We were delighted to fly from Istanbul and to arrive at the airport in Addis Ababa. Ethiopia is truly the Land of Origins: of humanity, of language and of major parts of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Historical note: Addis Ababa means ‘New Flower’ in Amharic and has been the political center of Ethiopia for only the past couple of hundred years out of a 3000-year history.
Linguistic note: The script on sign saying “Welcome” is Ge’ez. The working language of the country is Amharic, although people in Ethiopia speak up to 75 different language. The lettering used to write the Latin-alphabet version of the word ‘Ethiopia’ on the welcome sign is a modified Sabian script.
Addis Ababa: Origins of Humanity
If you go to Paris, you’re likely to want to go to the Louvre and see the Mona Lisa. If you go to Addis Ababa, you’ll want to go to the National Museum of Ethiopia:
to see the skeleton of Lucy, the world’s most famous early human ancestor. Her remains are 3.2 million years old, and she is important because she walked upright.
And here is our guide, Elias, next to a mockup of the full Lucy in order to show how short of stature she was:
By the way, outside the museum is this statue of the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, in honor of his grandmother who was Ethiopian, thereby adding her to the list of famous Ethiopians.
Nest door we ate at the Lucy Restaurant,
where we had our first Ethiopian meal:
and our first encounter with Ethiopia money:
East Africa is birthplace of modern humans and, therefore, the birthplace of modern language.
Linguists, myself included, think that language reached it modern state of complexity anywhere from 250,000 – 100,000 BCE, that is, before the major expansion of humans Out of Africa.
Addis Ababa: The City
Addis Ababa is relatively new, with the usual steel-and-glass and concrete buildings downtown:
and the usual dusty jumble uptown:
I couldn’t get enough of taking pictures of the signs written in Ge’ez:
Animals are part of the traffic, here a donkey carrying firewood:
Addis Ababa: The Christian Tradition
Christianity has been a part of Ethiopia since the 4th c AD. The founding church of Addis Ababa, St Mary’s, is on top of a hill overlooking the town.
It’s a typical Ethiopian church, in that’s it’s round to symbolize unity.
Churches have the three roofs, as you see here, and they are painted green, yellow and red to symbolize Ethiopia. Although you can’t see the colors on the roofs of St. Mary’s, you can see them on the fencing to the left.
St. Mary’s doubles as monastery and was the historic lodgings of the founders of Addis Ababa. All structures are round:
The drying peppers made a colorful photo:
We ended the tour of the city with a stop at the more European-looking Holy Trinity Cathedral:
and saw the tomb of Haile Selassie.
More on Haile Selassie and his towering importance in Ethiopian history in the next blog.
See: All Africa Blogs
This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen