Archive for the ‘Addis Ababa’ Category

Travellers heading between north and south might want to make use of a new road between Debre Birhan and Mojo bypassing Addis Ababa. The road is unsurfaced, but reputedly in good condition. Coming from Debre Birhan, you need to drive south as if towards Addis Ababa, then before you reach Sheno, head east via Kotu village and south to Mojo (at the junction of the road east to Harar and south to Hawassa).

Many thanks to John Grinling for this excellentt summary of the live music scene in Addis Ababa in mid-2014:

The music scene in Addis Abeba is wonderful, enthusiastic and varied. Ethiopian music, with its unique rhythms, beat, vibrations and sounds might be, like whisky, an acquired taste: it aims at inducing trance either by way of a distinctive and energetic dance music, or through hypnotic wailing melodies that have an undeniable Arab or Oriental clang.

Marvelous musicians and bands perform every evening in numerous venues, starting usually around 10.30 PM. Exceptions are the Sheraton’s Office Bar where the Zemen Band plays from Thursdays to Saturdays as from 8 PM. And the Jupiter Hôtel in Kazanchis featuring Bibisha and Co every Thursday after 7 PM.

But for a more thrilling experience, you should visit either the venerable Jazz Amba, on the right side of the Taitu Itegue hotel at Piazza. Or the pleasant and homely Mama’s Kitchen, on Bole road, the avenue leading to the Airport just after the huppé Black Rose bar, a fine place to waste time before a concert by watching Addis’s jet set.

And there is also Jams, a club situated 500 m. beyond Yod Abyssinia at Bole Medhane Alem, a comparatively new venue offering superb Reggae and Salsa. Reggae is on Thursdays and Saturdays by the well-established “Imperial Majestic Band” with Sydney Solomon as the star singer and dancer. Expect to hear also plenty of great reggae guest musicians there: Addis is indeed a required stop on the road to Shashamane, the Rastafari Makkah.

Good reggae, of a wilder kind, could be heard on weekends at the 3rd floor Smokey Blues Café in Shegger’s building. Barefoot Rasta, the polyglot veteran who doesn’t wear shoes, plays on Fridays at Zanzibar, a difficult to find joint near Bole Airport. But my personal favorite reggae singer is called Ayou. He sings on Thursdays at Jazz Amba with the Express Band.

Most performances do include some Reggae, even at the Sheraton. The band leader Vahé also sometimes interprets with much passion his own compositions in Armenian.

Virtuoso British percussionist Eshee Havana’s all Ethiopian salsa band plays on Fridays also at Jams. They conjure up a powerful Latino pulse that sends dazzling couples spinning. Unforgettable.

Mama’s Kitchen proposes a varied choice: First the famous Monday’s Jam Session, backed by the solid Nubian Ark musicians. It is packed with connoisseurs and artist who take turns to rouse the audience. On Tuesday, it is Michael Lema’s performance, a great new singer with his Ethiopian music band. Wednesday belongs to traditional Azmari Beit music, where the masinko (a one string sort of violin played usually by wondering minstrel) takes center stage, accompanied by drum and singer. On Thursday’s and Saturday’s, the Lubac Acoustic Band plays with most famous singer Alemayu Eshete, the star guest on the weekend. Friday you have the Blue Vibes Band and Sundays are for Samuel Yirga’s Jazz Band.

The ancestor of these venues is the steady Jazz Amba :

Tuesday: Ethio Jazz by Addis Taim band and the famed singer Getachew Kassa.

Wednesday: Legendary Alemayehu Eshete backed by the remarkable funk band named Nubian Arc.

Thursday, my favorite evening, with Michael Lema and reggae singer Asayehegn Alemu, better known as Ayu. They play with the Express Band of Haileyesus Girma.

Friday: Oldies interpreted by Addis Acoustic Project Band, with the elderly singers Girma Negash and Bahta Gebre-Hiwot as well as a few other excellent vocalists.

Saturday: Zemen Band with modern English and Amharic songs by Tsedenia Gebre Markos and other artists.

Sunday: Bati Groove’s Quartet Jazz Band plays with Dawit Melese.

The well-regarded Ghion Hotel, close to Mesquel square, now cooperates with the internationally famous vibraphonist Mulatu Astatke and has set up a “Jazz village” in its vast premises. The Belema Jazz Band is supposed to take stage on Wednesday and Saturday. Misto Misto Band plays on Thursday, Express Band on Friday, and when Mulatu is in town, he performs on Saturdays, joined usually by other great Ethiopian musicians.

This was the situation mid-2014. But venues and performers often change. Fortunately, most of these locations now run Facebook pages that are reasonably up to date. It is highly advisable to check them out.

True Ethiopian ambiance can also be found in less illustrious but more traditional scenes, such as Messafint’s cabaret (off Meskal Flower rd), or Fendika (in Kasantchis quarter)animated by renowned dancer Melaku, or my personal favorite, the Dome in the basement of the ill-famed Concorde Hotel on Debre Zeit road.

Crowded by locals as well as by lively Chinese and by Arabs keen to change from their diet of alcohol abstinence and veiled women, these hideouts propound a blend of music, song, traditional dances, drinks and Azmari performances that generate a special quality of happiness, abandon et euphoria you will experience nowhere else.


LizaD writes:

I also several friends who stayed at Lomi Guest house that was recently recommended ( and everyone loves the place.

Also, your readers might want to look at Addis options on I am one of the hosts, but usually don’t take tourists who come just for 3-4 days (I prefer long stays while I am traveling, to keep my house from being empty). But this is not meant as a plug for my own ‘business’ it is more to say that now quite a few new people joined airbnb Addis and there seems to be a wider array of options that may be interested to some of your readers.

John Grinling writes:

An excellent hotel in the budget category is the charming, clean and
well-kept Lomi Guest House on the nascent Entoto Hill. Situated on
Shewareged Gedle str., close to the English Sandford School in the
agreeable Kebena quarter, it is at ten minutes’ walk, in the direction
of the British Embassy, from Arat Kilo.
The manicured flower garden somehow overlooks the city, with plenty of
seats around for guests to share a talk and a beer. Breakfast,
hamburgers, spaghetti or tebs can be ordered all day long
Spick and span budget rooms are available for 12 USD a night, with two
rooms sharing one bathroom. Single rooms having ensuite bathrooms cost
between 18 and 24 USD, depending on location and size. The very
spacious luxury double rooms, with fridge and satellite receiver, cost
28 USD. The personnel are energetic and helpful and can be reached by
tel. +251 913 60 93 66 or +251 111 23 36 28 or by email :

Thanks to John Grinling for the following corrections & updates:

P. 159, « The Churches of Kiddist Maryam etc. »  2nd para, first line :
The church named Kiddist Maryam you are speaking about here is not
located at C4 on the map p.162. As you mention, the Kiddist Maryam
church you are speaking about is situated just beside Beta Maryam
where the Menelik II Mausoleum can be found. These two churches are
both are on the western side of the Guebbi, at D1 on the map p.162.
The church situated on that map at C4 is another Kidist Maryam,
therefore also dedicated to St Mary.

P. 185, map : please spell “Tilili” and not “Tiliili”

P. 230 – I would also suggest you mellow down the over emphasized mention of :
“…the world most persistent shoeshine boys…” – I stayed four
days in Debark and could not find event one listro.

P. 256 – “… escape the yelling kids and wanabe guides…” (p. 256) – During a
leisurely week spent in Axum, I particularly appreciated being left
close to totally undisturbed. By the way, the Abinet Hotel seemed to
me particularly well maintained and friendly, and does not make use of
Faranji prices. The prices are cheap – in the range of 200 and 250
birr – and the same for all. It is rare enough to be stressed.

P. 406, one paragraph before the bottom of the page, you mention
“An ambitious excursion from Asbe Teferi…” in the direction of Machara
and the Mt Arba Gugu. Both are not “further east”, as you write, but clearly towards the
south west, as Machara is situated on the continuation, direction
south west, of the road to Kuni. Your book speaks also, first line p.
407, of Kuni being 25 km south east of Asbe Teferi. It should read
south west.


Michelle writes:

Amex Travellers Cheques now not accepted in any Ethiopian Bank (Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, Dashen Bank, also tried others in Addis). Evidently in about June 2013, a number of counterfeit Amex Travellers tendered by travellers to major Ethiopian Banks.  The counterfeit cheques were not honoured by Amex.  We were told that “the problem has never been resolved”.  Aside from this hitch all was good and our local guides and friends went the extra mile to help out.

Stefan Arts writes:

I got bitten by a probable rabies infected animal when I was in Ethiopia for my master thesis. After quite some stress and some searching I found two locations in Addis Ababa where a proper vaccination against Rabies (when you already have had three shots beforehand) can be given. The first one I found was the Swedish clinic, where two shots of VeroRab would cost 10000 ETB, the second one is at the Ethiopian Health and Nutrition Research Institute near the former St. Paulus Hospital where two shots of RabiVax only costs 650 ETB.

Matthew Birt writes:

I enjoyed reading and made good use of everyone else’s information, so I thought I ought to contribute:


Dec/Jan 2014

Travelled solo, independently using local transport


Bradt Guidebook excellent




Generally felt very safe and welcome

Quite a lot of hassle from kids, beggars, tourist touts, blokes in the street – quite consistent, but not that persistant and certainly not threatening in any way. Groups of kids are a right royal pain in the ____ .


Transport pretty good. People always really helpful – and I always got to where I was heading, even if I’m not sure how. Roads generally good and traffic free – all the driver has to worry about are the people standing in the middle of it and the aimlessly wandering livestock

Cheap tuk-tuks just about everywhere – seem to have replaced garis in most places

Mobile phone coverage generally good – cheap and quick to get sim (need photocopy of passport and photo)


Everything seemed very inexpensive – accomm, transport, food, etc

Easy to change cash in banks/airport

ATMs in a lot of places – Dashen and Commercial Bank worked for me


Forgotten how noisy Africa is, especially at night – or at least it was where I slept. Every night. My top tip – take the finest ear plugs money can buy. As well as eye drops (for the dust) and lip balm (for the sun).


Budget hotels – apart from in Harar – always provided towel, toilet paper and soap.


Weather – always sunny and hot during day – 25-30 C. No rain. In some towns, pretty cold early morning and night and required two fleeces (e.g. Debark, Debre Birhan, Abese Teferi)


Bole Airport


Arrived 2am, and stayed in there until morning flight to Axum. Felt safe, although pretty cold. Nowhere nice to sleep, try and get into domestic terminal departures asap where there are comfortable loungers.






Hotel reps waiting at airport with free transport

Africa House – fine – 175B en suite single

Thought Tsion Maryam complex at 200B a rip-off, considering much of it closed and under refurbishment

Really enjoyed walk out to Debre Liqanos Monastry




Africa Hotel – fine – 150B – adjacent restaurant good but noisy at night

Nice just to be in a normal town, without the tourist ‘nonsense’

Good to walk out of town into countryside to see ‘real’ Ethiopia




Bus from Shire didn’t leave until after 7, even though told to be there at 5. Awful road. Wonderful Simien scenery for 10 hours or so!

Simien Park Hotel – good – 250B en suite single

Unique Landscape next door also looked good, but slightly more expensive.

If not trekking, negotiate hard and get a number of quotes for your day trip into the national park – tourist touts, argh!!!




Queen Taitu Pension – 200B en suite single. Poor. No hot water, etc. Noisy.

Moved to  Belegez Pension, 200B, water still a problem, but quieter and nicer courtyard

Four Sisters Restaurant – great food and fantastic dancing. Before I left I didn’t think some contrived dance show for tourists would be a highlight of my trip. But it was. Go and see for yourself.


As solo, negotiated guide fee down to 100B (rather than 200) for castle complex


Kosoye also a highlight. Easy to get to (30-40 mins north of Gondar). Had a very nice breakfast at Befikir Ecolodge, which is visible from main road. Staff super friendly. Then great walk down into valley. Scout cost 100B, and worth every penny. Tough going.  Highly recommended.


Bahir Dar


Wudie Pension -  nice big room – 200B.

Ghion looked really run down to me, although good spot for meeting fellow tourists.

Tread carefully with the tourist touts in town. Both half day trips to the lake monastries and waterfall were shambolic and a rip-off. Average price paid seemed to be 200B/person, but I’m sure you can get for less. Get itinerary and any additional costs written down. You have been warned! Good for meeting other (equally hacked-off) tourists though!

Lucky with Blue Nile Falls – water was flowing – and another highlight.




There for Christmas, so very busy and accomm prices x2 or x3 normal rate

Hotel Lalibela, been refurbished and now rather swish. $45/double en suite

Private Roha – very basic, but felt safe – 400B/twin shared facilities

Recommend Unique Restarant opposite Asheton – cheap and good fun

Walk up to Asheton Maryam good, although hard


Used local guide  – Zewudu Melak – +251 (0) 913636414 – for churches – nice guy – only ‘guide’ I used that I can recommend


Lake Hayk


Logo Hayk Lodge (I think, maybe name changed, not sure)

This place could probably be very peaceful and relaxing, but not on Christmas Day with a huge party going on!

230B/hut ensuite for okayish room (150B if you’re Ethiopian!)


Debre Birhan


Akalu Hotel – reasonable place – 100B for ensuite

Really nice restaurant at Eva Hotel




Alaf Hotel – bit noisy and water issues – 170B en suite. Great view of lake




Buffet D’Auoache – 150B/room – pretty nice and peaceful place. Dusty, nondescript town though


Managed to find a ‘guide’ to get me into Awash National Park by asking around at hotels. Hired a good minibus and driver for 1000B for the day (6am-6pm). Really enjoyed the reserve, it’s not the Serengeti, but saw quite a lot of game. Waterfalls fab. Awash Falls Lodge looked nice and was a good spot for lunch


Abese Teferi


Kebsch Int Lodge – decent room – 150B en suite; good restaurant attached


Got 6am bus direct to Kuni, found ‘guide’ quickly albeit using sign language and pointing to pictures in my Bradt Guide and visited Kuni Muktar Mountain Nyala Sanctuary. Not sure about ‘30-45 mins walk to river’. I got taken 2 hours up a bloody mountain, then 2 hours back down it. Not my ideal start to the day at 7 am. Fantastic though. Saw plenty of (skittish) nyala, warthogs, reedbuck and hyena.




Everyone I met moaned about the hotels in this place – except for those in the cultural guesthouses. The only town where I found that hotels were full

Trawfik Sharif Hotel – bit grim – bucket shower – 150B

Tewodros – 160B ensuite – okayish – despite stinking communal bathrooms at entrance

Belayneh – only offering doubles for 300B and water issues

Heritage Plaza looked more run down and mismanaged than guidebook suggests

Harar Ras – looked best bet – been refurbished – cheapest room 230B – good restaurant serving absolutely wonderful pizzas

Fresh Touch Restaurant – good, but expensive (for Ethiopia)

Hyena feeding cost me 100B – the greatest concentration of tourists I saw in one place throughout my 4 weeks in the country


Addis Ababa


Almaz Pension – 200B shared bathroom – clean, friendly, quiet, safe

Yod Abyssinia – good fun, if expensive – don’t go alone, sit at the front and be of above average height, otherwise you are liable to get dragged up on stage to dance – much to the amusement of the local crowd. This can lead to embarrassing flashbacks.


Have a good trip.

Addis Advisor writes:

Today, 8:29
Met my grandson Saturday, took over 2 hours to get out. London plane landed 0550, we were not out till 0800. I got into the baggage area to see what was happening.

Another arrival Sunday, was out in 35 minutes. WHY?

Delays are now more to do with baggage handling capacity than visa queues or, immigration lines.

Passenger numbers at Bole are now well over 6 million per year ( tho a big % are in transit.) The main international terminal was opened 2003 but it cannot cope at rush hours now.

Rush hour is 0530 to 0930 am, and about the same pm….

There are only 5 carousels and 1 is reserved for priority bags. So IF you have gold or silver Sheba miles on Ethiopian or any Star Alliance carrier you are laughing….but on Saturday the bags from the London plane had to wait for a carousel to clear, and that took a long time, so the bags from the London flight did not appear till nearly 80 minutes after it landed!!!!!!! I think it was partly because the Washuington plane, a 777 – 300 with nearly 400 people got in before the London plane…..and its bags occupied a carousel for a long time….

THEN once you pick up your bags you have to join the Q for one of the 2 x ray machines that are in use at customs – ALL bags have to go through them. This Q can take another 20 minutes.

AT THE FRONT OF THE Q they will ask you for your baggage tags from check in. This used to be done randomly but they are now doing it for everyone…,..

AGAIN gold / silver folk have a fast track green carpet to X ray machines.

FINALLY a reminder that some meeters and greeters from hotels/ngo’s etc still wait in the car park outside T2 , tho most go inside. If someone is meeting you make sure you know if they will be INSIDE the arrivals hall or out in car park.

Getting to Durba

Posted: November 24, 2013 in Addis Ababa, Durba

Henri de Noblens writes:

Durba lies more like 35km from the Bahir Dar road than the estimate of 20km on p176 of the guidebook.