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Who wants to spend their vacation in museums? Some people do, but in any case we are not suggesting that you spend all your time in museums, or that you turn your annual funand-frolic into a postgraduate course in Palaeozoic trilobites. No, we want you to have fun.

A mini-history of a great metropolis

If at the same time you happen to be surprised, delighted, staggered, uplifted, inspired, encouraged or enlightened, so much the better!! Alerting people to the possibilities of Addis museums being the very object of this guidebook, I have found it quite logical to start with a museum that embraces the genuine identities of the city itself Addis Ababa Museum. For any traveller who happens to arrive at the nations capital Addis Ababa, the museum that is named after the city has so much to tell as a first acquaintance. However, all the museums with their extraordinary variety, richness, curiosities and unique charm, they both are a source of delight and schools of enlightenment. Enjoy Addis.

Writing about the museums of a certain city cannot be seen detached from the citys historical background. As mentioned above, the very purpose of this guidebook is not narrating history but, inspiring people to the possibilities of the museums in Addis. Instead of this fact, however, it was found appropriate to say little about the past of the city. Addis Ababa was not even mentioned in the history of Ethiopia until the rise of Menelik II. Worlds thirdhighest capital city, at an altitude of 2400m, Addis Ababa, was founded by Emperor Menelik and named by his wise and courageous wife Empress Taitu in the late 19th century..

Situated only few kilometres north of Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa Museum, can give a general insight to the citys emergence and progress; the incidence by which it was named as Addis Ababa (new flower), literally translated. The museum has five sections each displaying things of the past the city brought forth. On each door are written the names of the coming rooms to be visited. Foremost is Finfine Hall. It is said that there was prophesy to the establishment of the city. Sahle Selassie, the king of Shoa, the central highland area of Ethiopia where todays Addis Ababa is situated, made this prophesy just before his death in 1847, some 40 years before it become true. Menelik II was the one who had fulfilled this prophesy. By the early 1880s, his capital had reached the strategic vantage point of the Entoto Hills, immediately to the north of todays Addis.

In this room are displayed pictures of the town of Entoto, King Sahle Selassie, emperor Menelik II, his wife empress Taitu. Entering this first hall, to the left, on the wall near to the door, you will find a picture of the museum in its young days with brief and precise explanation written clearly both in English and Amharic languages. The house was the home of Ras Biru an alleged son of Emperor Menelik II. The house was originally intended as a munitions store, but the Emperor decided instead to give Ras Biru on his marriage. As the writing on the wall goes, the house continued in use as a residence until 1935 when it was possessed by the Italians for use as a clinic. After the defeat of the Italians in 1941 it again become a private house, shared after the death of Ras Biru, by Woizero Fikerte Biru and Zenebe work Biru. In the late 1960s it was rented out as school before being used as a factory for the manufacturing of woollen sweaters. Its next change was into a building for local administration. Its last metamorphosis, before becoming the Addis Ababa Museum was into the Maru Dembeya Hotel..


..The note under the picture of King Sahle Selassie explains that he was renowned for his territorial expansion to the east and south. Known for his prophesy of the establishment of the city he had also founded the Keranyo Medhanialem Church, the oldest in the city. Finfine means sparkling water, the citys former name given to the city by the earliest inhabitants the Oromo people. Delighted by the sweet smelling mimosa she found there, however, Empress Taitu named the place Addis Ababa, new flower. Most of the photographs are in black and white. And they show you the first plantation of Eucalyptus trees; the church of St. Raguel; priests dancing at the St Marry Church in Entoto; the first settlement in Entoto and the pavilion Empress Taitu. On the front wall of this room are hanged massive pictures of his Imperial Majesty Menelik and Empress Taitu. The showcases, on the other hand, display chased sword with leather scabbard; curved sword engraved with St. George on one side; leather shield and iron spear. Few crosses are also placed in the showcases. The crosses of Ethiopia are known by the world for their unique design. They can be made of gold, silver, bronze, nickel or wood. Hand crosses are carried by priests to bless the people in the churches and on the streets. The richer the community, the more ornate and the more valuable are the crosses of the church. The priests will only be found carrying simple wooden crosses. Processional crosses fit over the end of prayer sticks and are carried on major religious festivals. Ethiopia is also rich in religious manuscripts. They are made from goat skin (biranna) and bamboo pens were used to write on them with ink made from various flowers and herbs.

Through a door you walk into the next room where you shall discover how Addis has been going from nail to head. Development Hall narrates the early development of the city. After the Emperor Menelik II final settlement at the Finfine location, Addis Ababa gradually started to develop. From what was no more than a camp; permanent developing arose, streets were built and all kinds of institutions and facilities came into existence. Around the turn of the century most of what you may expect of a capital city was basically established. The showcases in this room display ceremonial robes of city mayors advisors and secretaries during the time of Empress Haile Selassie. On the left wall of this room is exhibited the photograph of a municipality building from 1917 to 1965. Previously it was the residence of Mayor Haile Giorgis who become Prime Minister during the controversial reign of LijIyasu (1914 16) it was confiscated in 1917 for the purpose of city hall. Photographs of the 25 City Mayors since the establishment of the city are displayed in frames. More pictures demonstrating the first hotel built in Addis which was named after the Empress; the first vehicle brought to the country in 1907 by Bede Bentley and Reginald Jenkins during the reign of Menelik II; a telephone operator of those days. To your surprise, it is said that in the early days of the phone in Ethiopia it often took as long as thirty minutes to make a connection.


Alfred Iig HALL

This is the only hall dedicated to a single person Alfred Ilg. He is a Swiss engineer who played an extraordinary role in the development of the modern Ethiopia. In 1878, Menelik II, still king of Shoa, invited Alfred to his council as technical advisor. Ilgs first monument achieved was the construction of a bridge over the Awash River in 1886. He also participated in the construction of Meneliks palace at the Guebi compound; especially his design of water canalization system astonished everyone. However, Ilg is most known for the great railway project initiate in 1894; the Djibouti Addis Ababa line. Most materials were imported from Switzerland. During his long presence here he become increasingly close to the Menelik. Ilg was able to pre-warn Menelik of the Italian invasion. Menelik nominated him state chancellor in 1897. Ilg arranged treaties with power like Great Britain, France and Italy, thus maintaining Ethiopias Independence. Photographs display this legendary mans residence which was situated between the Imperial Palace and St. George Church.

Adwa Hall contains two sections. The first part is dedicated to the battle of Adwa (1896) when Emperor Menelik II successfully defeated the Italian Invasion. This was of huge importance for the young nation, and meant a big boost for its capital, Addis Ababa. Ethiopias sovereignty was recognized and many international delegation and embassies got located here. The population grew rapidly, after many of the various patriot groups flocked to Addis and settled in. Today, the ethnic structure of the city reflects this process. The showcases in this room display shields, sword, iron military outfits; sword with its sheath, iron and leather engraved Ethiopia empowered by God; sword of Emperor Menelik II with its sheath, iron, horn and leather; telescope, arrow, Tej (a local drink) container, water and food container (Agelgil). Photographs of Emperor Haile Selassie, Queen Zewditu and LijIyasu are on the walls. The second part presents some samples of further development of Addis during Emperor Haile Selassies rule and during the military Dergue regime. Both contributed to Addis Ababas evolution into a metropolis. Addis even got the structure as a capital not just to Ethiopia but also for Africa.


Ethiopia, along with her extremely aged history and highly fostered culture, owns uniquely interesting objects of handicrafts. Objects that are made of grass, clay, woods and cotton, all of them made with manual skill, are not only sights not to be missed but things that shall be yours. Traditional musical instruments that are completely unique to Ethiopians are displayed here in this museum. Mesenko (onestringed musical instrument), flutes of different kinds are few of the instruments to be seen. And it is the writers pleasure to recommend interested visitors to listen to the matchless voiceless of these instruments in some cultural restaurants in the city. The other thing that is of great interest for any one is the work and life of Laureate Meter Artist Afework Tekele, which despite the enormity of it, has been given a little space at some corner of this same room. However, despite the other halls of the museum, one should not expect too a great excitement in this room for it is not either highly organized or decorated, though it still shall be given a short stopover.


In 1986 Addis Ababa celebrated its 100th birthday. This centenary caused many sympathizers governments, towns and organization of many types to send congratulation and memorial gifts. A selection of these is displayed in this space. Addis Ababa, keen on collaboration internationally with others, became twinned with several cities, like Budapest, Johannesburg, Nairobi and Athens. One showcase in this room exhibits gifts and medals from these sistercities. Another display case exhibits the various types of money from the past starting with the age-old salt bar.


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