Addis Ababa (the name means new flower) is of fairly recent origin - Menelik 2nd founded the city in 1887. Situated in the foothills of the Entoto Mountains and standing 2,400 metres above sea level it is the third highest capital in the world. The city has a population of about two million.
Before moving to the present site of Addis Ababa, Menelik had established temporary capitals at six different locations caused by exhausting the fuel wood at each of these sites. Addis itself was in danger of being abandoned until the introduction of fast-growing eucalyptus trees from Australia provided the city with a regular source of fuel. Addis Ababa is an important administrative centre not only for Ethiopia but also for the whole of Africa.
Addis Ababa is a fairly new city where impressive colonial buildings are dispersed amid stretches of sun-bleached shacks and empty lots. The misty, pine-covered hills surrounding Addis add to the enjoyment of walking the city streets, especially in the evening or early morning.
While there, see the Ethiopian National Museum, which contains a replica of “Lucy,” the fossilized woman found in the Great Rift Valley in 1974, believed to be about three and a half million years old. The museum has an extensive collection of artifacts, some predating the Axumite civilization of Tigre. It also includes a selection of the more than 200 designs of crosses found in Ethiopia.
Near the museum are the Lion Cages, probably the only place in Ethiopia to see the Abyssinian lion. The cages are probably best not visited by animal lovers.
The Menelik Mausoleum is in a cellar under a small church on a hill overlooking the city. The mercato, a colorful 10-sq-mi/25-sq-km open market, offers everything from food to paintings of biblical scenes. The story of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon is particularly popular.
Other sights are the octagonal Church of St. George (built in 1896—try to attend a service to hear incredible chanting and music). St George’s Cathedral (Giorgis Cathedral), lies at the north end of Churchill Rd. Built in the traditional octagonal shape to commemorate Ethiopia’s victory over the Italians at the Battle of Adwa, the Cathedral houses the work of Afewerk Tekle, the renowned Ethiopian artist responsible for the stained glass windows of the Africa Hall.
Haile Selassie’s Grand palace is located north east of Churchill Ave at the end of Colsen St. The Emperor has a second residence, Jubilee Palace, on Menelik Ave, just north of the Ghion Hotel.
Entity is the mountain range that rises to the north of Addis Ababa and is easily accessible from the city. This is where Menelik started his first capital, and the Church of Entonto Mariam where he was crowned can still be visited At the top of the hill is the Church of Entonto Raguel which offers stunning views.
Because it has the best accommodations in the country, Addis Ababa is a good base for day trips to surrounding attractions. To the north are Ankober and Debre Libanos of Shewa. Ankober was once a trading center for African wealth destined for Red Sea ports. A few miles north in the Ifat Desert is Debre Berhan (Church of the Divine Light), an interesting 15th-century church built when the area was the empire’s capital.
Bole International Airport is 5 kilometres from the city centre and is undergoing major extensions, with a new International Passenger Terminal Building under construction. Very few streets have names in Addis Ababa, and if they do may not be known by the names on the map. The exception to this is Churchill Avenue, which is the main thoroughfare and shopping street in Addis Ababa.