12 hours in Addis Ababa

The first country I thought I'd visit in the African continent was South Africa (hint: shark cage diving) or maybe Kenya - to visit one of the best wildlife parks in the world; the Masai Mara, or Egypt or Morocco. But I never even in my wildest of dreams thought I'd visit Ethiopia. When we realised we had a long layover in Addis Ababa, the capital city of this beautiful country, we were in two minds. Should we even take Ethiopian Airlines (almost half the price) or just switch to Emirates (half the time)? And if we do take Ethiopian, the national carrier, should we actually venture out to see what this African capital looks like.

I was exhausted, and a little frustrated - I assumed it would be warm in Addis,instead - most of the locals had a sweater on. I was cold, extra cold - owing to my super sensitive skin.

As you'd have guessed, of course, we did go to Ethiopia, and we did venture out. For lay overs over 12 hours, the airline usually issues a hotel voucher. We were put up in the lovely Panorama hotel. And on the way back, we were out up in Friendship International (don't judge by the name). We were very surprised at the hospitality, facilities and the lavishness of these 2 hotels. More so Friendship. Jacuzzies, a sauna, radio in the shower to name a few.

We loved the cosy room - Thank you Ethiopian Airlines !
We were very excited and after the initial shock of the hotel being so nice, we immediately freshened up and contacted the reception. They arranged for a local driver and guide to drive us around for $60. A vintage Toyota came to pick us up - I would have paid 60 just to drive around in that. What we learnt later was that Addis is a heaven for vintage cars.

We parked the car for an hour or so - by the time we got back, this
scene greeted us.
"Remove the mattresses please."

Of colourful vintage cars. Maybe this is where all the old cars go..
The weather was chilly - in fact, the weather remains cool throughout the year. (Surprise)
Addis is a rather large city, but not very developed. Some parts of the city seem to be under construction, some dilapidated, some simply tired.
Wherever I go, I love to visit the local market. To get an idea about the local fruits and vegetables, and to see people go about in their daily lives is I think the best way to get an idea about any place.
The people seemed oblivious of us - a few would turn their heads to check us out, but mostly, it was people selling their stuff.

The mercato sold everything - from clothes, shoes, accessories, to fresh fruits, vegetables and spice. Around 20% of the land in Ethiopia is under cultivation - though the potential is much more.

I loved the thick stole - with the traditional print on it. And would have bought it if it weren't for my husband's quick eye - dude, you have so much already - you don't even know what you have. I smiled, had a good conversation with the lady, and left.

Daily scene.

The aroma of all the fresh spices drew me every now and then to different stores in the mercato.

This - I almost bought too. Small utensils made from clay and so so cheap. But they were quite delicate - and they would've broken somewhere during the trip.


The currency is called Birr - 100 Birr equals around 4.5 US dollars. It had just rained, everything looked fresh, but the path was slushy. We had to hop around a little.
I read somewhere, that Ethiopian coffee is world famous. Well, maybe not world famous, but famous. I did some quick research and found a famous coffee shop - called Tomoco. After visiting the local market, we did not know what to expect.
Tomoco was a unique experience. The aroma of coffee as we stepped in was brilliant. Just breathing in made me smile.

The coffee was yum - I am no coffee lover - but this tasted so good.

Contrasts are everywhere. Tomoca was situated in what seemed a very nice area in Addis.

I don't know if I will ever get to ride one again.

On our return, we got the chance to try out the local cuisine. THE ETHIOPIAN FOOD IS AMAZING. Period. Yes, even the veg options. One of the popular dishes, called Shiro Wat, I had to stop myself from refilling the plate for fear of my tummy exploding. It is basically made from dried chickpeas and various spice. Simple enough, but I tell you, these people have magic in their hands. It was so good. I had that with rice, and loved it.
Lentil stews also form a major portion of Ethiopian food. I loved the spicy variant. I actually am craving the food right now. Never thought I'd find a vegetarian dish so tasty in an African country.


Addis Ababa, even though only a lay over - turned out to be such an amazing experience. We are super lucky - that everything fell into place. Our cab driver - a very proud Ethiopian, showed us around happily - I bet they do not get a lot of tourists :)

Bye Addis.


  1. The airport is a little confusing for transit passengers to Kuwait. But then could be due to the renovation that's happening. Were you on way from South Africa?

    1. Hi Shibu, we had taken Ethiopian Airlines to Thailand. You're right - the airport is confusing. Even we had to walk from the international airport to the one which operated the flights to Middle East.