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  • Writer's pictureChukwuebuka Ilozumba

TFE 2 - First Impressions Addis Ababa

On approaching the airport for landing, I focused on the ground height displayed on the flight data screen. It was reading above 5,000m and was steadily decreasing as we approached the runway. I was expecting it to count down to 0m or something close but I was in for a "cold" shock when the tyres hit the tarmac at about 2,000m. Addis Ababa is about 2,000m above sea level and yes, it was a cold weather that welcomed us sometime in the month of August.


Addis Ababa View from a Mountain
Addis Ababa View from a Mountain

The immigration procedure wasn’t as smooth as I expected it to be. The online visa application I made for $50 was not acknowledged. There was no response from the site and the staff on ground just didn’t want to be bothered with the story. It was either pay another $50 or go back. We had already invested much to go back at this time. We gave in and made another payment. So yeah, I would advise you settle for the airport payment option if you had to choose.


One could notice some of the airport staff in general struggled with English language. Amharic, one of the major local languages was their default language. I would later find the reason for this across the country. To be divulged later.


Foreign currency exchange is a controlled business as only a few businesses outside banks were licensed to offer such services. This meant that locals in need of foreign currencies couldn't easily get it and therefore, would offer better rates to visitors so they could easily lay hands on whatever foreign currency they may need. Paying for goods and services with foreign currencies is highly discouraged. This meant we had to change to the local currency which is the Ethiopian Birr.


Having arrived at night, the hotel ride revealed a bustling nightlife with heavy traffic and pedestrian movement going on as late as 11 pm. Due to the huge visitor turnover in the city, hotel accommodations abound for any standard one seeks with major hospitality chains seeking to have a piece of this pie. Ethiopian Airlines, the proverbial hen that lays the golden eggs is not missing out as it has its 5-star Ethiopian Skylight Hotel with a massive 1,024-room capacity.


We had some issues with the initial hotel booked (a case of what I ordered vs what I got) and started scrambling for a late-night fix. Best Western Plus Pearl came to our rescue in a very warm and pleasantly surprising way. For an actual first time in Ethiopia, the positive impressions trumped the negatives. The body craved sleep at this time. First night in Addis, blissful.


Arat Kilo Monument Roundabout
Arat Kilo Monument Roundabout
State House Junction, Addis Ababa
State House Junction, Addis Ababa

My first impression of Addis Ababa was that of a people deeply embedded in their culture and community, enjoying their weather, food and life in general whilst trying to steer clear of political turmoil which, unfortunately, is not too far away.

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