Addis Ababa (Amharic for "the new flower") is the country's sprawling capital in the Ethiopian highlands. Founded only 150 years ago, it is now a metropolis of more than 5 million people and the country’s commercial and cultural hub. One of the highest capitals of the world, it also hosts the headquarters of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and of the African Union (AU). Given its historical, diplomatic, and political significance for the continent, Addis Ababa is often referred to as "the capital of Africa".
Studios and Galleries of Contemporary Artists
Addis Ababa's art studios are often living, working and exhibition spaces all at the same time. Located in old buildings, these 'compounds' can be found tucked away down a labyrinth of small streets in the heart of the capital city. You will be led by a young contemporary artist who graduated at the Addis Ababa School of Fine Arts. Based on your interests, you can visit art galleries and/or exhibitions.
Based on your interests, there are a number of different museums to visit. Addis Ababa Town Museum is in a historical building and provides information about the history of the town. In the National Museum, the skeletons of Lucy can be visited. Very informative is the Ethnological Museum in the Addis Ababa University, which focuses on the culture of the different ethnic in Ethiopia. The Museum of the Martyrs ("Red Terror Museum") is a memorial established in 2010 for the victims of the Marxist Derg regime. There are also numerous smaller museums like the National Postal Museum, the Railway Museum, and the Zoological Museum.
The German (Goethe Institut), French (Alliance Ethio-Francaise) and Italian (Istituto Italiano di Cultura) cultural institutes offer linguistic courses a variety of cultural programs. Film festivals, dance and theater performances as well as concerts and art exhibitions are organized at these places. You'll have the opportunity to participate in the events in which (sometimes) international artists present their projects together with Ethiopian artists.
In Addis Ababa, you have the possibility of browsing and buying local handicrafts as well as seeing how they're production. According to your interest, we can show you the production of leather and wooden products, silk spinning, dyeing factory, weaving, pottery, jewelry, and candles.
Local Projects & NGOs
There are many interesting humanitarian projects in Addis Ababa to visit depending on your interest. For example, you can visit the wheelchair center of Addis Guzo, where you can see how the wheelchairs are adapted, repaired, and delivered. There are also craft workshops, a library and the day-care and sports offer for handicapped and non-handicapped people.
The German Church School integrates visually impaired children and offers parenthood/sponsoring of children from poor environments. A project for HIV-infected women provides income from the production of coffee bean jewelry. “Together” is an NGO which takes care mainly of single, visual impaired mothers.
Visit Local Markets
Markets of Addis Ababa are lively and entertaining with a surprising number of local goods. The prices are negotiable and this can be used as a fun way to communicate. Shola Market is known for its vegetables, fruits and spice halls, as well as its traditional dresses. The Mercato is the biggest market of Addis Ababa. The name of the market is derived from the time of the Italian occupation (1936 to 1941). It is one of the biggest open-air marketplaces in Africa and offers work to around 13,000 people. The market areas are divided into product types (food, household articles, textiles, electronics and may other goods are found respectively in their own area).
Ethiopian food strongly differs from other African countries. The base food is injera, a large sourdough flatbread, which is produced of teff, a local gluten-free millet. In addition to injera, there are different sauces (wots). The injera is a food, plate, and cutlery at the same time. Typically Ethiopian food is very spicy on account of the Berbere spice, similar to chili. We can cook this together with an Ethiopian family (injera and different wots) for a common lunch or dinner. This will be completed with an Ethiopian coffee ceremony.
Schools and Universities
Be guided by one or more Ethiopian students as they walk you through various centers of learning in Addis Ababa. There are elementary schools (for 8 years), secondary schools (for 2 years) and preparatory schools (for 2 years to prepare for university).
In Addis Ababa, there is a remarkable building of the university which served Emperor Haile Selassie as a palace. During this tour you will receive information about the daily life of students, the language of instruction, the teaching material, the school uniform, the sex-specific and urban differences as well as about the teaching profession.
Addis Ababa also offers some interesting possibilities for excursions into nature. On the northern edge of town, you'll find Mt. Entoto. From the 3000-metre-high plateau, you'll have a panoramic view of the entire town. To the east, the mountain chain continues to Yeka mountain. Both offer short and long treks.
Beside the marvelous views of the town, people are always surprised about the “countryside” atmosphere and the green charming meadows in the Kebena riverside. Churches, a museum, a monastery and other ruins can be visited on top of these mountains. Even if you're not a botany enthusiast, an excursion to the new-established Gulele Botanical Garden is worth a visit. The impressive partly wooded area of more than 77 hectares offers time for relaxing and having a picnic.
The Born Free compound lies on the western outskirts of the town. On the large area there are enclosures for the rescue of wild animals who were not held appropriately, were destined to be exported illegally, or fallen ill or were injured. As far as possible, the staff tries to release the animals back into to the wild. Born Free is also a center for environmental education.
The majority of the Ethiopians are deeply religious. The two big religious communities form Ethiopian-orthodox Christians (43%) and Sunnite Muslims (34%). There are also different Ethiopian-Protestant Christians, Catholics, followers of natural religions as well as Jews.
The Medhane Alem church is the second largest church in Africa. The Gola Saint Michael church can also be admired. The Trinity cathedral was built as a memorial to the Ethiopian-Italian war and holds beautiful wall paintings. In the backyard, there is a military cemetery for the fallen of the war against Italy.
The Saint George cathedral was built in memory of the victory over the Italians in 1896 and was completed in 1911. It is an octagonal construction with nice mosaics. The museum of the church accommodates a big collection of religious paintings (among other things of the artist Afewerk Tekle), crosses, historical books, greaseproof paper, and craft work. You can also find the Washa Mikael church ruin surrounded by the wonderful scenery of Yeka Mountain. This holy site dates back to the first millennium.