On the Eve the Ethiopian Millenium
Later, we found out that that the police had put a roadblock on the double lane road from Meskel Square to Bole Airport. It was a usual scenario when national and international leaders were coming and leaving the country. This time there was apprehension over the potential attacks and explosion and security at the Bole road where heads of neighboring states were entering were tighter than ever.
The only way was to take a roundabout way of Haya Hulet Tele road and head to Bole Medhani Alem. We gave up the idea of going there and decided to find a place to eat. One of the better-looking restaurants in the area was packed, so we ended up going to Stadium and sat at a small restaurant where the décor was tatty and the food barely OK.
By 7.00 PM the stadium was occupied by a capacity crowd of enthusiast and merrymakers. Huge numbers of people were stranded outside the stadium. The centerpiece of the concert was Teddy Afro’s performance whose new song “Abebeyehu”, from his latest album “Gize Lekulu”, was already sensational. In all of his songs, Teddy has the uncanny talent of placing his finger squarely on the pulse of the Ethiopian public-crossing all kinds of ethnic, social and economic boundaries in the process. Tonight’s concert would afford Teddy a way back to live performing and contact with an audience, an experience that was limited to oversees last year.
The schedule for Teddy’s performance was announced at the last minute. It was a hastily assembled affair, probably to make it up for the Ghion Hotel performance, which was cancelled by official order. There was anger in the town following that news, the public rallying behind Teddy. His image of a public’s hero was reinforced.
At 8,00, we were at the nearby bar and there was a live ETV image from the new concert hall. An oddly looking Shemma wearing Meles was delivering a speech on how the occasion heralded a “glorious new page” in the country’s history. It was a nationalist and patriotic sounding Meles. A far cry from the one that years ago infamously argued that Ethiopia is only the making of Atse Minilik and the country’s geopolitical identity stretches not any more than 100 years.
With a different tone, he was now giving us a little lecture on how our country was a custodian a great civilization in the first 1,000 years when Axum stood on par with other advanced cultures and the other great civilizations emerged in the country such as that of Zagwe, Harar, Yefat and the Gondrerian era, which he said was a great civilization as that of its contemporaries in Europe. Good for him!
Only time will tell whether this is genuine change or simply is a tune to the millennial celebration.
At around 10:00 PM, we headed to Romina, a bar in Kazanchis. This is where I have been rewarding myself with a little fun and excitement on the weekends with my three college buddies for the past four years. The friends with whom I have been regularly partying here are no longer in the country. One left for the US, and another for Bangladesh (of all the countries in the world!), and the other for Netherlands just a month ago. So on this millennial eve I have to settle for a less intimate but friendly crowd.
Romina was filled to capacity. Regulars and visitors alike were there with their ever-faithful bottle. I recognized a few faces and waved at them on my way toward the couches inside. The waitresses were running around, attending orders, mopping up the spilled beer, and sweeping up the broken glasses.
At 12.00 AM, almost every body left the bar to see the fireworks, which announced the dawn of the millennium. All of a sudden, the Adiss sky was ablaze with fire. Celebrants gathered around, waving, clapping, shouting and whistling. Packed vans, buses, and taxis raced, lurched, stalled out. Cars horns shook the air.Some were yelling out of their cars. I have never witnessed such a great and beautiful atmosphere.
But what was amazing how an extremely well behaved crowd it was. A long line of people standing on and off the main roads were making merry yet everything was moving smoothly and peacefully. Of course, there were policemen, with rifles across their backs, stood at their posts.
A message from the Tele came through my cellophane announcing SMS service was reinstated. Everybody around me received it. One more thing that sent a joyful mood. The service was revoked two years ago, when it was alleged as culprits in the post-May 2005 election period. All of a sudden, everyone was busy trying to surprise friend with a happy millennium message.
But the event that kept friends talking was Teddy Afro’s brief appearance at the Stadium. We heard that he appeared at the stadium twenty minutes after midnight. The sound system was mediocre and the three songs he played were not enough to assuage the expectant audience. Starting from 8.30PM where the organizers were trying to catch the public’s interest through a circus show, dances and poetry reading but never succeeded. Every body was waiting for Teddy to appear, shouting and singing in praise of him. Touched by the public’s reaction, Teddy promised to throw a free concert sometime soon.
It was already past midnight and time to move to Haya Hulet, famous for energetic life scene. We passed bars after bars and public buildings decorated with lights of every kind. Some of the decorations are attractive and eye-catching, others dingy and dim. It was like every body was out and the world was out there laughing, and mingling for the whole night.
There was vibrant life as late as 5.00AM and some were still looking to party head out to the downtown bars like Mary Bar. In some bars, the wealthy were parking their Mercedes SUV vehicles outside. Some still looks to party head out to the bars about town in Megenagna, Haya Hulet, Kazanchis, Bole, Olympia, Arat Kilo, Piassa, and Semen Mazegaja. Daybreak was approaching and Netela wearing and candle carrying, probably well-slept mothers were heading to church. The Eve was over. I was jaded by too much drink, tired and worn out. It was time to go home. How sad I will never be around for the next celebration.