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Pole to Pole

Day 82: Addis Ababa

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleAddis Ababa was chosen by Emperor Menelik II to be his capital in 1887. The name means 'New Flower' in Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, which is a Semitic language, closer to Arabic and Hebrew than anything African. It is a nondescript city set handsomely in a bowl of mountains but reflecting no great sense of civic pride. Under Mengistu it was adorned with roughly painted metal arches and towers celebrating communism in Ethiopia. This morning one of these towers is lying on its side on a road close to the hotel. Men in green overalls dismember it with hammers and oxy-acetylene torches. The thin panels offer little resistance. A severed red star is flung into the back of a truck.

We make our way down the hill, past the grand but overgrown gates of the old Palace of the Emperors, and the empty plinth where a thirty-foot-high statue of Lenin used to cast a beady eye in the direction of Revolution Square. Lenin has gone and Revolution Square is now Maskal Square. We approach it through an arch bearing the green, yellow and red colours of Ethiopia and surmounted with the faded legend 'Long Live Proletarian Internationalism'. It is a wide, long, rectangular space with a grassy bank, ramparts and a city museum on one side and dull modern constructions on the other.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 82
  • Country/sea: Ethiopia
  • Place: Addis Ababa
  • Book page no: 180

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