Addis Ababa, Entoto Avenue

- June 1, 2016

Historic churches, monuments and crowded markets all contribute to the colorful ambience of Ethiopia’s capital. While visitors shouldn’t miss the emerging Bole district or the “Red Terror” Martyrs’ Memorial Museum and Africa Hall in the southeast sections of the sprawling city, a rewarding area to explore surrounds Entoto Avenue, the boulevard connecting the two landmark roundabouts Arat Kilo and Sidist Kilo northeast of the city center. You might think of it as Lucy’s neighborhood, since its most distinguished resident resides midway up the road in the National Museum of Ethiopia. To be precise, it’s not actually the 3.2-million-year-old skeleton of an Australopithecus afarensis hominoid woman but a replica of her striding across her glass case in a darkened gallery room. Her discovery in 1974 required a complete rethinking of human genealogy, and she continues to attract visitors who fawn over her image and crowd around to take selfies with one of the world’s oldest inhabitants. Elsewhere in the charming, colonial-style building, the museum devotes four main exhibit sections to art works, ancient and medieval artifacts, ethnographic displays, and regalia and memorabilia from the country’s rulers — including the iconic modern leader, the “Lion of Judah” Haile Selassie, also once a resident of this part of town. Arat Kilo, also called Meyazia 27 Square, commemorates May 5, 1941, the double date of Ethiopia’s liberation from Italy and Haile Selassie’s triumphant return from exile. The square is surrounded by shops and restaurants serving the staple national dish injera, the spongy flatbread coated with vegetable and meat sauces. At night visitors can stop at Jolly Bar and Grill for pizza, hamburgers and live music performed in its mirrored setting. Wandering into the side streets running west uphill, visitors encounter secondhand book stalls, the residence of the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Church and clusters of old Armenian-style houses dating from the Armenian Orthodox community that took refuge here. At the top of the hill, examples of the dark-maned Abyssinian lions prowl cages in the Lion Zoo. And it’s a statue of a lion that stands on a ledge on the monument at Sidist Kilo, dedicated to patriots massacred in 1937. Just beyond, up the hill on the campus of the University of Addis Ababa, surrounded by gardens, the Ethnological Museum showcases historical artifacts of daily life, religious art and musical instruments. Housed in a former palace of Haile Selassie, it also exhibits his private suite, including a bullet hole reminder of the 1960 coup d’état.