Day 78 –
S: We were happy to see that the visa application left last night from Nairobi and even happier to discover that it was signed for in Johannesburg at the visa service company at 8am, things are moving.
We went off to breakfast and had decided to go to the Addis Ababa museum today. We set off on foot, after once again, being warned about the little boys that try to pickpocket you. We walked through the extensive hotel grounds and then the most difficult part was crossing the main road. L: There are no clear lanes so people drive up to 4 abreast in each direction so you have to watch really carefully and then dodge the extra cars coming in from all the other directions. It is still more confusing as you have to look in the opposite direction to what we are used to in South Africa.
S: We found the Addis Ababa Museum up the hill, but were shocked to see that the outside facade was in ramshackle condition, how sad for an historical monument. We paid Birr 10 each and were escorted inside into the dark, dingy hall. No electricity so the only way to see clearly was to use the flash of the camera. There are lots of precious medals and artifacts set in grubby glass cases with very little security or burglar proofing.
Most of the exhibits are from the time of the war with the Italians when Ethiopia achieved it’s freedom from that country. It is so sad to see that the building has gone to rack and ruin.
There are lots of the antique military costumes and clothing worn in the early 1900’s as well as a few photographs on display. Outside, the gardens are shabby and overgrown too. We counted at least 5 people that earn a salary from the meager takings of the museum.
L: We walked down past all the athletes training in Abiot Meskal Square to the Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum. The electricity was still out, but a huge difference in condition and lay-out. This is such a sad piece of Ethiopian history reflecting the genocide and starvation in this country. The pictures are traumatising and the implements of torture are frightening even in the locked cases. The most awful part was when one of the guides, using his phone for a light, showed us the replica of a mass grave and as we turned to leave the room, shone his light on the piles of skulls in the glass cases. Wow, that was a shock. Strangely, more sad than that is all the clothing and processions recovered from the mass graves which are shoved into display cases, not sorted or smoothed out. With the news all about the Malaysia 17 plane shot down over Ukraine, you get a sense of the lack of dignity shown to a persons’ body. A most depressing part of history to see, but that was life (and death). S: The guide was also a victim during the genocide era when more than 500 000 people were killed, as he was imprisoned for eight years and tortured. Few people, myself included, are not aware of the genocide, but only the starvation years when more than 5 million people died.
L: After crazily crossing the street again we enjoyed the calm and safety of the garden walk back up to the hotel. We had been missing the Manager all morning, waiting for word from him. Now we decided to go to lunch in the main restaurant and try to find him, we did and were ushered into his office. He asked us how it was going and chatted for a while, asking what our dates would be, we have no clue! Then he asked if we could settle the bill so far (at the agreed $67 for the first three nights). He said that we are welcome to stay on and that we will only be charged $50 per night. What a blessing, thank you so much and thank You, Lord. I was not looking forward to moving to the other hotel as this has such a spacious feel and wonderful surroundings.
We enjoyed the set menu for lunch at only Birr 120 (R65) per person. 3 courses plus coffee and two different choices. Steve had salad and veal, I had the soup and fish and we both had the fruit salad to follow. This meal was very good.
We stopped at reception to settle the bill and after that the manager said that he would love to see our vehicle so he came with us and his eyes were wide. He had never seen anything like it with the fridge, stove, tent etc and asked if we see any animals on our trips. We told him of a few of our animal encounters and he was amazed.
S: Back at the room and feeling relieved, we caught up with the expense sheets, e-mails and blog. Then, just when we were feeling so much happier, we read an e-mail from the visa company saying that the driver left the Johannesburg office for the Pretoria office before our application arrived so it would only go to the Jordanian Embassy tomorrow. Oh no, why didn’t she tell us to send it to their Pretoria office, it would have saved an entire day. I wrote to ask her to please send it back from the Pretoria office once processed to stop any further delay.
L: After such a big lunch, we decided to do a quick snack using the small Gaz camping stove. We have found some Kenyan “Sossi” soya chunks, the texture that Steve prefers, and had that with Smash (me) and 2 min noodles (Steve). I also added some braai relish and it was smaaklik. Afrikaans for tasty.
So this is home for a while longer as we sit in our lounge watching TV and listening for the quiet nature sounds from around the hotel gardens.
Day 79 –
L: 4.30 am and the chanting has started from one of the mosques. 6 am and it is pouring………
S: We went off to have breakfast fairly early and then came back for a shower. We had decided to go and visit the Holy Trinity Cathedral as well as the Museum of Ethiopia. It is so intense driving through the city centre that we took a taxi from the hotel and arrived in one piece at the church. It is expensive to visit, Birr 100 each, but it is lovely to see this Ethiopian Orthodox church of old.
We had to remove our shoes to enter the church and had the old priest who spoke “full English” unlock the door and show us around. He could not understand when we asked when the church was first built, but other than that he did show us the casket of Haile Selassie The First, the emperor at the time as well as his wife’s casket which is in the actual church.
Their children are reportedly buried underneath the front floorboards. 1942 we discovered afterwards was when the church was first opened. Haile Selassie was emperor from 1930 – 1974.
L: There is a tiny little museum with a whole lot of treasures in the same grounds. There, the most amazing carving of the Last Supper, stands proud. What makes it so special is that it is all done out of mother of pearl as well as abalone shell. Unfortunately we were only allowed to take photos in the church and not the museum. What a beautiful collection and so well presented and explained and spotlessly clean. There is one gold medal from the 2004 Olympics, but it does not mention which runner won it. It cannot be the famous Haile Gebrsalassie’s medal as he won gold in the 1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney Olympics for the 10 000 metre races.
After that we walked up the steep hill to the National Museum of Ethiopia – it was an exhausting kilometre as it is uphill at over 2 370m above sea level (that is what it shows on our GPS where we are staying and this is on a hill), so you feel heady and breathless. I was even more breathless when I saw a man, stark naked!! on the sidewalk and no-one even turns a hair.
The museum was really interesting especially with all the details of various skeletons and artifacts. The skeleton of the famous child, Lucy, is housed here.
S: I did not enjoy this part of the museum as it supports the evolution theory as well as the myth that the world is millions of years old. What I did enjoy is the fact that the history depicted here is so much older than ours at home. Some of the exhibits are housed in glass enclosures with sensors that are supposed to detect when the glass is broken. Funny how some of the wires were not attached to anything. One of the things that bothered Lesley was that some of the old clothing displayed, made out of animal skins, had sea-shells on it as decoration. As Ethiopia is landlocked she wanted to know were the shells came from. My suggestion was maybe they were traded for something else and came from the east coast of Africa.
L: Unfortunately a lot of the exhibits are neglected and not clearly marked so you have to fill in the gaps.
After that, at the suggestion of the receptionist, we went next door for lunch at The Lucy Restaurant. It does not look inviting from outside, but it was lovely and the food was fairly good. They served us a cappuccino, which was white. That confused us until the waitress pointed to the tiny little cup of black coffee which you pour into the cup. Ok, we are learning. It was really nice though. While we were having lunch a message came in that our request for our Jordan visa is lodged so we hope that by the date they say, on Monday that it will be ready to send back here. That is 4 days hence.
We took a taxi back to the hotel as it was then over 3kms to travel back and it was threatening to rain. It is also stressful watching your belongings every step of the way through the throngs of people all over the city.
Back at the hotel we caught up on our blog and Steve researched our trip further north (for when we can travel on).
S: One of the problems we have is that the SIM card we bought for our phone does not connect to the internet. According to the hotel shop assistant, the newer cards do not connect. but she put one of her own cards in and it worked. So I have rented that one for the meantime. I have done a bit of research and it seems I might have to go directly to the Ethiopian telecoms office to get myself connected. We would like to be able to do this as once we leave Addis we need internet connection. The hotel Wi-Fi is pretty good so we are using that most of the time. Just in case we cannot get our SIM sorted we are researching all the hotel, motel or B&B options along the route we will be taking as well as all the attractions on the way. The main towns we will be visiting in Ethiopia still are Lalibela, Axum and Gondor, all being equal…….