Addis Ababa: one of the top ten world cities to visit next year

Addis Ababa, which means “new flower” in Amharic, was established in 1887 by the Emperor Minelik II. This year it is celebrating its one hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary as the capital of Ethiopia. The city, with close to four million residents drawn from all of the country’s diverse peoples, is located in the centre of the country. At the height of around 2400 meters, it is the highest capital city in Africa and is spread out below the slopes of the Entoto Mountains; and indeed is now creeping up the hillsides. With the forecasts for continued economic growth in Ethiopia, the city itself expects to continue to expand. Sustainable economic growth and stability, peace and security are encouraging factors for Addis Ababa and for the country in general. It might also be added that Ethiopia is a country which enjoys thirteen months of sunshine!

Lonely Planet, the global travel and guidebook company, has now named Addis Ababa as one of the top ten cities in the world to visit in 2013. It was the only African city to make the list and was ranked ninth out of a list of the ten best cities of the world. The others were San Francisco (USA), Amsterdam (Holland), Hyderabad (India), Londonderry (Northern Ireland), Beijing (China), Christchurch (New Zealand), Hobart (Tasmania, Australia), Montreal (Canada) and Puerto Iguazu (Argentina).

The choice of Addis Ababa as one of these cities underlines the milestone that Addis Ababa has reached in its urban development in this its one hundred and twenty fifth year. The city has been and is continuing to grow enormously and one example of its successful expansion is the improved bond between transport organizations and urban planners. Addis Ababa is expanding in all directions,
particularly to the east and south. Many nearby village areas are becoming part of the city. New dual carriage ways have been built to connect the more distant areas and a light railway system which will span the city, east to west and north to south, is under construction.

At another level Addis Ababa has global status as the diplomatic capital of Africa. It hosts the headquarters of the African Union and the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Africa, created in 1958 to encourage economic cooperation throughout the continent. Earlier this year the impressive new AU headquarters, donated by the Government of China, was opened. There are more than a hundred embassies in the city from every continent, and the number of international level hotels and conference centers continues to rise. These facilities, continually increasing and improving, make the city a preferred destination for the hosting of international events.

Addis Ababa has another advantage as the home of one of Africa’s best airlines, the comfortable and highly competitive Ethiopian Airlines, whose unequalled record in Africa, contributes significantly to attracting tourists to the city. Bole International Airport is now a major continental and international scale transportation hub. The Airline, the first in Africa to fly the latest Boeing 787 Dreamliners, is a multi-award winner for its commitment and contributions towards the development and growth the aviation industry and its distinguished long-haul operations. One of its most recent distinctions was African Aviation’s award of the title of African Airline of the year Award 2011/2012.

The city is the economic, political and cultural center of Ethiopia, and the hub of Ethiopia’s urban economy. It has shown steady growth for more than a decade and this has been derived in large part from the massive infrastructural boom, particularly in construction during the last few years. This will continue to continue to meet the expectations of visitors to see the country’s unique heritage of tradition, culture and history. There are currently nine world heritage sites in Ethiopia registered by the United Nations Economic, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Addis Ababa is the central hub from which to explore these and the country’s other attractions.

The stable and fast growth, both of the city and of Ethiopia, the continuing boom in infrastructure, the hospitality of its residents and its helpful weather all contribute to Addis Ababa’s image and to its ranking by the Lonely Planet. The city has Africa’s biggest market, the Merkato and as one commentator explained: “trying to convey the feeling of this market in words is like attempting to portray an ocean with a cupful of water.” The Merkato is not only Addis Ababa’s commercial centre; it is also a major dynamic for the country’s development in trade and industry, and provides a
fascinating picture of the vast range of goods and artifacts are available from and for all parts of the country. Everything can be purchased at need. It also allows for full enjoyment of the Ethiopian tradition of open-air trade exchanges. At it celebrates its one hundred and twenty fifth anniversary, Addis Ababa gives little indication of age, and offering the same generous hospitality available throughout the rest of Ethiopia’s Nations, Nationalities and Peoples, as well as wonderful examples of the country’s historic and cultural heritage, it is no surprise that it is one of Lonely Planet’s top cities of the world to visit next year.
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* Originally published on A Week in the Horn – Nov. 2, 2012 issue, titled “Addis Ababa: one of the top ten world cities to visit next year”. Items from A Week in the Horn are re-published here with a permission to do so.

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