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A Quick Stop In Addis

When I was a little boy, Huisgenoot produced the sumtotal of my knowledge about Ethiopia: pictures of severe droughts and starving little children. Things have changed, I quickly realised on my first peep of this fast expanding city in 2013, but let’s start at the beginning.

During 2007 we had the opportunity to travel to a little country called Bhutan. Our tour operator booked our flights with Air Ethiopia, and we were immediately intrigued. We were wonderfully surprised by the airline. Their whole operation was professional. The service we received from the ground and flight personnel was great. We all made a mental note to consider Air Ethiopia in the future. The one thing I can really note was the amazing coffee they served on those flights. Even my angel was enticed to try a cup and was convinced that we should buy coffee on our way back to South Africa on the airport. We spent several hours in transit on the Addis Ababa Bole Airport on our way to Ethiopia and back.

Five years later, and we’re sitting with a new friend in an Ethiopian restaurant in Geneva, our first real experience of Ethiopian culture and cuisine. Wow! Wow! Wow! What an awesome experience it was. The relatively small space had tightly-packed tables and was filled with people from many nations, as is often the case in this city. The food was totally different to ours. We had traditional Injera with all the trimmings. It’s a pancake-like dish with various sauces and you use your hands to tear off and dip the Injera in the different sauces. Later in the evening some dancers entertained us. The music, dances and costumes were all enthralling. While we were blessed to have this experience, we had yet to see Ethiopia ourselves.

So when I got an opportunity to do a stopover in Addis Ababa in 2013, I was ready and really excited. I did a quick Top-Ten-Things-To-Do-In-Addis-Ababa search and read about Tomoca’s, a coffee institution in Ethiopia, for the first time. The recommendation stated that all tourists visit this coffee shop to taste and buy coffee. We immediately included this in our itinerary. We also visited the biggest open-air market in Eastern Africa. We took an early morning run in the Ethiopian hills where hundreds of aspiring young Ethiopian boys and girls start there days, dreaming of becoming the next Haile Gebrselassie. There are many things to see and do in this very proud country, where the people quickly inform you that they have the best coffee in the world, and also that no other country has ever conquered them. They also tell you about the Ark of the Covenant from the Old Testament, which they claim is kept beneath one of their churches.

I truly wanted to share this experience with my Angel. During our flight back from Mumbai last year, the opportunity presented itself for us to do a quick stopover here. Upon returning from our travels in 2013, we had learned that Air Ethiopia provides you with free accommodation and vouchers for your meals if you have a stopover of more than 16 hours. They also pay for airport transfers. When we booked our flights, I immediately checked on Tripadvisor if this was still the case. I was informed that for lengthy stays they do but was very unsure of shorter stopovers. Our stopover was only 9 hours, so we decided to ask at the check-in counter. They gave us a room in a decent hotel and also vouchers for dinner, the only thing that was still a mystery was the visa. When we stepped of the plane the ground staff was amazing in the absolute efficient way they got us through customs and to our taxi. Before we knew it, we were on our way to the Hotel Beer Garden. We didn’t even have to pay for a visa. Again I was utterly satisfied with the service of Air Ethiopia.

Currently, Air Ethiopia is the airline in Africa which reaches the most African countries as well as more other destinations than any other African airline. There planes vary from the newest Airbuses to the Dreamliner 787. They are definitely worth considering when you book your flight. However, we were slightly disappointed when we did not have our own TV screens, especially on the flight between Addis Ababa and Johannesburg. I must also say that for a country that has arguably some of the best coffee in the world, what they served on the flights this time around was really disappointing. Probably the biggest disappointment was the fact that they served the coffee with powdered milk. Really! The food also was really bland if you consider the countries from which our flight originated. There is such an opportunity to promote something of your culture, as well as your biggest export product on these flights.

I think the nicest thing of all was the fact that we escaped the crowded airport terminal, that we could take a quick shower and nap, enjoy a complimentary meal and had the opportunity to do a quick drive through Addis Ababa with a stop at the legendary Tomoca’s. Before we left we had a stop at a restaurant called Cupcake. This was my second visit to this establishment and I can gladly recommend it. Their cakes were simply sublime. We shared a Honey Cake and a Triple Chocolate Cake, which was not a bad way to end our Ethiopian experience.

Thank you, Ethiopian Air! It was an extraordinary adventure flying with you again.

To our readers: Remember to ask your travel operator when they book your flight to find out about the option of going out of the airport when you fly with Air Ethiopia. Often they don’t know about this opportunity. When you check in, ask again. It just might be worth your while.

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