With a population of more than three million people Addis Ababa is not only the political capital but also the economic and social nerve center of Ethiopia. Founded by Emperor Menelik in 1887, this big, sprawling, hospitable city still bears the stamp of his exuberant personality. More than 21,000 hectares in area, Addis Ababa is situated in the foothills of the 3,200 meters Entoto Mountains and rambles pleasantly across many wooded hillsides and gullies cut through with fast-flowing streams.
Like any other capital in the world, there is more than enough for anybody to do in Addis. There are numerous restaurants offering various exotic dishes from many parts of the world. Ethiopian food is served at the majority and there are Chinese, Italian, French, Indian, Armenian, Arabic, Greek and many other specialist restaurants. Indeed, it is possible to eat your way round the world without ever leaving Addis Ababa.
On the entertainment side several cinemas show international films with English dialogue or sub-titles. Most of these cinemas also stage dramas in Amharic depicting Ethiopia’s social and cultural life during different historical epochs. Shopping in Addis is a delight and the shops are fairly well stocked with almost all consumer goods. The local jewelry, sold by the weight of gold or silver, is in particularly high demand. The main market place known as the Merkato is the largest open market place in Africa and has a wonderful range of goods and products, items of local art and Ethiopia curios and antiques. At the shops in town, however, prices are fixed, although a small discount is often allowed on large purchases.
If you have some spare time during your stay there are a number of places that are well worth a visit.