Addis is the sprawling capital of Ethiopia, set 8000 feet high in the foothills of the Entoto Mountains. The city of just under 3 million has one of the most pleasant climates of any African capital, with year-round mild temperatures and mostly sunny skies.
Originally the site Emperor Menelik II chose for his family palace, Addis Ababa, or “New Flower,” became Ethiopia’s capital in 1889 when Menelik was crowned emperor of the disparate republic he had reunified. Today, Addis flourishes as an important administrative, commercial and diplomatic center for the entire African continent and is the base for the African Union as well as many United Nations’ departments.
As you tour this diverse city, you’ll drive down broad avenues past imposing government buildings and past formal squares centered by monuments and statues. More than 80 ethnic groups with separate languages and a variety of religions inhabit the city. Some of Africa’s most beautiful mosques and churches are found together on the same city block. The Mercato open-air market is said to be the largest on the continent and everything from antique filigree silver to wide-screen televisions can be purchased here.
Addis is above all a city of the very old and very new. In the shadow of a recent boom in high rise construction, you’ll likely find small markets with donkeys and goats tethered outside. And, during rush hour, your driver will jockey for space with both Mercedes and small herds of cattle.