Friday, March 28, 2008

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - Show me the money...

Looking towards downtown Addis. The Sheraton is the red roofed complexed to the left. Noticed the shacks in the front of it.

Luuuuuuuuucccccccccccccyyyyyyyyyyy where are yoooouuu?

Haile Selassie's throne chair...

Addis, from my observations so far, is a place of few socio-economic haves and a whole lot of have nots. The penultimate examples which illustrate this vast divide in Ethiopian society are the shiny towers of the Hilton and Sheraton Hotels and how they soar above the surrounding sorrowful slums.

Today's priorities were to find these hotels (using minibuses, of course). Unfortunately, these are the only places in Addis where it's possible to get a cash advance using a Visa card.

The first stop was at the Hilton (no sign of Paris). Lovely but showing it's age, customers and expats are often found at poolside (10 USD entrance fee) either taking a dip or sipping fru-fru drinks. The ATMs take Visa cards but I don't have a PIN. There are 3 banks in-house banks' exchange rate really sucked.

I had to try the Daschen Bank about 20 minutes walk away at the Sheraton Hotel. Owned by the richest man in Ethiopia, the Sheraton was the poshest place in town (300 USD per night gets you a room with a closeup view of the slums, A/C, and a mini fridge) and don't the NGO's know it. The parking lot is packed with fancy schmancy UN SUVs and the like. Bloody hell, I can see why the Americans are pissed off at the UN. They throw out the book when it comes to expense accounts.

It was hilarious that they let me in the hotel. I must have looked like a hobo with my "well worn" traveling ensemble. I found the Daschen Bank in a maze of dark hardwood paneled corridor lined with first world gift boutiques. How smashing wouldn't you say? Got the necessary cash advance in Birr. I asked if I could withdraw USD, but they would have none of it. The only way to buy USD legitimately was if you were leaving the country on a plane... I sensed a cashflow problem brewing if I can't get USDs. My bad for bad financial planning.

After extracting myself from the A/C of the hotel, I climbed back on the bus and made my way to the Egyptian Embassy. The sidewalk scene I had to walk through to get there was pretty chaotic: students, vendors, beggars, and worst of all, loiterers. I thought I was the target of pickpockets at one point. Working in tandem, one thief in front of me turned into my path and hit me pretty hard with his shoulder. Sorry, sorry he said. I staggered a bit but kept walking. In the next step, his accomplice blocked my way with a open newspaper. What the hell? I just walked through the paper without stopping leaving him in my wake. I wasn't fully aware of what was happening or might have happened. Gotta keep my wits about me. At least nothing was missing.

As promised I got the visa. The easy one was over and done with.

I'm was so damn efficient today, I had time to visit the National Museum aka home of Lucy (Australopithecus sp.), fossilized remains of the earliest known hominid ever. I was really looking forward to seeing the remains but for the life of me I could not confirm Lucy's presence. I mean they had an impressive number of skulls on display, including 2 or three of Australopithecus sp., but there was no sign pointing out Lucy. Come on. As a museum you have to capitalize on Lucy. She by default should have been THE centre piece of the entire museum... In comparison with it's ethnographic counterpart, the museum just lacked interpretation and flow.

Am I a museum snob?

Out of Canuckistan: A travel blog, Mar 28/07
Buy Bubba a Beer Now!

No comments: