Home > City Journal > Addis Through the Eyes of a British Journalist

Addis Through the Eyes of a British Journalist

Here is a piece from the BBC’s Focus on Africa, a magazine that has turned 18 this month.The 75thlatest October-December 2008 issue looks back at the story of the continent with prominent political leaders and senior journalists. The BBC correspondent in Addis Ababa, Elizabeth Blunt was one of the magazines early columnists.In this issue, she reminiscences from her time in Liberia, her base when the magazine was launched, to her current place of duty, Addis Ababa.

There is no link for the story as it isn’t online yet. Hence, I typed excerpts.Coming to Ethiopia felt like stepping back into the past, with still at least a whiff of the atmosphere of austerity and state control that I remember from Tanzania in the 60’s, and India in the early ’90’s.when Focus magazine first hit the news-stands, Ethiopia was still a communist, military dictatorship, and Addis Ababa was a monochrome world of dowdy clothes and empty shops.

Now it is a strange mixture. New shopping malls are springing up like mushrooms at the airport end of tow, but it’s not yet exactly gleaming and shiny.

Here private enterprise co-exists with old nationalized companies. You can distinguish them by the word ‘enterprise’ in their very un-catchy names; there is the Ethiopian Frozen fish enterprise and the Ethiopian Home and Office Furniture Enterprise, commonly known as Ethihof. It’s a splendid place to buy pots, pans and blankets, but the sales procedures remain Stalinist.

But being old fashioned has its charm. I live in old bungalow with a pretty garden, on a hill behind the town. Donkeys wander past and women take their grain and spices to be ground in the mill nearby. On Sundays I wake to the sound of chanting from the cathedral in the distance, and in the early mornings figures wrapped in white drift to church.

If I come back in five years, ten years, will all this be gone?

Categories: City Journal
  1. October 12, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    I would like to send you a link anout this issue. It’s in Spanish bup perphaps somebody can traslate with a automaitic tool in the web (Google for example)


    Thanks again for your goog job.

    P.D. I had stayed in Addis Ababa recently and I come back here very sad becausa I can not contac with you.

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