A University in an African King’s Home
Students walk in and out of the former palace grounds of Haile Selassie, revered King across Africa and globally by the African Diaspora. Immortalized in historical script and in the musical lyrics of reggae by the Rastafari. A true African King’s people are cultured, educated and elevated, therefore, the legacy of leaving his home open to the general public both as a museum and as the Institute of Ethiopian studies is in all ways a kingly gesture by a people’s king.
It would be a waste to spend 24 hours in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s bustling capital city without visiting this gorgeous museum.
Wandering inside its walls and getting lost in its large rooms filled with ethnographic history and artifacts. You wander up the stairs, turn right past the embalmed lion and move into the floor that holds the Queen and King’s bedrooms.
In my imagination, Emperor Selassie’s bathroom was either a rich red with marble and gold or emerald green with tones of marble and gold or silver. I was wrong, it is a baby pastel blue but I was right on the marble. His bathroom was baby pastel blue or duck egg blue with grey and white marble and some hints of silver. It is calming and looks like something out of modern day Instagram influencer aesthetic, toss in a few succulents or some green palms and this would be a modern, millennial’s dream Instagram bathroom.
But I have jumped ahead, no you do not enter the bathroom first. It is just that it is what struck me the most with its ‘simplicity’ considering what I had in mind. Once you turn right past the embalmed lion to go to the floor with our African Emperor’s bedroom, you walk a hallway with beautiful historical, Ethiopian artifacts, you pass the Queen’s bedroom which is now mostly bare and then you turn (left I think?) to His Royal Highness, Jah Rastafari’s bedroom. It is everything you ever imagined it would be.
Rich, decadent and resplendent, from his bedroom you turn right into his wardrobe, that holds his ceremonial robes and military uniform and badges.
From the wardrobe you proceed into the bathroom, which I have previously described.
When you land in Addis at Bole International Airport, which is currently being expanded into a global standard airport to process 30,000-60,000 people a day. This openness to allowing people into spaces considered ‘elite’ is apparent. Perhaps a continuing legacy of Emperor Selassie allowing the public and students into his home. Unlike other African powerhouse cities, Ethiopians do not push out their people, ordinary people out of the airport grounds. You meet people hanging out outside Bole, staring back at you as you stare at them. There is no attempt to sanitize their city in the quest for maintaining an image of ‘modernity and progression’ by pushing out its people who cannot afford plane tickets. It is one of my favorite things about Bole, modern, bustling, host to the continent’s biggest airline -Ethiopian Airlines- but still home to ordinary Ethiopians, who are welcome to it.
This feeling of ‘home’ is ever present in Ethiopia. Ethiopians, love Africans and Africa. I head over to the National Museum of Ethiopia, home to Dinkinesh or Lucy. Our 3.2 million old human species fore-mother to check if my friend Bekele is still there.
I met him last year, you will always find Bekele at the museum reception lobby welcoming people and going back to his phone. He is always dressed in the most extravagant African attire from all over the continent and from Ethiopia. Ankara, African robes, large ankhs, that is Bekele. His personality is however, calmer than his dress code. Welcoming and warm with a demure voice, he whispers to me as we take a photo, “I love meeting Africans who come back here like you, because we Africans, we always smile from the bottom of our hearts. Welcome back home.”
The National Museum of Ethiopia has a lot more than Selam, Dinkinesh and Ardi the names of some of our most famous relatives.
It is also host to Ethiopian art history and royal history. Full of artifacts, paintings and crafts. It is also one of the only places in Ethiopia where you can take pictures of royal artifacts, so definitely a must visit!
A thorough treat! Wander around its botanical gardens as well to spot canons and gorgeous statues and sculptures hidden in plain site amongst the large green palms, plants and bright flowers.
What to do in 24 hours in Addis Ababa
Take a 5am Ethiopian Airlines flight from Nairobi and land at Bole at 7am. *Pro-tip* if you book via the Ethiopian Airlines app you sometimes get discounted tickets.
Get an E-Visa on arrival for some nationalities or apply for one prior which takes three days. If you are Kenyan you do not need a visa into Ethiopia just a return ticket and accommodation details
Head over to the Ethiopian Skylight Hotel, a swanky new 5 star hotel in Addis with over 300 rooms and an extensive global food menu that even includes spicy and sour jellyfish from China (a must try that I recommend), Ethiopian wine that pairs perfectly with the menu options (Rift Valley Merlot is delicious with vegan Ethiopian food) and of course a lot of local Ethiopian dishes
If you are a group you can send an email to Ethiopian Airlines to get a tour of their HQ and some of their facilities such as their academy that trains global aviation staff and its Simulation rooms for pilots across Africa and some parts of the world outside the continent
Have lunch at any of the numerous city restaurants that serve local or international cuisine
2pm head over to the Headquarters of the African Union
2.30 pm head over to the National Museum of Ethiopia
3.30pm head over to the Ethnological Museum (Emperor Haile Sellasie’s former palace)
4.30pm end the day at Mount Entoto for panoramic views of the capital
7.30pm Dinner at Abysinnia for local Ethiopian food, dancing, music and coffee