About two weeks ago, while attending a conference in Addis Ababa, I got an opportunity to sample Ethiopian cuisine as well as explore the country’s extolled garment market. In this rugged, landlocked country split by the Great Rift Valley, you get used to the sound of construction. Ethiopia’s infrastructure binge shows no signs of slowing down. From Bole International Airport where engineers are working on giving the airport a face-lift, to the upmarket streets where your view from the hotel is that of the city’s concrete jungle.
Away from the roaring cranes is a city rich in history. From the famous monolithic rock-cut churches in Lalibela town to the Yekatit 12 monument, which is on the roundabout Siddist Kilo. On the last day of my trip, I chose to tour Addis. However, I needed a guide and interpreter because the majority of Ethiopians only converse in their own languages. This limited my tour to simply visiting the garment market and sampling the town’s food culture.
By 9am, the concierge at the hotel where I was staying had called a taxi for me. The taxi driver cum guide, Lemma Belete, agreed to drive and show me around. Our first stop was Shiro Meda, a garment market, where hundreds of vendors line the busy Entoto Road and sell netela and habesha kamis — traditional shawls and dresses — from central and northern Ethiopia, most often made from shemma, a cotton cloth that is handwoven in long strips and sewn together, with a decorative border.
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LEft, The food was served on a woven grass mat and a ceramic bowl and conveniently placed on low wooden tables. Right, Lemma Belete, a taxi driver in Addis Ababa helped me choose the best quality gabi. PHOTO | ELIZABETH MERAB LEft, The food was served on a woven grass mat and a ceramic bowl and conveniently placed on low wooden tables. Right, Lemma Belete, a taxi driver in Addis Ababa helped me choose the best quality gabi. PHOTO | ELIZABETH MERAB
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