There is no better place to understand what makes Ethiopia so alluring and get a taste of its multifaceted culture and history than in the country’s fascinating and flourishing capital, Addis Ababa. Ethiopian-born and Paris- and New York-based model, maternal health advocate, and the designer behind clothing brand Lemlem, Liya Kebede, shares with us her favourite spots.
Addis is much more than a starting point for exploring the Rift Valley. It is the sprawling commercial and cultural heart of an eclectic nation. Expect to be surprised by the stark contrast between skyscrapers and informal traders, or the pursuit of the latest fashions alongside the observance of ancient customs.
As you admire the prehistoric fossils in the city’s National Museum, shop at one of the bountiful markets or sample its distinctively fragrant cuisine, you will become increasingly aware of just how much there is to be explored and savoured.
Liya Kebede is a devoted ambassador for her city: “The minute I land in Addis Ababa and I breathe the air, I know I am home – that is what I love about this city.”
Kebede is also the founder and creative director of the home-grown Lemlem fashion brand – Lemlem means “fertile” or “flowering” in Amharic – and the Lemlem Foundation, a non-profit organisation that helps women artisans in Africa thrive by connecting them to healthcare, education and pathways to jobs.
About traveling to Addis, she recommends:
“Make sure to have cash with you. Not many places take credit cards – although big hotels accept cards – and there are not many cash machines available. Don’t eat raw foods and only drink bottled water.”
For those interested in outdoor exercise, Kebede praises the Entoto forest at sunrise, perfect for a run; she also loves playing tennis at the Hilton Hotel, followed with an afternoon coffee ceremony or a cooling ice cream at Tutto Gelato. When it comes to music, she heads to Ghion Hotel for Ethiopian jazz and drinks and to Fendika Azmari Bet for local traditional music.
Before you set off for Addis, consider getting a copy of Cutting for Stoneby Ethiopian-born Abraham Verghese, a riveting family saga intertwined with Ethiopia’s past half-century.