Monday, May 17, 2010

Addis - The Capital

Addis Ababa is the capital and the largest city of Ethiopia and is currently home to nearly 3 million people. It is located on a well-watered plateau surrounded by hills and mountains, in the geographic center of the country. Only since the late 19th century has Addis been the capital of the Ethiopian state. Its immediate predecessor, Entoto, was situated on a high tableland and was found to be unsatisfactory because of extreme cold and an acute shortage of firewood.

Empress Taitu, wife of Emperor Menilek II (reigned 1889-1913), persuaded the emperor to build a house near the hot springs at the foot of the tableland and to grant land in the area to members of the nobility. The city was thus founded in 1889 and was named Addis Ababa meaning 'New Flower' by the empress. In its first years the city was more like a military encampment than a town. The central focus was the emperor's palace, which was surrounded by the dwellings of his troops and of his innumerable retainers. As the population increased, firewood became scarce. In 1905 a large number of eucalyptus trees were imported from Australia; the trees spread and provided a forest cover for the city.

Addis Ababa was the capital of Italian East Africa from 1935 to 1941. Modern stone houses were built during this period, particularly in the areas of European residence, and many roads were paved. Other innovations included the establishment of a water reservoir at Gefarsa to the west and the building of a hydroelectric station at Akaki to the south. There were only limited changes in Addis between 1941 and 1960, but development has been impressive since then.

Addis is the site of the country's most prestigious university - Addis Ababa University - and contains several teacher-training colleges and technical schools. Also located in the city are the Museum of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies (operated by the university), the National School of Music, the National Library and Archives, palaces of former emperors, and governmental ministries. Several international organizations have their headquarters in the city; the most important are the Organization of African Unity, which is now moved to South Africa, and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, both located in Africa Hall.

Addis Ababa's manufactures include textiles, shoes, food, beverages, wood products, plastics, and chemical products. Most of Ethiopia's service industries are also located in the city. Banking and insurance services are concentrated in Addis Ababa, and the nation's major newspapers are published there.

Mercato - located in the western part of the city - is one of the largest open-air markets in Africa. And Piazza - in the central city - contains the more elegant shopping centers, boutiques, trendy caf├ęs and restaurants. In Amharic it's called Arada, meaning a place where the hip and trendy congregate. It's where most people especially youngsters hangout for many social reasons. There, one can get a hold of what the Ethiopian capital has to offer ranging from theater and cinemas, food and beverage, clothing and cosmetics, to different luxurious services for the extravagant.


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