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Posts By Sara Genene
- ETHIOPIA: Travel and Be Inspired!
- PIASSA: Addis Ababa’s Mesmeric Old Town II
- ETHIOPIA: Romancing HOME through TRAVEL!
- 2014 in review
- PIAZZA: Addis Ababa’s Mesmeric Old Town I
- ITEGUE TAITU: The First Hotel Of Ethiopia
- IMPREINT: Good Morning ADDIS ABABA!
- Back On The Road Again In Ethiopia
- 100 Posts: All About ETHIOPIA!
- MESKEL: Ethiopian Feast Of Exaltation Of Holy Cross
- The Colorful ENKUTATASH Paintings By Ethiopian Boys
- Happy Ethiopian New Year!
- ENKUTATASH: Ethiopia Welcoming Year 2007
- Addis Ababa’s Seasonal Street Delights
- KOLO: The Cherished Ethiopian Snack
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The first episode of this virtual tour of Addis Ababa’s Mesmeric Old Town – Piassa – as the locals would call it, brought to me a challenging but inspiring opportunity of actually escorting visitors of Ethiopia from Germany into my world.
As I am being so inspired by this beautiful experience of leading a group as a local for an actual walking tour just recently through this old but charming neighborhood of Addis Ababa –Piassa/Piazza, I decide to bring the last episode of a virtual tour of my favorite neighborhood from my home town to the whole world … and I choose to go back to De Gaulle Square to finalize my adventure of rediscovering Addis Ababa’s mesmeric old town…while reliving the enchanting childhood memories as someone who grew up at this particular area.
There is no doubt that paying a visit to Piassa usually means to stopover at one or more coffee shops as this old mesmerizing old town known for its many time honored and full of character coffee shops where locals still patronize. So heading down south from De Gaulle Square to DEj JOTE or around Ethiopian airlines office in Piassa, there is of course another much adored old patisseries of Addis Ababa which scores more than 40 years in business. KYRIAZIS PATTISERIE still provides the best and delicious pastries in town within one small room and full of character coffee shop which usually overcrowded by the locals.
Continuing down further from the coffee shop … is surly to be able to experience the pleasure of glancing at more time honored buildings of Piassa with flair and dated way back during Emperor Menelik’s era (1889 – 1913 G.C.). Starting with the staggeringly elongated five-multistory residential house designed by Minas Kherbekian the Armenian architect who also designed Itegue Taitu Hotel. It is also believed to be the very first skyscraper before the Italian occupation (1936 – 41 G.C.).
From here, if one takes one of the interesting alleyways that takes way up to the Cunningham Street where more interesting old buildings, old cinema, old post office and interesting Piassa’s street life scenes to be spotted but wait …before all that, it is at the center of this particular alleyway’s of Piassa from many that the historical Ethiopia’s very first hotel –Itegue Taitu Hotel– that worth pay a visit can be found.
Like the unique architectural style of Piassa is the multinational touch of Armenia, Ethiopia, India, and Italy, interestingly its winding streets also retains another foreign names and this time it’s British.
Cunningham is one of the streets of Piassa named after one of the British officials and military men by Emperor Haile Selassie regime (1941 – 74 G.C.) to echo his gratefulness to the British officials for their military aid. But of course during the Italian occupation many Piassa’s streets used to retain Italian names like the one from De Gaulle Square all the way to Ras Mekonnen bridge (Arat Kilo – Arada) street name was Corso Vittorio Emanuel III which later renamed Haile Selassie Street.
Despite the fact the old town of Addis Ababa – Piassa- comes with street names that is foreign for Ethiopia like Waverly street and Churchill avenue, the interesting detail I would like to mention here and of course the inside truth is locals use mostly native names for most areas of Piassa and obviously that would make the foreign street names usually to be functional on city maps, guide books and alike.
Doro Manekia, Serategna Sefer, Mazegaja, Arada, Mohamud Muzika Bet, Giorgis, Ras Mekonnen Dildiye, Yehager Fiker, Seba Dereja and many more local names which usually used in everyday life of the locals … whether it is to meet up somewhere in Piassa or to tell the location of a particular area.
Now we are at the Cunningham Street and for many locals one of the reasons of being at this particular street of Piassais to stopover at one of the oldest cinemas of Ethiopia. The now Cinema Ethiopia or formerly known as Nageliz is one of the still operating old cinemas which is known by entertaining via local Ethiopian movies and western movies alike till this day.
Regarding entertainment, it is at this mesmeric old town that cinema was being introduced to Ethiopia during the early 20th century by screening black and white silent pictures to being a host of a pioneering event when talkie movies first brought to Ethiopia by Monsieur Glize.
Besides entertainment, the other usual reasons for many locals to be at this particular area of Piassa would be shopping or window shopping as this area also encloses many shops as Piassa is indeed the old commercial center of Addis Ababa.
Talking about shopping, Arada Business Center which is one of the oldest even the very first modern shopping center of Addis Ababa which Piassa still proudly embraces at the Cunningham Street. It is the history that it represent that makes it more impressive than its looks as the name suggest – Arada. This one Amharic word – ARADA – is the original name of this mesmeric old town of Addis Ababa before christened it Piazza del Littorio during the Italian occupation.
In spite of being the original name that represent the now Piassa, at the end of the 19th century Arada was Ethiopia’s pivotal area of commerce and spot of the city’s most important bank, post office, entertainment center, local market (Arada Market) and shops way before the bustling local market of Arada moved to the now Merkato (One of the biggest open market in Africa) during the Italian occupation…so it seems like this particular shopping mall which is named after this historical commerce district– Arada – is the refection of the golden times of Piassa when it was the soul of urbanization for Ethiopia.
While capturing the feel of Piazza starting from De Gaulle Square on Cunningham Street that leads all the way at the intersection of Gebeyehu Street provides ordinary but interesting everyday life scenes of this mesmeric old town of Addis Ababa along with more time honored interesting buildings and residential houses, old post office and many more.
Talking about interesting street scenes of Addis Ababa, I pick the small street markets as I always find it fascinating and as it usually being Piassa’s signature – different kinds of amazingly colorful and fresh fruit and vegetables, outdated magazines, movie and music CD and DVD…all sold on the streets of Piassa.
The Cunningham street do lead to few different interesting alleyways that takes its visitors to the southern part of Piassa which make it more like unveiling the hidden treasures of this old town … so for today I would like to take the world through one particular narrow alleyway of Piassa which known as the Mahatama Gandhi Street which I think worth taking to really experience Addis Ababa and to discover more … so please stay with me.
Reaching at the intersection of Mahatama Gandhi and General Wingate Street means more old coffee shops, restaurant, bank, old buildings and more. When every time I found myself at this particular intersection my feet usually take me to one of the oldest patisseries of Addis Ababa or Piassa – one of those places where I can be able to pour more sugar on the sweet memories of childhood. I do really hope I can relate on this one with many other Ethiopians whom had once or twice visit the little Italy in Ethiopia through Piazza’s ENRICO.
Enrico is the first patisserie of Addis Ababa which was established by one of Italian migrants more than 50 years ago. In spite the test of time, Enrico still provides amazingly delicious pastries. Its specialties are delicate custard cakes that just melt in your mouth. The steel and Formica made of solid furnishing, vibrant picture boards of assorted Italian specialty cakes on display, the half – dozen basic tables which are usually full and the overall atmosphere of the bustling café has the power to transport you to the golden times of Piazza and even more better as my Italian friend once affirmed you could also be in Italy somewhere around mid-20th century through Piazza’s time honored Italian café – ENRICO PASTRY.
Before heading further to cross the street and find yourself at the other exciting street – Waverly Street – another historical building dated 1905 G.C. can be found. The stone Bank of Abyssinia is indeed one of the treasures Piassa inherited from Menelik’s era …February 15, 1906 G.C. memorialized the beginning of banking in Ethiopia when the bank was inaugurated by Emperor Menelike II.
Crossing the street to continue further… couldn’t help being hypnotized by the revitalizing coffee aroma that tantalizingly emanates from another old coffee shop. To stopover for another coffee might sound extreme but believe me Ethiopia is the birth place of coffee and this mesmeric old town is at the top of the list when it comes to serving up coffee for the soul as it also comes with the very fascinating history of introducing café culture to Ethiopia in spite of the fact coffee is a religion in Ethiopia.
Legend has it, back then the locals find it strange to buy cup of coffee made out of espresso machine and enjoying it in a café outside their home as making coffee at home with Jebena (traditional coffee pot) and with all its traditional eloquent pieces from the scratch and enjoying it with family, friends and neighbors for free almost every day was and still the most valued coffee tradition of Ethiopia… so these old café’s used to be frequented by foreigners and few Ethiopians back then but they finally manage to attract the locals and played huge role on today’s interesting Addis Ababa’s Café culture.
TOMOCA is one of Addis Ababa’s must visit coffee shops. The one that you find in Piassa comes with unique character as it has been there for more than 50 years not only serving up great coffee but a pleasant ambiance to delight your soul.
“Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between
man and the universe.” Anatole France
Home Sweet Home… I live for moments like these!
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 44,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 16 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
Piazza is the heart of Addis Ababa and the old neighborhood which still captures the spirit of the past that invites for exploration. This picturesque Old town’s name is a legacy of the Italian Occupation (1936 – 41 G.C.), thus Piazza is still preserves a bit of an Italian flavor.
Piazza is an interestingly historical place of Addis Ababa where old buildings constructed in the early twentieth century with their touch of Ethiopia, Greek, Armenia, India and Italy. Still functional old Italian first patisserie, restaurants, Coffee Houses, Cinema Halls, Playhouse, the very first Ethiopian Hotel, silver and gold smiths, Historical Ethiopian, Greek and Armenian Orthodox churches, Old schools, impressive stairs, historical old bank, post office and many more.
This part I episode is giving the world a virtual tour through this mesmerizing Addis Ababa’s very own old town locally known as Piassa /Arada. This particular journey starting from around Doro Manekia (Eden Street) all the way through Haile Selassie Street to Ras Mekonnen Bridge.
For many locals including me, Eden Street at Piazza means … stopping over at one of the oldest local cafés in Addis Ababa which locally known as Ras Mekonnen Café as Piazza is home to many still operating old cafés and restaurants which most scores more than 50 years in business and still being a timeless and memorable place where local patronize.
The paintings behind the espresso machine counter, the sturdy old furniture, the glooming woodwork and even the old building this café housed in gives it a historical aura worth experiencing.
Many remember this fascinating old café for its unforgettable signature of serving up the adored sweet treat by the locals – Baklava – and most probably being the first one to give this palate to Addis Ababa and still do in spite of the test of time.
For me this is more like pouring some sugar on sweet memories of childhood growing up in Piazza while enjoying the crunchiness of the honey drenched thin fried filo dough at the top and getting all rewarded by the roasted peanuts sprinkled inside…So Delicious!
Passing De Gaulle Square and heading to Haile Selassie Street means interesting block of shops. Here you can find one of Addis Ababa’s oldest Cinema Empire which is one of the legacies of the early twentieth century, many jewelry shops, Boutiques, shoes shops, watch shops and many more.
Chasing back on history… legend has it; during the early twentieth century Greeks and Armenians were active community and were playing huge role in the economy. The Greeks were running many factories, cinemas, retail shops, import export enterprises and more.
The Armenians in the other hand was well known in the city as cultured shoe factories, eyeglass and watch repair business, gold smith, shoe factories, cinemas and more along with the building in piazza where the shops located.
One of the fascinating legacies of the Greek community is The Greek Orthodox church which was built in 1935 G.C. Besides being one of Piazza’s historical sights of interests, services are still held in the church every Sunday till this day.
Talking about leaving legacies, in spite of the fact that Coffee is a religion here in Ethiopia, it is without a doubt that Italians put a mark on Addis Ababa’s most adored Café culture of enjoying the delightful foamy Macchiato – espresso with a dash of milk – and of course Italian cuisines along with still operating old Italian restaurants in Piazza are the most cherished ones by the locals till this day.
Therefore, an excursion in piazza would not be complete without indulging in delicious Spaghetti or Lasagna and watching the captivating everyday life of piazza while having the revitalizing Macchiato afterwards somewhere at this mesmeric old town of Addis Ababa – Piazza.
Ras Mekonnen Wolde Michael (May 8, 1852 – March 21, 1906) was a general and the governor of Harar province in Ethiopia and The father of Ras Tefari Mekonnen (Pre-coronation name of Emperor Haile Selassie I).
The Ras Mekonnen Wolde Michael monument was established in May 1944 G.C. and it was built on the foundation laid near Ras Makonnen Bridge by his son Emperor Haile Selassie I as a tribute for his service to the country.
At the interestingly green terrace there is a local café and restaurant bar where locals hang out. It is a relaxing place which provides an opportunity to enjoy refreshing local beers that Ethiopia is also known for and Piazza has always being an enchanting place.
Another fascinating church that graces the historical old town Piazza is the St. George Armenian Apostolic Holy Orthodox Church which was built in 1935 G.C. in the replacement of a chapel that existed since 1923. Legend hast it, the first stone was set by the Archbishop Asanian who came from Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1928 G.C.
While walking through this old town, you could not help noticing interesting old buildings with high ceiling and hard wood floor so here is another building which have been housing one of Piazza’s old school for very long time now which formerly and locally known as La Fontaine Kindergarten. I bet this one brings up sweet memories of childhood for many.
As Addis Ababa is a heterogeneous city that provides an exciting opportunity to wander through the past and the present simultaneously for its zealous visitors, I thought it would be appropriate to pick one interesting spot from many Addis Ababa’s past treasures and gives it the homage that it deserves via this particular virtual tour that I would like to present to the world.
Itegue Taitu Bitul (Empress Taitu) is the wife of Emperor Menelik II – the renowned king of Ethiopia who found Addis Ababa. The 107 year old Itegue Taitu Hotel which is named after Empress Taitu situated at the heart of Addis Ababa city which locally known as Piazza – old town which hosts few other still standing momentous and interesting old buildings.
The Ethiopian imperial royal family was well known for entertaining guests in a most lavish and Ethiopian way with delicious Ethiopian traditional cuisines and mead at their still standing palace in Addis Ababa. Thus, the very first Ethiopian hotel to provide guests a place to rest and dine first appeared in the Ethiopian Empress imagination and beautifully materialized in 1907.
This still functional old Hotel is worth a visit as it is still captures the aura of the past in spite of the fact it is tastefully renovated. Simply, the place is full of character which I think need to be lovingly cherished and perhaps ought to be turned to a museum.
The main building in particular would be an interesting one to visit in and out … even to dine and wine. Talking about captivating character, the restaurant is gracefully embellished with colorful paintings in which for most of them the main theme revolves around the historic founders of this place – Emperor Menelik II and Empress Taitu.
The interesting staircases are not only worth seeing but worth climbing as it provides a mesmerizing experience of transporting oneself to an interesting Ethiopian era. The stairs also gracefully leads to a huge corridor for the upstairs rooms with interesting high ceiling.
The corridor is also embellished with interesting furniture and of course with museum pieces of paintings on the wall which makes it all worth paying a visit to one of Addis Ababa’s very own historic old buildings.
As my first “return” post, I am so excited to share an inspiring art project which I fortunately take part recently. It is really an honor to collaborate with a London based artist who goes by the name IMPREINT via an enlightening art project titled ‘Portraits’. And to bring to you my exclusive short interview with the artist about a topic that is close to my heart as this uplifting art project conveying it to the world through a simply beautiful concept – Embracing our individuality and seeing beauty through imperfection.
As the artist stated, the idea of Portraits come as a natural consequence from the 1000 balloons that he painted which all different and started seeing them as people – all so beautiful in their imperfections.
1. What Beauty means to you?
2. What do you think it takes to see beauty through imperfection?
Open mind, contact with your emotions.
3. As an artist, what do you think it takes to let Art to inspire us and to realize that we are all ONE?
Inspiration comes from emotion and feedback. Speaking about ‘Portraits': I gave inspiration to send me a picture, same I’m inspired by the material that I receive. As well, when I look at the photos I see a giant and unique picture, so even keeping our individuality, I don’t see radical differences in our existence.
The very fact IMPREINT collected portraits of people from around the world holding one common thing a balloon – which represents the concept – makes his art fascinatingly universal. Portraits inspire in bringing the world together as one and remind us that we are all connected despite our differences.
And this beautiful morning IMPREINT’s uplifting idea comes all the way to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia! And happily… I chosen to portray IMPREINT’s art at one of the Historical Ethiopian Orthodox Churches of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Baheta Mariam is a monastery church built in 1917 by Empress Zewditu in the remembrance of her father Emperor Menelik II – One of the legendary Kings of Ethiopia and founder of Addis Ababa whom many Ethiopians have special and inner connection with. Baheta Mariam is one of Addis Ababa’s treasures and the mausoleum is also the final resting place of Emperor Menelik II.
Here is my portrait of Good Morning Addis Ababa!
All beautifully imperfect!