Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - Change of plans...


university of addis ababa. nice, eh. the ethnographic museum is in the background.

the museum is on the top floor while the library is on the ground floor. the museum is first rate in my books.
There's been a change in strategy. I'm applying for a Sudanese transit visa. Under advisement from the American girl, Sarah, this is the only way to get a visa of any kind. So, today's project was to apply for an Egyptian visa. The Sudanese will need to see some proof of onward travel.

One of the more challenging things about travel is trying to figure out the public transit system of enormous cities like Addis. I asked the hotel's manager for help. She pointed to the spot on the map of the Piazza de Gaulle where minibuses heading to Arat kilo (square) stopped. From there I have to climb on another minibus and so on...

Theoretically it seemed simple by minibus, but it turned problematic when I got to the Piazza bus stop. First, all the minibuses looked the same. They weren't numbered so I couldn't figure out their routes. Instead, I had to listen for the the conductors to call out their destinations. It was difficult because of the traffic noise and the fact that they spoke really fast. I asked a few conductors where they were going and was brushed off because they didn't understand me. Anyway, the whole situation was pretty chaotic with buses coming and going.

Eventually, I did make somewhat sense of it all. I hit all the landmarks along the way. The last bit about landmarks was necessary because 99 percent of the streets in Addis are not signposted. Of the one percent remaining that were identified by signs, the names did not match the ones on my map. And to top it off, the Egyptian Embassy was not marked on my guidebook's map.

Surprise, surprise...I found the Embassy in a labyrinth of nameless lanes just northwest of the University of Addis Ababa with about an hour to spare till close. I was shocked to find out the visa for Canadians was 50 USD or 410 Ethiopian birr. What the hell did Canada do to Egypt this time. [ed. note: fees for such things as visas are usually set according to diplomatic reciprocation. i.e. canada raises the fee for egyptians applying for canadian visas then the egyptian government reciprocates for canadians. it's insane. apparently, the canadian government has made plenty of enemies around and canadian travelers really pay for it. thanx steve h.] Once again, I didn't have enough of either currency even when added together. The nice Egyptian lady behind the desk pointed towards the door and the closest bank. Shit. It was at least 3 km away. Hot and really bothered, I made it back with the money...I should be able to pick up tomorrow.

I walked back to the main road and parked myself in the patio deck of a cafe. Pastries are a favorite of Ethiopians. I ordered a couple of pieces (chocolate cake and a donut) and washed them down with a couple of macchiatos (better than Starbucks but served in tiny little cups) while watching the University crowd milling about.

It was still early in the day. So, I took in the ethnographic museum on the grounds of the University. It had to be the best museum outside of the Apartheid museum in Johannesburg. Very well organised and the exhibits were jam packed with information about the tribes of Ethiopia. I wished I came here before Omo.

Out of Canuckistan: A travel blog, Mar 27/07
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2 comments:

Steve H. said...

I find that my limousine drivers usually know how to find all of the landmarks in strange cities. I shudder to think about what I'd do if I actually had to resort to a bus. Even a taxi would be better.

We raised the cost of visas for Egyptians to help pay for all those post 9/11 security measures. I won't say which ones (because the CBC would spend half an hour condemning me for it), but let's just say that there are visitors from certain countries who are getting the extra eyeball these days.

bubba said...

I only take the buses 'cause I'm too cheap.