Last January, I was unexpectedly gifted with a few extra weeks of vacation time, which inspired me to stretch a layover in Addis Ababa into a two-week trip. I knew very little about Ethiopia other than: a) The legendary Queen of Sheba is often associated with the ancient region that now encompasses modern-day Ethiopia, and b) In the 1980s, images of malnourished Ethiopians became the symbol of cause-related anti-famine efforts. While poverty and hunger are still a huge issue in the country, especially in rural areas, in other parts of Ethiopia an economic boom and cultural renaissance is in full swing. Here are just five ways Ethiopia surprised me:
1. Addis Ababa is a boom town.
2. There are restaurants that look like a set from Mad Max.
3. The jazz scene is hot, hot, hot.
4. You can easily hop back to the 17th century, or earlier.
5. That famous coffee comes with a ritual.