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Monday, November 04, 2013

The Time I Danced in Front of a Packed Restaurant in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Here it is – the long awaited posts about my trip to Ethiopia during Eid! This is Ethiopia Part 1!

Eid Mubarak, or Blessed Eid, is a call people say to each other to celebrate the religious holiday (similar to Merry Christmas).

Our school had an entire week off school for the Eid holiday, which was really nice. We originally we only supposed to have 3 days off school (making a 5 day weekend), but the entire week got called off, resulting in a 9 day weekend!! The first half of my week was spent relaxing and hanging out with friends and colleagues. I slept, I socialized, I laid out by a pool, and had a lovely time. The second half of my Eid break was devoted to travelling.

I had gone through several plans of where to travel for Eid – India with a friend, Jordan on a solo trip, etc. When my Jordan flights fell through, I decided to sign up for a group tour. I simply didn’t have the time or energy to figure out another trip. I went on a tour with Escape Dubai (, a company that organizes group tours around the Middle East and beyond. The only time option that worked for me at that point was Ethiopia, so I signed up! A few of my colleagues were also going, which helped encourage me.

Ethiopia, Day 1

We flew into Addis Ababa, Ethiopia around noon. We had to wait in quite a long line to get our Ethiopian Visa upon arrival. Once we made it through customs (including having your fingerprints scanned!) we met up with other people on the tour. The Addis Ababa airport wasn’t very nice, and I was a bit worried for what was ahead.

Our first order of business was meeting our group leader, Dan, and heading to a local restaurant for lunch. The food was delicious! We then headed to the National Museum of Ethiopia to see the famous Lucy skeleton. Lucy is known as the world’s earliest human ancestor. She is 3.2 million years old. Her skeleton is 40% complete. She has a mixture of ape and human features, including long dangling arms but pelvic, spine, foot, and leg bones suited to walking upright. She stood about three and half feet tall. We were all extremely excited, and after arriving at the museum (and receiving a THOROUGH patdown) we bee-lined toward the Lucy exhibit. Here are some photos:

Haha, it was not nearly as exciting as I had hoped. It was still really cool, and it reconfirmed my confusion with people who do not believe in evolution.

Our next stop was the Mercato, a large open-market that sells almost everything. We were told to be alert for pick-pockets, so I didn’t bring my camera. I bought a few souvenirs here, and I feel like I didn’t get too ripped off. I probably could have bartered more, but at the same time, I didn’t mind paying for a few things at the price I was given (it was still cheap!). This was our first introduction to the real city of Addis Ababa – the roads, the dirt, the colours, the markets, the people, the animals, etc. It was fascinating.

We checked into our fairly nice hotel, and then headed out for a traditional Ethiopian meal. The restaurant we went to had traditional Ethiopian music and dancers, which was awesome! Being a music teacher and a former dancer, I was incredibly excited to see the live music and dancing (side note: did you know the word “music” doesn’t exist in Africa as we know it? The word always means music and dance together). The music (which includes dance!) and food were actually similar to what I had eaten and seen before at the Lieutenant-Governor’s Winter Festival in my hometown at the Ethiopian pavilion. It was still a ton of fun! I have lots of great videos.

Partway through the evening, the three main male dancers fanned off into the audience and had little dance sessions with people in the audience. They kept encouraging people to “shake”, and everyone in our section of the restaurant cheered them on. Our group leader, Dan, stood up and danced which was hilarious! Then the dancer came over to me! I stood up and danced a bit with him, including shaking my hips and shoulders. I have the ability to shake my body, and I guess I impressed the Ethiopian dancer, because later on, I got pulled up on to the STAGE! There was another man up there, dancing and having the time of his life. He was middle-aged and looked Eastern European. I was a bit confused whether I was supposed to dance with him or not, because he was kind of flailing randomly. I ended up sort of ignoring him, since my dancer guy kept telling me to “shake!” Let me tell you, shaking your hips and shimmying your shoulders in front of a packed restaurant in Ethiopia is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I was getting into it!

The crowd was cheering us on, which definitely boosted my ego. I know one of the girls on the tour took a video, but I haven’t received it yet. I’m assuming the video will not be displayed on social media, rather, I’ll show you sometime if you want a laugh! Once I was all danced out, I got to sit back down. Everyone on my tour group was laughing and telling me I represented our group well, and the dancer kept trying to make eye contact with me for the rest of the night (especially when I had a pseudo-asthma attack from being out of breath and breathing in thick smoke!).  

We eventually made our way back to the hotel, and decided to go for a drink at a local spot by our hotel. It was the sketchiest little bar/shop I’ve ever been in – I was glad I was with a group! People ordered some drinks and we were eventually served. I turned in early and enjoyed a long shower and a chance to unpack and repack for the next day.

Can you believe all of this happened on our first day? It was a fantastic introduction to Ethiopia!

Part 2 of my Ethiopian recap will be posted tomorrow, in which I will tell you about my favourite day in Ethiopia which included bridges, cliffs, baboons, waterfalls, and more!

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