Sunday, 23 August 2009

The Sullivans

I apologise, first of all, for stubbornly sticking to naming my posts after Australian soaps. However, it's a bit like smoking, if you know what I mean. So, on to the next one...

Episode 3.

ADDIS ABABA - 4/8/09 - 3pm

Back from Entoto. Up a 12% gradient over about 15kms in the Lada. Just as we were approaching the summit, smoke started rising out of the gearbox and the kids were begging Mamush to turn around and go back down again. I couldn't help thinking that perhaps they were right, but after fooling us by making a 3 point turn, Mamush stuck the car in reverse and carried on climbing up - only backards - to the ancient (well, about 140 years old) palace of Emperor Menelik II and his wife Taitu (or Tiitu, depending on where you read it).

Standing guard

As with any public place in Ethiopia, different rates were charged to locals alone, locals with foreigners (people - especially kids - all yell 'Forenjey!' when they see you, and lots of the kids ran almost successful races alongside the car as we continued our tortuous climb up to Entoto) and foreigners alone.


A fluent English speaker greeted us at the gates to the museum, and we took up his offer of a guided tour around the complex. First, to the palace, where a small consideration (10 Birr) should be donated to the old man who guarded the place. We were told that, for sitting outside the palace all day every day, the man was paid a salary of 280 Birr - which equates to about £25.

Entoto St. Mary church

Then on to the church of St. Mary, and a further fee of 90 Birr to the guardian of this particular place. Just outside the yard of St. Mary's there is, we were told, a 700 year old rock-hewn church, allowing photo opportunities against the graffiti scratched wall of the Holy of Holies. At the end, the man told us that he was a licensed guide, and asked for the equivalent of $10 per person for his trouble.

Holy of holies

The air at the top of Entoto was crystal clear, the first time I had noticed that I was at altitude, but descending again to the madness of the city, I was quickly reminded of the choking black smoke belching out of the Tata and Toyota trucks weaving their way (in a surprisingly good-natured and - amazingly - (touch wood, so far) accident-free manner) through the streets. Metaphorically making the sign of the cross as I step out of the Lada once again, my throat feels as if I've just chain-smoked a pack of Capstan full strength.

Mountains of Entoto

The power is off at the moment.

No comments: