Mad-dis Ababa
1 June 2007

“Welcome to this mutha-fucking country,” yelled the young man wearing the lime green sports top jeans and sunglasses from across the pavement in Addis Ababa.


Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here in Ethiopia – birthplace of coffee, home to the Rastafarian movement, and celebrating the new millennium on September 11 this year.

Our journey to Addis from the airport had been in a taxi upholstered in Dalmatian and zebra prints, which was coincidentally exactly what Nick was wearing. The driver blasted a tape of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries which drowned out the un-seasonal torrential rainstorm outside.


The physical environs of Addis belie the fact it is an East African city, with its temperate climate, fir trees, Soviet monuments and edible food. But the locals give the game away, oozing the same effortless coolness that East Africans have in spades, and I have buried somewhere in my parents backyard with Blueberry my rabbit.


Old guys with dyed orange beards donned in cloaks of rags with enormous fluoro green-framed sunnies bearing a bishop’s sceptre are straight out of Mugato’s ‘Derelicte’ fashion campaign.


Football fans outside the Ethiopia versus Congo D.R. football match with peroxide dreadlocks wearing pyjamas in the national colours of red green and yellow and swilling 50 cent beers, taunt policemen in blue camouflage pants, bomber jackets and backwards caps under sparkling white helmets.


And even the dead go in style: coffin vendors on the roadside proudly display their wares, the cheapest and most popular model costing $60, is made from plywood covered with fabric in satin blue, royal red or emerald green laced with a golden pineapple pattern.

The cost of living is cheap – a fragrant espresso coffee is 30 cents, lasagne $1.50 and beers for half a dollar – but it’s still out of reach of the majority.


At night, the pavement beside Churchill Avenue, which has a steep unpward incline towards the Piazza area, plays pseudo-bedroom to hundreds of homeless, who sleep under hessian sacks and fourth-generation hand-me-downs, with their heads aligned uphill resting on large rocks in lieu of pillows. Meanwhile small kids in new UNICEF t-shirts hang on to your arm and beg “money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money…” and then joyously sing “Fuck yooou” once you finally shake them off.