Africa's 'new flower': it is Africa's most important diplomatic centre and one of the continent's newest capitals. Stephen Williams provides a visitor's guide to Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, a unique city that lies at the centre of one of the world's oldest empires.

Author:Williams, Stephen

Today, Addis Ababa is not simply Ethiopia's capital but Africa's diplomatic hub, where the African Union (AU) is based and the UN's Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) headquartered. More than 70 embassies and consular representatives are located in this modern city with a population of more than three million people.


It was Queen Taitu, wife of Ethiopia's Emperor Menelik II, who decided to establish a new capital for the royal court on a plateau south of the Entoto hills. By 1892, Menelik had built his new palace, establishing what became known as Addis Ababa ("new flower" in the Amharic language). Menelik's prestige soared in 1896 when he led his army to defeat an Italian invasion force, and capital of all Ethiopia

The modern Bole international Airport provides the gateway to Addis Ababa for most visitors. Ethiopia's only international airport lies just eight kilometres south of the city, and customs and entry formalities are generally trouble-free. All foreign nationals require a visa, except nationals of Kenya and Sudan, but South Africans and more than 30 other nationals can apply for tourist or business visas on arrival. The city's top hotels all have a representative booth in the arrivals hail to arrange transfers. The choice of accommodation is extensive. There has been a boom in the hospitality industry and many new private hotels have been built to complement the state-run establishments.

The finest in the city is the Addis Sheraton (tel. +251 11 517 1717) located on Taitu Street near the former imperial palaces that now serve as the president's and prime minister's official residences. The Addis Sheraton offers 293 rooms (including four executive, nine junior, and 20 classic suites). A new extension will effectively double the number of rooms in the next two years.


There is a Hilton Hotel on Menelik II Avenue (tel. +251 11 517 0000) and many three-and four-star options. Good examples of Addis Ababa's middle category private hotels are those offered by the Desalegn Hotel Group (tel. +251 11 462 4524), one of which is opposite the European Union's headquarters. A much-favoured traveller's hotel is the Taitu (tel. +251 11 156 0787), Addis Ababa's first hotel dating from the late 19th century and built on the orders of Menelik ll's wife. The Taitu Hotel is located on the city's Piazza plateau, a lively area with many bars and restaurants that is also close to the Mercato market (said...

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