The weather in Addis Ababa as I arrived for the World Economic Forum on May the 8th, was 11° Celsius. Coming from Lagos where a 20° temperature was considered winter, I was ready to enjoy every moment of this break from the Naija heat. I knew that all I needed to get by was an endless supply of coffee for the day, and good shots of brandy to get by at night. Ethiopia is famous for its coffee so I knew that was sorted. I needed to get my brandy fix as soon as possible though.
I was overjoyed upon walking out of customs at the airport to see a liquor store. I walked straight in and asked for a bottle of Hennessy. Of course everyone sells that. It had to be the easiest thing to find anywhere. The sales person said; “Welcome sir! We don’t have Hennessy. Only Courvoisier and Vodka.” I was too shocked that I responded in Igbo. “Gini?” I shrugged it off and told myself it was an airport problem. Maybe the large number of visitors to the country for the forum had bought up every bottle.
The drive from the airport to the hotel took about 15 minutes. No traffic. But that wasn’t such a surprise seeing as it was past 11pm. As I walked into the hotel lobby, I was confronted with one of the most talked about features of Ethiopian society; pretty girls! The receptionist could easily have walked straight out of a beauty pageant. Her hair was even prettier and it didn’t help that I have a hair fetish. To cap it all, her name was ‘Mestawet’. “What? Mister Wet? You make Misters wet?” No, I didn’t say that to her. It was all in my head.
Mestawet was the first of hundreds of pretty Ethiopian girls I came across on my weeklong stay. My fellow Global Shaper from Lagos, Kemi ‘Lala’ Akindoju who despite looking great in her weave, couldn’t stop talking about their hair. She contemplated capturing one of the girls and shaving off her hair to come back to Lagos with. They dressed good enough to make you look twice but not loud enough to turn you off. They also smiled a lot. I’m like “Sister, stop smiling so much. You’re gon’ make a brother forget you’re just being courteous and start thinking other things.” All in my head of course…
Ethiopians love Nigeria. This random guy I met on the street who looked like a beggar on finding out where I was from, went on about how sad he was that Yekini had died. He said the whole of his town watched us at USA ‘94 and Atlanta ‘96. He wanted to know where Okocha and Finidi were and why our football was piss poor these days. The doorman at the hotel saw my passport and said; “Aaah, you’re from Shagari’s country. I have followed Nigerian politics from Shagari, Buhari, Babangida, Abacha and Obasanjo.” The waiter at the hotel restaurant went on and on about Flavour N’abania’s “Sawa sawa sawa le, ashhhhh” and how Nigerian music is very good.
I went clubbing on the final day there. I had to see things for myself; and eerm see if I could finally snag some Hennessy at the club. Yes, I still hadn’t found a bottle throughout the week besides the half bottle at the hotel where I had to buy shots from.
‘Club H20’ was awesome! It was bigger than any club currently in Victoria Island or Ikoyi. I’d probably compare it to The Dome in Abuja in size. The speakers were very sharp and I loved the energy. Most people in the club were actually dancing unlike what we see in Nigerian clubs these days where people hold a glass in one hand, put the other hand in a pocket and nod to good music while stealing glances from people around. But that’s where it all ends with the positives.
It was almost as if the club was stuck somewhere in the last decade. I heard a lot of Will Smith and Mark Morrison and songs along those lines. It was very strange. There was definitely no Ethiopian music but the crowd was having a ball still. There were also hardly any champagne buckets or sirens with firecrackers carrying bottles of alcohol across the club to deliver to a table. Most people drank beer and cocktails or simply did shots. Such a simple life! Something Nigerians aren’t familiar with anymore.
Oh the Hennessy, yeah I found some and had enough to make me almost miss my flight 2 days later. And to add to that joy, somewhere in the midst of all the crappy music that night, Psquare and Akon’s ‘Chop My Money’ remix as well as Flavour N’Abania’s ‘Nwa Baby’ came on. I was in heaven for a few minutes at least.
I came back to Lagos with 150 Ethiopian Birr (that’s about N1,360) after attempting to shop at the pretty ‘Mafi City Mall’ and seeing clothes that didn’t meet up to Lagos red carpet standards.
But I was still grateful for a good experience of what a clean simple city with almost no traffic and good-looking people could be like. I didn’t see any Range Rover’s, Brazilian hair or Louboutins anywhere but I saw a people who lived within their means and made the best out of it. Another point Nigerians are starting to forget these days.
I’d surely recommend Addis Ababa to anyone who wants to visit. If not for its people, coffee and great weather, then do it for St. George’s beer. Just one bottle and I was sold!