You’re stepping off the airplane; strong wind brushes upon your face; you might even feel a cold breeze. That, ladies and gentlemen, is Bole International Airport. Walking distance from one of the city’s busiest and upcoming streets, Bole International Airport serves as the main airport for local and international flights. When coming into Addis for the first time, the untrained eye might need some practice before things appear “normal”. Addis is mostly referred to as Africa’s political and economic capital and every day is a proof that Addis is The City in Africa. From the UN to the EU to the AU, several international organizations; political, economic or non-for-profit, have headquarters for Africa in Addis. The economy of Ethiopia is booming and Addis has all the evidence needed. Entrepreneurs, both local and from abroad are coming to Addis to establish businesses. But enough about that. When you walk out of the airport, what will blow you away, well in addition to the wind? Here are a few things.
Blue Donkey and long queues
No, no, Blue Donkey isn’t a restaurant, nor is it a soup kitchen. Blue donkeys are mini-buses used for public transportation in Addis and multiple other cities. The name has been deemed appropriate considering they are blue on the bottom and white on top, and the way they are driven on the streets, although it isn’t clear how they became to be called that. The long queues, which can extend to be a few hundred meters in worst case scenarios, are the city administration’s way of creating order in taxi stations all over the city. If ever you are in the mood to experiment with riding blue donkeys, try the newer models of mini buses that aren’t the classic blue and white color, as their insides are much cleaner, seats are more comfortable and they have less tendency to stop working or to break down.
Side road business and begging
When you are walking around in Addis, you need to get used to beggars, beggars who are young, old, girls, boys, men, women, people with kids, kids alone; it could be one of many things. But not all people on the street beg. Some sell napkins, gum and prepaid mobile cards. Others offer shoe cleaning and repair services. These working street individuals are usually children between the ages of 6-15. They are mostly independent and live on their own, either on the street, or in shared communal one room homes. They are hardworking, but sometimes, they can be pickpockets and you have to watch out for your pockets and your belongings when they make inappropriate moves around you.
As the business center of Africa, a lot of new buildings are being built, but most of
them are not getting finished. Most of the new buildings are astounding to look at; the bottom one or two floors are furnished and rented, while the top floors are waiting their turn to be completed. The rent fee from the bottom floors will help cover the fee for finishing the top floors. Don’t be surprised if you walk into a 4 or 5 story building and find the elevator broken, or nonexistent.