Addis Ababa

Addis Abeba is strategically located in the center of the country and was founded by Emperor Menelik II. Its precursor, Entoto, was unsuitable because of very cold temperatures and scant supply of firewood.

The Empress Taitu, wife of Emperor Menilek II (reigned 1889-1913), talked the emperor into constructing a house near hot springs. The city was consequently founded in 1887 and was called Addis Ababa ('New Flower') by the empress.

The city was the capital of Italian East Africa during the brief occupation from 1935-1941. It began its rise to megacity status between 1967 and 1975 when rural to urban migration in Ethiopia was at its peak.

Addis Ababa is very hilly, and sits more than 2,200 meters high, 9 degrees north of the Equator. Nestled in the central mountain region, in Shewa Province, on the western ridge of the Great Rift Valley,Addis Ababa is the third highest city in the world.

Built in the foothills of Mount Entoto , the panorama of Addis Ababa from the 3,200 meter peak , either by day or night, is a breath taking spectacle. The neighbouring Church of St Mary (1885) overlooks the entire city and the surrounding area.

Addis Ababa sits in the centre of international communication nets, with air links to more than 80 cities worldwide. It has a healthy mountain climate, mild temperatures, and warm sunshine that makes it a popular hub for international conferences. Addis Ababa has the headquarters and branch offices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, as well as seven other international organizations.

The airport at Bole is a 10-minute drive from downtown, close to ministries in the heart of the city's best hotel, restaurant and shopping district, close to the historic Africa Hall and the Offices of the African Union Commission. There is easy and comfortable transport by shuttle bus and Taxis between the airport and other locations in the city.

The train service of the Addis Ababa/Djibouti Railroad terminates at the celebrated Addis Ababa Railway Station. A wide network of roads, most of them all-weather highways, link Addis Ababa with all the regional centers and most other towns in Ethiopia, as well as with Kenya, Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea .

Places to vist in Addis Ababa include the Emperor Menelik II Palace (not yet open for public ),the Menelik Mausoleum  , Africa Hall(permission required) , the octagon-shaped St. George Cathedral , Jubilee Palace , Trinity Cathedral , the Ethnological Museum (located on the main campus of Addis Ababa University) , the National Archeological Museum , The Old Imperial Lion Zoo and Markato . There are also historical monuments to visit while you drive through the city.Some of them include Abune Petros Memorial , The Lion of Judah Monument ,Victory Monument( Meyazia 27 Square-Arat Kilo) , Martyrs monument -Sidist Kilo ,and Menelik II Square .

Nightlife, including many cinemas, theatres, casinos and bars, provides entertainment until the early hours.

The languages spoken in Addis include dozens of African languages (Amharic is the most common), English, Arabic, Italian and French. Popular festivals include Timket (Epiphany) , Enkutatash (the Ethiopian New Year) , Maskal , Gena (Christmas) , Id and Easter .

Mount Entoto

Mount Entoto is the highest peak overlooking the city of Addis Ababa, the capital of EthiopiaMount Entoto is part of the Entoto mountain chain, reaching 3,200 meters above sea level. MountEntoto is the best location to observe the panoramic view of the capital.  It is also a historical place where Menelik II resided and built his palace, when he came from Ankober and foundedAddis Ababa. It is considered a sacred mountain and holds many monasteries. It is also notable as the location of a number of celebrated churches, including Saint Raguel and Saint Mary (Mariam Church). Entoto Mariam church, which was built by Emperor Menelik in 1982, is situated on the intensive mountain range of ENTOTO. Articles of historical significance that were donated by members of the royal family, foreign diplomats and individuals are well displayed in the Entoto Museum. Architectural design and the inner wall paintings of the church are fascinating. 

The Menelik Mausoleum

Mount Entoto Built in 1911, in the old Baata Church, it serves as a tomb for emperors, princes and martyrs of freedom. Built to house the tomb of Emperor Menelik II it also includes the graves of members of his family. 

Africa Hall

Africa Hall is on Menelik II Ave - an imposing symbol of African independence and optimism. It houses the headquarters of the UN Economic Commission for Africa. The original building was built in 1963.The huge stained glass windows depict the suffering of the people of Africa which is the work of Maitre de Artist World Laureate Afework Tekle, is found here under the title "Africa: Past, Present and Future". Visit is only by appointment, if you are interested we can arrange through courtesy of ECA.

ST.George's Cathedral (GIORGIS CATHEDRAL)

Addis Abeba is strategically located in the center of the country and was founded by Emperor Menelik II. Its precursor, Entoto, was unsuitable because of very cold temperatures and scant supply of firewood. The Empress Taitu, wife of Emperor Menilek II (reigned 1889-1913), talked the emperor into constructing a house near hot springs. The city was consequently founded in 1887 and was called Addis Ababa ('New Flower') by the empress.

The Jubilee Palace

On Menelik II Avenue, this modern palace was completed to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of the coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie I

Trinity Cathedral

Selassie’ the Trinities is the best cathedral in Addis. Here also are buried Emperor Haile Selassie I and his wife Empress Menen.

The Ethnological Museum

The Museum which operates with the main objectives of "preserving cultural and historical objects for the present and future generations, and providing continuous assistance to researchers.", consists of five sections:

  • Ethnological or Material Culture
  • Art Gallery
  • Ethno-Musicological
  • Philatelic, and
  • Coins and Bank Notes collections.

Each of these sections has a wide-range of items and objects in its holdings. Collection of ethnographic objects was started in the early I950s at the former University College of Addis Ababa (UCAA). At about the same time, an ethnological society was established, consisting of mainly university students, to raise funds and to collect items from their origins carried out essentially by students returning home during vacations. In addition, the ethnographic objects and zoological specimens, collected by Italians (1936-41), were transferred from Ministry of Agriculture compound to the the main campus of Addis Ababa University.

Historically the IES museum was meant to be an ethnographic collection. However, because of the threat to an increasing number of old Ethiopian paintings, crosses and other valuable church appurtenances from illicit and commercial drives, the Museum decided to collect and preserve them in about 1965 in order to save them and start an art gallery. By 1975 the Museum had become the seat of the largest and most representative collection of Ethiopia's sacred art in public hands.

Currently, the IES Museum houses in one building the Ethnographic and the Traditional Art Collections, besides the Ethno-Musicological, the Philatelic, and the Coins and Bank Notes Collections. The major collections are the Ethnographic Collection and the Traditional Art Collection that are conveniently displayed on the two floors of the Museum.

National Archeological Museum

This museum, close to the University of Addis Ababa Graduate School, houses numerous antiquarian relics and archaeological artifacts showing the history of Ethiopia from prehistoric times to the modern day. This museum’s greatest treasure is the partial skeleton of "Lucy,“ (at the basement of the museum ) a tiny human believed to have lived over three million years ago. The first floor houses artifacts, sculptures, dresses, tablets, etc from all corners of Ethiopia; some of them dating to the early days of human civilization. The war and ceremonial dresses, thrones, and accessories of historical figures also adorn the first floor.

The second floor houses a huge collection of modern and traditional Ethiopian paintings plus sculpture. The themes of the paintings vary from the ordinary life scenes in markets, at a bus-stop to religious such as the crucifixion, the denial of Peter and Demera (a lighting of fire on one of Ethiopian Holidays -The finding of the true Cross)

It is easy to by-pass Maitre de Artist World Laureate Afework Tekle's works. But a look at his painting entitled "Qebele Meeting" has its big surprise. For anyone who has passed through the Derg era of the late 70's and 80's, no other artistic work so far captures the fear, confusion, bewilderment, patience, boredom, anger of that era, particularly in the never ending Kebele, industry and office political meetings. The old man, the cadre and the soldier in that painting depict all these emotions and bring back that era very vividly to whoever is looking at them. Perhaps, for many reasons, this work may not have been among the favorites of Artist Afewerk. But for its viewers, the strength it carries in documenting that era (for good or bad) is impossible to forget.

Lion Zoo ( Abyssinian Black Maned Lions )

The zoo , which is a popular local attraction, was built in 1948 by Emperor Haile Selassie and currently has 16 adult lions and five cubs.These Rare Abyssinian lions, famous for their black manes, are the country's national symbol and adorn statues and the local currency. In addition the main gate of the country's biggest and oldest University ( Addis Ababa University Main cumpus) and Jublie Palace are decorated with figures of these famouse Ethiopian animals.

Wildlife experts estimate that only 1,000 Ethiopian lions, which are smaller than other lions, remain in the wild.Hunters also kill the animals for their skins, which can fetch about a $1,000. Also the cubs found in the Zoo are being killed and given to Taxidermists due to alleged budget shortage. Since the lions can not be easily seen in national parks due to their current situation, the animals could be easily visited in the Old Imperial Lion Zoo.

These animals were associated with legitmate kingship and power .They remained an emblem of the solomonic dynasty which ruled the country till the time of King Haileselassie I ,the last king in this dynasty.

The zoo is situated beside the Martyres Monument.

Merkato (THE GRAND MARKET)

The Mercato is located in western Addis Ababa and is one of the largest markets in Africa offering an array of colors, aromas, costumes, produce and jewellery. Thronging in the market are more than 50,000 people from different parts of the country doing their daily shopping’s of different shapes and size . People do exchange their materials in cash and in kind. The Italians first located Mercato during World War II.

Abune Petros Memorial

Just West of Addis Ababa's impressive City Hall, down the hill on the main road to the Merkato district is Abune Petros Square with it's imposing statue. Abune Petros, the Ethiopian Orthodox Bishop of Wello who was executed by the Italians at the edge of this very square.

Abune Petros was one of the four first native Ethiopians who were anointed as bishops by the Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria to serve under the Coptic born Archbishop Abune Kerllos of Ethiopia in 1932. Abune Petros was given the province of Wello as his responsibility. In 1936, the Fascist armies of Benito Mussolini occupied much of Ethiopia, and Abune Petros traveled to the northern Shewan district of Menz to join the sons of Ras Kassa, Dejazmatches Wondwossen, Abera and Asfa Wossen Kassa and other resistance leaders to plan an attack on the Italians to drive them out of Addis Ababa. The attack failed in 1937, and the Bishop was captured. Defiantly refusing to submit to Italian rule, he was condemned to death.

Shortly before his execution Abune Petros Bishop of Wello, dressed in his clerical robes, held up his hand cross and pronounced his anathema on the people and on the very earth of Ethiopia itself, if they were ever to submit to the invader. He was then shot to death in front of a horrified audience. Emperor Haile Selassie had the statue erected in the memory of this great Bishop upon his restoration to the throne. The spot of his execution on the western edge of this square is also marked by a memorial slab. Sadly, during the brutal rule of the Dergue regime, the bodies of many victims of the "Red Terror" were displayed in this square.

The Lion of Judah Monument

The Lion of Judah Monument stands in the square in front of Addis Ababa's train station. The golden colored statue of the Lion of Judah in it's complete glory stands on a black granite pedestal which is decorated with relief portraits of Emperors Menelik II and Haile Selassie I, and Empress Zewditu, as well as Ras Makonnen. It marks the foot of the city's widest avenue, Churchill Road which has the impressive Addis Ababa City Hall at it's other end.

The Lion of Judah statue has a very interesting history. Erected in 1930 just before Emperor Haile Selassie's coronation, it was looted by the Italian occupiers in 1935 and taken to Rome, where it was erected next to the Vittorio Emanuelle Monument. During the 4th anniversary celebrations of the proclomation of the Itlian Empire, Adolf Hitler chose to visit Rome, and attended the celebratory parades along side the Fascist Dictator Musollini and King Victor Emanuelle III. In the parade were numerous subjects of Italy's African Empire, including a young Eritrean named Zerai Deres. Zerai Deres was marching with other parade members carrying a ceremonial sword with which to salute the King, the Fuhrer, and el Duce, at the grandstand. As the parade marched past the Vittorio Emauelle monument, Zerai looked up and saw to his shock, the golden Lion of Judah, the symbol of the ancient monarchy to which his ancestors had long owed aliegence, erected as war booty in the heart of Rome. It was too much for him to bear, and he promptly drew his sword and with tears of anger running down his face he fell on the first Italian officer he could find. He killed and wounded numerous Italian military officers before he was killed. Zerai Deres is lionized to this day as a brave Ethiopian patriot.

The monument remained in Rome for several decades, and was finally returned to Addis Ababa after long negotiations in the 1960's. When it was re-erected in it's square the day it arrived, the Emperor was present in military uniform to salute, and to pay tribute to Zerai Deres. Following the revolution in 1974, the Dergue regime decided to remove the statue once more as it was a monarchist symbol. However, the elderly war veterans association members appealed to the Dergue to consider the memory of Zerai Deres and his sacrifice that was inspired by this very symbol. This act saved the statue .

Victory Monument

Meyazia 27 Square is the official name of what is popularly known as Arat Kilo, a name that applies both to the square and the surrounding district of the city of Addis Ababa. The monument at the heart of the Square ( Victory Monument) commemorates the victory over the fascist Italian invaders, and the struggle that preceded it (Meyazia 27 on the Ethiopian Calendar, May 5th on the Gregorian Calendar, is both the day that Addis Ababa was occupied by the Fascists, as well as the day that Emperor Haile Selassie returned to his capital in triumph exactly 5 years later).

The original monument includes a relief of the Emperor Haile Selassie holding the national flag, which was altered during the reign of the Dergue regime into a representation of a guerrilla fighter holding the national flag. The EPRDF regime that deposed the Dergue restored the Emperor's face to the monument.

The central obelisk, topped by a Lion of Judah, actually predates the fascist occupation, and the surrounding circle of relief figures and monumental panels was added after the war. The Arat Kilo monument stands at the heart of Addis Ababa's government district, and in front of the Ministry of Education building .

Holy Trinity Cathedral (whose dome can be seen in the background) and the Parliament building are nearby, as are the present office of the Prime Minister and the Imperial Palace. Also nearby are the Science College, the Holy Trinity Theological college, Emperor Menelik II High School and the Berhan Ena Selam Printing Press.

Foreign Heads of State customarily lay a wreath at this monument during state visits. This square was the focus of Victory Day celebrations held on May 5th (Meyazia 27) every year when the Emperor would lay a wreath here following his attendance at Mass at Meskia Hazunan Medhane Alem Church (Church of the Savior of the World, Consoler of the Grieved).

The Dergue regime changed the date of Victory Day to the day that General Cunningham and his British, South African and Nigerian Troops actually entered the city. The post Dergue government in Ethiopia has restored Victory Day to it's original date.

Martyres Monument

The Yekatit 12 Square (Sidist Kilo) monument stands in tribute to the thousands of innocent martyrs butchered by the Fascist Italian Occupiers in 1929 in the Ethiopian Calender (1936 Gregorian Calendar). The massacre took place at the order of the Italian Vice-Roy Marshal Grazziani in response to an assassination attempt against him carried out by two pro-Ethiopia Eritreans.

Wreaths were laid here by the Emperor to commemorate the massacre every year. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam continued this practice during his rule, but for a time after the fall of the Dergue regime, only the Mayor of Addis carried out this practice. Recently, the President of the Federal Republic has taken over this task.

The monument is in the form of a white obelisk with black bas reliefs of scenes of the massacre as well as scenes of the Imperial funeral accorded to the remains of the victims in the presence of the Emperor following the liberation around it. A Lion of Judah also decorates the face of the obelisk. Even though the image of the Lion of Judah and the Emperor Haile Selassie were removed from all over the city during the reign of the Dergue, this monumentwas untouched.

The monument stands in the Sidist Kilo square infront of the Yekatit 12 Hospital (formerly Emperor Haile Selassie Hospital and known before that as the Beite Saida Hospital). Also facing the square are the southern gates of the Guenete Leul Palace, which today is the main campus of the Addis Ababa University (formerly Haile Selassie I University).

Another major attraction adjoining the square is the old Imperial Lion Zoo, where many of the old Imperial lions and their decendents live.

Menelik II Square

In Menelik II Square stands the imposing equestrian statue of Emperor Menelik II, the victor of Adawa and the founder of Addis Ababa. The statue was erected by Emperor Haile Selassie and dedicated on the day before his coronation in 1930, in memory of his great predecessor. The square is located outside the main gates of St. George Cathedral - close to City Hall.

 The distance markers on all the highways in Ethiopia mark the distance to their location from the base of the statue of Emperor Menelik II in this Square. 

Every year, on the anniversary of the victory of the Battle of Adawa, the Emperor would lay a wreath at this statue after attending mass at St. George Cathedral (the victory had occurred on St. George's Day). Col. Mengistu continued laying a wreath here on the anniversary, but did not attend the church services as his regime was Marxist. And the present leaders have also continued the tradition.

Timket (EPIPHANY)

Timket (Epiphany) is one of the greatest festival in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church calendar. It commemorates Christ's Baptism by St. John in the Jordan River. Timket is celebrated in Ethiopia on the 11th January Ethiopian calendar (19th January Gregorian calendar), two weeks after Genna (Ethiopian Christmas), beginning on the Eve of Timket with colourful processions and ceremonies ending on the 12th January (20th January Gregorian calendar).

In Timket, Tella and Tej are brewed, special bread is baked called "Himbash" (in Tigrigna) "Ambasha" (in Amharic), and sheep are slaughtered to mark the three-day celebration.

Enkutatash (NEW YEAR)

The Ethiopian New Year falls on the 1st September Ethiopian calendar (September 11th Gregorian Calendar) at the end of the Ethiopian rain season and is called Enkutatash. 1st September is also celebrated to mark the commemoration of St. John the Baptist. Enkutatash (Ethiopian New Year) is not only a religious holiday but is also a day for young boys and girls to sing and dance and for exchanging New Year greetings and cards among urban inhabitants.

Meskel (Finding of the True Cross)

Meskel is celebrated by dancing, feasting and lighting a massive bonfire known in Ethiopian tradition as "Damera". Meskel commemorates the finding of the True Cross in the 4th century when Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, discovered the True Cross on which Christ was crucified. The feast is celebrated in Ethiopia on the 17th September Ethiopian calendar (27th September Gregorian calendar), 6 months after the discovery of the True Cross. The celebration of Meskel signifies the presence of the True Cross at mountain of Gishen Mariam monastery and also symbolises the events carried out by Empress Helena.

According to tradition Empress Helena lit incense and prayed for assistance to guide her. The smoke drifted towards the direction of the buried cross. She dug and found three crosses; one of them was the True Cross used to crucify Jesus Christ. Empress Helena then gave a piece of the True Cross to all churches, including the Ethiopian Church. This piece was then brought to Ethiopia. According to the Ethiopian legend, when people get close to the piece of the True Cross it made them naked by its powerful light. Because of this, a decision was made to bury it at the mountain of Gishen Mariam monastery in Wollo region. The monastery of Gishen.

Genna (CHRISTMAS)

The Ethiopian Christmas (Genna or Ledet) falls on the 29th December Ethiopian calendar (7 January Gregorian calendar). Christmas is celebrated after 43 days fasting known as Advent, with a spectacular procession, which begins at 6 a.m. and lasts until 9 a.m. After the mass service, people go home to break the fast with the meat of chicken or lamb or beef accompanied with injera and the traditional drinks (i.e. tella or tej).

Fasiga (EASTER)

Fasiga (Easter) is celebrated after 55 days severe Lent fasting. Orthodox Christians do not eat meat, diary products or breakfast for the whole 55 days. The fist meal of the day is taken after 3 p.m. (9 o'clock in the afternoon Ethiopian time) during the fasting days, except Saturdays and Sundays, where a breakfast is allowed after the morning service.

On Easter eve people celebrate and go to church with candles which are lit during a colourful Easter Mass service which begins at about 6 p.m. (12 o'clock in the evening Ethiopian time) and ends at about 2 a.m. (8 o'clock after mid-night Ethiopian time). Everyone goes home to break the fast with the meat of chicken or lamb, slaughtered the previous night after 6 p.m., accompanied with injera and traditional drinks (i.e. tella or tej). Like Christmas, Easter is also a day of family re-union, an expression of good wishes with exchange of gifts (i.e. lamb, goat or loaf of bread).

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