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Third day in Ethiopia

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Tuesday 12 June, Perry’s birthday.. and my brother’s official birthday, his real one was a week ago. Decide it was also museum day. After breakfast got a taxi to Addis Ababa university – the Ethnographic museum is on its campus. Guards at the entrance, searched out bags and pockets but rather friendly about it. Exhibits in the museum arranged interestingly – following a literal lifecycle – birth, childhood, adulthood and death. Each stage reflected Ethiopia’s traditions and history… some more weird than others. The bull jumping ceremony as initiation to adulthood and lip plates belong in that category. Some things were indeed beautiful and arranged in meaningful way. But no matter how ingenious the leather garments, basket, tools and ornaments were, still couldn’t disguise the fact that one is looking at artefacts of a primitive and simple culture. Individuals entirely defined by family, clan, tribe…. providing support, yes, also limiting anything outside itself.

The museum used to be the Emperor Haile
palace and the prize exhibit was the apartments of the imperial couple. It is rarely that I see a sight as depressing in a museum. Badly built bathroom of atrocious design but let’s overlook that as that is not uncommon in other parts of the world. The bedrooms were misplaced western décor full of presents from foreign plenipotentiaries, with no hint of personality or cosiness… and yes I know that many an emperor’s bedroom displayed in museum is devoid of the same but this is different. alas, no photos allowed.

One thing I noticed throughout the stay is that whenever we went somewhere local – a house, restaurant etc, there were almost no windows. No idea why, just noticing.

After the ethnographic museum, went for a fruit juice, very tasty and ubiquitous. Thought of going back to the shop to buy some more presents but realised that our (three) maps not up to it. Street names keep changing every now and then, and the local don’t use them anyway. Blundering around we hit on the Holy Trinity Cathedral – the second most important church in the country. A most extraordinary concoction of styles… from vaguely recognisable renaissance and baroque elements, to alien patterns and designs. Took copious amount of pictures. The experience was surreal and uplifting… brought down to earth by a priest making an international sign of ‘gimme me money’ after posing for a photograph… yes, yes, shouldn’t have been taking any and look like a damn tourist. Still hard to deal with such behaviour in a church with obvious Christian ‘trademarks’.

Tired and geographically confused set on a course to the hotel instead of shopping spree. Getting back home took us along a major road infested with ancient black-smoke belching Ladas.  Another experience of that rasping sensation at the back of one’s throat after being in close proximity to fumes… 

Back in the hotel, everyone fell asleep for a couple of hours – the altitude is high and acclimatisation slow.  Decided to try local Tex-Mex restaurant from the guide book… neither my brother nor I could face Ethiopian fare. On our way in a taxi when the lights go out on the road and surrounding neighbourhoods. The restaurant dark with candles lighting an exotic combination of Ethiopian and Tex-Mex. The food tasted authentic… half-way through the meal the lights came on. The evening was pleasant if subdued and will probably look a lot more
exciting filtered through memory in the future. All feeling rather weary, in need of good sleep.

Pictures of third day on Flickr.


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