The drive back to Addis Ababa, from Harar, took a long time. It’s only one lane in each direction, and there are a lot of trucks in Ethiopia. One thing I noticed, almost from the beginning, is the shocking number of crashed, and overturned, trucks on Ethiopia’s roads. Scenes such as this are not uncommon:
On a more positive note, camel caravans and traditional garb are very common in much of the area between Harar and Addis:
At one point, toward the end of our journey, we had to take a short detour due to roadwork. The detour was a dirt road, and to our left (downwind) was a hut that was clearly inhabited by a family. The constant truck traffic sent relentless clouds of thick dust directly toward the hut. I couldn’t stand such dust for even a minute; breathing would be difficult, let alone eating, socializing, playing etc. I asked my driver how anybody could live like that. His answer was “you get used to it.” There were plenty of other places to move the hut to; I guess I’ll have to add this to the list of things I’ll never understand.
After a while, we reached the entrance to one of Ethiopia’s finest roads: The expressway to Addis Ababa. it’s a toll road, but well worth the price. Animals, and slow-moving vehicles, are not allowed on this highway. As for quality, signage and upkeep, it’s as good as anything we have in the United States, if not better. Of course, as soon as we got off, we had to contend with the notorious Addis traffic and construction.
Toward the end of my Ethiopian tour, I had the opportunity to visit the largest open-air market in Africa, the famous “Merkato” of Addis Ababa. It’s a rough and tumble place, where men and women sell their wares, and sweat for a living every day. In general, people there don’t like having their photos taken, but this doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
The pounding of metal, along with the smell of welding and smoke, really adds to the ambiance:
Speaking of metal, it’s interesting to see the uses for rebar in the third world. In Gondar, I saw it used on a tombstone:
The taxi driver who took me to the merkato used it to replace his window handle:
I concluded my visit to the Merkato by purchasing a fine leather belt for 60 Birr. The man initially wanted 200 Birr, but I didn’t need a belt that badly – so I offered 60 and started to walk away. That’s how great deals are struck in much of the world. 60 Birr is about $2.50. Not bad!