I’ve come to realize that many people think that Ethiopia is nothing but sprawling countryside with a few people scattered here and there. As you’re traveling through the country, you spot an occasional grass hut. I know that’s what I used to think. And it isn’t entirely inaccurate. There are large areas that are sparsely inhabited. And yes, there are huts made out of mud and grass. We saw several as we drove up to our son’s home town.
So it isn’t entirely inaccurate. But it’s definitely not accurate, either. Not when you consider Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa has at least 3.4 million people living within its city limits. And that’s an estimate from 2007. It’s surely grown since then because there’s been an influx of people moving into the city due to people looking for jobs.
I’ve been told it’s primarily people looking for construction jobs. It makes sense. The city is growing and they need to make room for more people and more businesses. They’ve already got 3.4+ million people packed into an area smaller than Indianapolis (203.5 square miles vs. 368.1 square miles). Where are you supposed to put the people?
So the sprawling city is growing up. And growing up.
Oh, the traffic. I’m going to talk about it in a later post this month, but there really isn’t anything like the traffic here in the States. New York cabbies have nothing on the drivers in Addis. It’s almost like a video game with no rules. The biggest and fastest goes first as you try to navigate your way through the maze of dirt roads, potholes, partially paved streets, alleys, and highways to safely reach your destination. And I think I might have seen maybe two traffic lights the whole time we were in Addis.
Of course, you also have to watch out for livestock. Especially goats. They might climb up on your vehicle or merely choose to stand out in the middle of the street. It sure feels like controlled chaos. OK, maybe not that controlled. But our drivers have always known what they were doing and we were never in any danger of being in an accident. And they could navigate through spaces that seemed impossible in my mind. But they always did it. With a smile.
There were restaurants and dance clubs and all kinds of stores selling all kinds of wares. It’s really not unlike any major metropolis in many respects. And of course the city is so giant that it’s almost impossible to capture its essence in one or two photos. But I hope this gives you a small glimpse into the amazing “New Flower” (that’s the literal translation of Addis Ababa from Amharic). It’s really a city unlike any other I’ve ever been to.
And I can’t wait to go back.
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