Piazza, a place of enchantment
Piazza (Or piyassa in its Amharicized name) is the heart of Addis. It was and still is a center of trade and culture. Some streets like the one from Ras Mekonen Bridge to De Gaulle Square are still vibrant and cheerful with all the shops that surround them.
But unfortunately, other parts have become dull and are losing their past flavor, giving ways to new trendy and chic areas in other parts of the city like Bole Medhanialem, Haya Hulet, Olympia, Meskel Flower and CMC. Yet Piazza remains something of a place of enchantment.
At the hilltop, the Saint George’s Church, an octagonal building, constructrd during the last years of Menilek’s reign, proudly overlooks the Churchill Road, the site of several shops catering for the tourist. At the Southern tip in front of Commercial Bank, or known in its Italianesque name Banca di Roma, lays an old tea house formerly owned by an Italian named Enrico Vitarelli. Not a great place as they say it used to be but still attracts old-timers and younger alike for its delicious cake and coffee.
Crossing the road to the right, you will find a street that could be an ideal place for glancing time-honored residential houses, with styles that are a pleasure to behold.
One that you see below is a building that house Tomoca, a famous coffeehouse that has been there for more than forty years. This is one place that time didn’t take its popularity away. It is always filled with tourists and locals who stop for a latte to take a sip standing.
As an avowed coffee junkie, I go there often. There are always familiar faces, including some notable university professors whose conversations I enjoy eavesdropping. I wish I could tell you who they are but I don’t want to land myself into trouble, legal or otherwise.
Coming out of Tomoca, you will find on both sides of the street is an array of shops, large, and small.On the left side you would find a famous bakery, Misrak, more recognized in its former name Casale.Its arthiticture isn’t that impressive.
The one you see below is a greengrocer’s that specialized on vegetables and fruits.
In front of the grocer’s sits a compound formerly owned by Tsehafi Tezaz( Minister of Pen) Teferawork Kidanewolde, now turned into Ethiopian National Assocation of Physically Handicapped.
Then, another old building home from Piyassa’s golden age. Must have been a shop or something in the past. The two doors are always closed. I have never seen it opened. They say the Greeks and Armenians used to live there.
The rooms upstairs are owned by Shama Books. It used to be its main office before they moved to Bedesta Building in Olympia area. Book World, its sister company, is also located next, one of the best bookshops in Addis, selling books published abroad and here. This was the first one before they branched out in all quarters of the town.
Farther down the avenue, on the left side is a Cathedral school, or in its full name Lideta Catholic Cathedral School. It has got a church next door. They say it is 75 years old. In fact, I heard it is the first Catholic Church in Addis. On school days, at around 8 A.M and 4 P.M in the afternoon, the area would be packed with cars that carry school children.
Crossing to the right is an old compound; with a glimmer of elegance from the time past but it surely needs some restoration. There are some other in the area after a century of weathering, were damaged. I was told that the house is 85 years old and now owned by the Kebele administration.The car that is parking is A Volkswagen, a reminder of the passing era.
Some hundred meters away past the Beni Mosque is a Square. Beni was a Yemeni merchant who used to own in the area.
The quarter is overwhelmingly Muslim.The mosque is now in the process of expanding, thus closed to the pubic but still a busy area especially on Mid-Fridays with worshippers who swarm the nearby makeshift mosque.
As an evidence of change and contrast, some high-rise buildings can also be seen. What you find next is Atakalt Tera to the right side and Somali Tera to the the left, an odd name for the latter where it is hard to find a single Somalian, the story of which I will save for the future post.