An Ethiopian Journal

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Posts Tagged ‘Addis Ababa

Ethiopia’s Booming Hotel Industry

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May 17, 2013, by Kurt Davis Jr.

VENTURES AFRICA – The Sheraton Hotel is doing another good day of business on a Monday morning. The hotel, run by Sheik Mohammed Ali Al-Amoud, is Ethiopia’s most recognized hotel. It fills with business travelers from London and diplomats from all over Africa. It also offers similar services and accommodations expected from any major hotel in America or Europe. And for those who find the prices of the bigger international brands too expensive, Jupiter International Hotels, run by a young Ethiopian expat Benyam Bisrat, offers a quality local alternative.

The central parts—Kazanchis and Bole—of Addis Ababa resemble a construction site. New malls and hotels are being erected throughout these areas. These new constructions are mostly locally funded. Jupiter Hotels, as one of those locally funded constructions, has only been running for 5 years. In that time, the company has boosted occupancy rates above 80 percent to match international brands in the market.

Until recently, schmoozing with businessmen of all stripes and African diplomats involved sitting by the bar in the Hilton or lingering around the Sheraton lounge area. During the last African Union meeting, the lobby of the Jupiter Hotel in Kazanchis jammed softly with local Ethiopian jazz crowded out by Africa’s numerous local languages and the usual assortment of romance languages spoken on the continent.

This type of growth is usually the result of growing demand and stalled supply. But the supply of hotel beds in Addis has tripled in the last three years to around 6,000 hotel beds. Competition in this market could potentially push the number over 10,000 hotel beds in the next few years. Jupiter International Hotels will actively expand during this time to more than 1,000 hotel beds to capture approximately ten percent of the market, says Mr. Bisrat, who is also vice president of the Hotel Association of Ethiopia. International brands, including the Marriot, will also help the local hotel industry to reach that number.

Hotel groups are expanding in this capital because the amount of diplomats and corporate clients are growing. Yearly tourism, at approximately 500,000 tourists in Ethiopia, still has a ways to go before it matches other emerging African economies. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism has stated its aspirations to make Ethiopia a top five tourist destination in Africa by 2020.

During this rapid growth phase, quality service-oriented business will win out at the end of the day, say Mr. Bisrat, or customers will walk out. He believes Jupiter International Hotels is positioned as top competitor in this space, especially as it plans to develop a value hotel chain. A hot shower, good mattress, and strong internet goes a long way to make a quality value hotel. But Jupiter International Hotels plans to also add a yoga studio, art gallery, and technological add-ons, including iPod docking stations and quality data and voice streaming capabilities in the rooms.

So many foreigners are coming now and more and more are not Ethiopian Diaspora, says Dawit, a local Ethiopian tourist operator. A sense of change has descended upon the country. Gone are filmmakers for aid videos on famine. Rather conference facilities and lobbies bustle with the growing presence of investors and government officials. Hotel groups, says Mr. Bisrat, still have a long way to go to meet the needs of a growing business and diplomatic hub. As Ethiopian Airlines expands its routes to meet the geographically diversifying clientele of the Ethiopia, expect the hotel industry to do the same.

Written by Tseday

May 17, 2013 at 9:32 pm

My Moments in Addis Ababa

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by Dr. Hanna Rubinkowska


Ethiopia, its culture and people have been part of my life for many years. But it is different every time I come here and it makes me realize how little I know about this country.

It is most probable that if you fly to Addis from another country, you will arrive at night and your first glimpse of the city will be at its dark side. Do not pay too much attention to your first impression. It will get better when the sun rises.

Not many people appreciate the capital city of Ethiopia and many tourists try to escape from there as soon as possible. Of course it is not easy to see the best of the city if one is in a rush. The city is like a woman whose charm you are able to see only after a while.

It does not strike you at the beginning but soon you are under a spell and have no idea how it happened.

Addis – the New Flower
Most tourists come to Ethiopia because they heard about its ancient sites, old churches and thousands of years of history. It is true that many of them are ancient sites but not Addis. This city is new as its name implies “New Flower.”

It is bit over a hundred years old. But this doesn’t mean that the mystical Ethiopia is not there. And it is worth taking a risk to try to make friends with Addis Ababa.

When Menelik, the powerful king of Showa, whose aim was to rule the whole of Ethiopia moved into the area of today’s Addis Ababa, he settled on Entoto, a mountainous province of the country. He was accompanied by his wife, Taitu.

The couple were powerful, perceived by their subjects as beautiful and divine. Moreover, Menelik and Taitu had a blueprint of how to rule the country.

When they settled on Entoto they were already on their way to fulfill their dreams. Not much later Menelik was crowned niguse-negest meaning Emperor and Taitu was crowned Itege or Empress.

She was not only the Emperor’s wife, but also a crowned wife, an Empress with her own rights. The couples influenced Ethiopian fate in almost all of its aspects. The administrational and geographical shape of the country changed completely. What was old Ethiopia constituted one third of the area of the country in its new shape.

The couple also realized that contrary to Ethiopian tradition, they need a permanent capital, a place to settle and to rule.

Entoto was good, but not perfect. Cold at night and dry. Taitu used to travel down the hill to cure her aching back in the hot springs of Fil-wo-ha.

It was her idea that the lower plain was good not only for her back but for a permanent settlement too. It was then that Menelik and Taitu decided to put up their tents and grow Addis Ababa (the new flower) there.

A view from Entoto and the two churches
It is good to go to Entoto when you are in Addis. The view from above shows the city in a completely new perspective. It is quiet, without smoke with no one to bother to you and you can enjoy the eucalyptus forest and the breathtaking view over Addis.



There are also two churches on the hill, Raguel Church and Entoto Mariam Church. Both of them are reminders of the imperial couple.

One was founded by Taitu and the other by Menelik. Both are splendid but there is something extraordinary about the one founded by Menelik – the paintings.

Actually, whichever church you visit in Ethiopia, the churches and their murals do not let you leave before you carefully study each and every representation.

Aba Lukas who painted the murals of the church was an Ethiopian monk from Gonder. A very talented monk, whom I deeply believe one day art historians will admit into the gallery of the most remarkable artists somewhere between Bosch and Broughel.

Inside the city
The marriage between Ethiopia and her coffee has been hailed by many to be the best in the world and with an Italian style. Italians occupied Ethiopia for five years (1936-1941) and whatever harm they did to the country, they also left a bit of their habits behind which turned out to go very well with Ethiopian habits. Coffee places are the best example of this combination.

There are a lot of places to be visited in Addis, providing that you do not run away from this place too soon. Churches each with their own spectacular history and some of them witnessing the most spectacular moments of Ethiopian history.

Like the coronation of Haile Selassie I or another one ‘Selassie Cathedral’ which places the Emperor’ssellasie_cathedral body buried in the year 2000, twenty five years after his death.

From the three imperial palaces in Addis, only one can be visited. The first palace of Haile Selassie I has been housing Addis Ababa University since 1960.

After a failed coup d’etat which was supposed to deprive the Emperor of power, he offered this palace to the University and moved to the new one. Now it is one of the governmental buildings.

menelik_mausoleumUnfortunately, neither the old Menelik’s Palace located next to the Menelik Mausoleum can be visited since the office of Prime Minister has its seat there.

Churches are not everything and being a typical tourist it is good to learn a bit and visit some museums. In Addis there are quite a few of them.

The National Museum with a replica of Lucy is the best known but there are others, like Addis Ababa Museum.

The building of the museum is an old residence which allows visitors to imagine Addis Ababa’s aristocratic life style from before.

A mug of Menelik, one of his daughter Zawditu and lots of pictures are there. museum_addis_ababa

If someone doesn’t find it fascinating, it is better to stay in the nearby Meskel Square where huge white pigeons have been constructed to meet the New Millennium.

According to the Ethiopian Calendar year 2000 has started on the 12th of September 2007.


Addis Downtown
Addis Ababa is a very joyful place with some quarters even more joyful than others. Piazza, the center has the most shopping and nightlife areas and used to be called ‘Arada’ before the Italian occupation. Now it is a name which is only inserted in some lyrics referring to the busy district.

There is another part of Addis that is now struggling to be the most occupied place on Saturday nights. Bole, a district spreading towards the airport is full of modern shops, restaurants and busy night clubs. The list of bars which are recommended by those who know it well will keep you there for the whole time.

At Piazza you feel more of Ethiopian life-style in comparison to Bole; especially, if you decided to stay in Itege Taitu Hotel. It is the first hotel in Ethiopia founded by Menelik’s wife. It is still offering something of the feeling of an imperial era in a very shabby, yet charming style. It is like one of those places which get old and fall apart with dignity.

Crowded streets and people calling you is what imagination brings when we think about African cities and Addis Ababa is no different. Ethiopians often talk freely to each other no European standard of pretending that we don’t see each other.

And foreigners or ‘ferengi’ I say this because it is a term applied by Ethiopians for foreigners. It is not meant to be offending even though some ferengi may feel like killing the 100th person who has called them by this name on the street. It can be tiring when used a lot, but this is one of the cultural differences that we want to experience as we travel. It seems ridiculous to complain.

This is one place in Addis that missing it would be a big mistake. Not only for shopping but for visiting, seeing, smelling and touching. Merkato is a place that you will love to go back to.

It is one of the biggest market places in the world. It is a whole district with a huge number of tiny streets, big and little shops offering you anything you want.

As in all traditional markets, each profession has its own sectioned area. You walk through sellers offering a variety of strange parts of odd machines, threads, garments, fruits, spices, colors, aromas, and you see the people excited, smiling, talking, touching …etc. Touching is also a way of noticing…another piece of culture that we come to experience.

One may ask how many days are needed to enjoy Addis before getting tired of the crowds, cars and smoke. I say, for some two minutes might be enough while others believe that this is the place where they may find a sense for their lives.

But all are tempted to go further to explore Ethiopia out of its capital. Of course whatever you may find in Addis, the real experience and real Ethiopia is waiting for you when you leave the city.

But what can be a big surprise is that when you return to the city before your next trip or to fly back to your country, you realize that you feel at home there.

The man at the corner who is trying to sell you pots from Gambella even though you bought two from him already, seems to be your old friend. It does not matter how ugly Addis Ababa may seem to be for some, you like it more as time passes by.

Dr. Hanna Rubinkowska has plenty of travel experiences to Ethiopia and is a contributor to our site.

She has specialized in modern history of Ethiopia and currently lectures at Warsaw University, Department of African Languages and Cultures.

Dr. Hanna Rubinkowska (Ph.D.)

Written by Tseday

November 14, 2008 at 5:04 am

Posted in Ethiopia

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