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.