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Pole to Pole

Day 83: Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 
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A war casualty - the 30-foot Lenin of Addis Ababa.
Michael Palin - Pole to PoleIt's a damp morning with light rain and moderate temperatures as we make our way past the hillside of corrugated-iron roofed huts behind the hotel to the big hexagonal and corrugated-iron roofed church of St Michael. Crowds move slowly through the rain towards the church. Umbrellas are up, salesmen are out offering candles and tapers. Beggars line the path, and a number of people are standing up close to the church wall, their lips moving urgently in prayer. A stand of eucalyptus trees, tall and tired, surrounds the building, adding a little gloom.

There are twenty-five million Christians in Ethiopia out of a total population of forty-five million, and church attendance is taken very seriously. The services are long - this one began at 6 a.m. and will last three and a half to four hours, after which there will be a ceremonial breakfast followed by another service. Serious worshippers are expected to attend twice at the weekend and on ceremonial days, when services can last up to six hours. There is a mixed bag of ages and sexes in the congregation (many of whom never get into the church itself), including elderly men in army greatcoats, young girls in white robes and young men in headscarves who stand, eyes closed, chanting to themselves. Someone estimates that there are at least 1000 people here.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 83
  • Country/sea: Ethiopia
  • Place: Addis Ababa
  • Book page no: 181

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