music which has a more jazzy feel compared to the more electro/ dub-step fusion style made by Dj Rophnan. Everything considered Ethiopia has a very diverse music scene which I will continue to explore while I immerse myself in the culture and history of Ethiopia.
Running in the Entoto Mountains
While I jam to some Rophnana or Betty G, one thing I have enjoyed has been running in Ethiopia. As the whole world knows already, Ethiopia is world-renowned for producing some of the greatest athletes to grace the face of the earth. Ethiopian runners have set and shattered world records. One of the most celebrated being Haile Gebrselassie, who I got the opportunity to photograph at the Great Ethiopian Run 2019. The legend won 4 World Championship titles at the Olympics and has won several major intentional marathons. Some of which he defended for more than 3 consecutive events in a row.
Since I have been in Addis, I have been running with the Run Africa Athletics Club where I volunteer, teaching English and capturing the best moments during races and training sessions. For me volunteering with Run Africa gives me a chance to get back to my fitness levels before my knee got injured while hiking Table mountain. Also just meeting so many capable runners and athletes who devote so much to running, inspires me to reach much further than I thought was possible before. It is a rare opportunity to meet so many talented athletes in the environment that have prepared many Ethiopian runners the chance to take over the world of long-distance running.
When I am not running or photographing some of the best runners in the world, I devote most of my days to learning Amharic and truly immersing myself in the culture and history of Ethiopia. Understanding the intricacies of how the many ancient cultures of Ethiopia have delivered a Federal Ethno state that is also the seat of the African Union.
The many ways I keep up with learning are tricks I have used to learn mandarin and French. Listening to people speak and picking out interesting sounding words has not failed me so far. It is truly the immersion in a language that helps in learning the language and endearing yourself to the locals. I have found that a simple አመሰግናለሁ (āmeseginalehu) is enough to get a smile when I meet locals. This is the true value of travelling, meeting people and connecting with them with a language they understand.