Home > My Trip, Towns, Travel Guides > A stroll through Awasa

A stroll through Awasa

Walking along the asphalted streets of Awasa, among the crowds of high school and university students, merchants, aid workers, and cycle commuter, it’s hard to imagine that not so long ago these streets were dirt tracks. Awasa was founded only fifty years ago. As the capital of the southern region, it rapidly became a boom town. Benefiting from the de-centralization policy of the government, a construction rush over the past decade has transformed the town, ushering in a new mood of optimism and enterprise.

The new structures, interspersed with palm trees and newly opened restaurants, are making the town increasingly vibrant.The lakeside locations have especially made Awasa a favored destination for weekenders from Addis Ababa and the recently opened Lewi and Haile Resort are particularly popular.

With over 126,000 residents, Awasa is one of the fastest growing Ethiopian towns.
Smallest of the seven Rift Valley lakes, Lake Awasa has light fresh water and provides good fishing. The waters, teaming with tilapia, catfish, and barbus, attract good birdlife. These fish are preyed upon by the large concentrations of fish eagle, kingfishers, herons, storks, plovers. The lake side park of Amora Gedel has very pretty views across the lake to the mountains beyond, and is close to the early morning market where you can pick up a tasty fish for lunch. For a good view of the lake, you can climb Tabour Hill, around 5km south of town.

The town has a university, agricultural college, teacher training college, and a nursing institute. Its student population makes it a living city, rather than a petrified theme park. The nightlife is a highlight of any visit to Awasa. The streets transform at night and glow with neon lights. Network Club, in the Dashen Bank Business Centre complex, and the Fidel Bar and Restaurant are frequented by the university students. The Egovai Club in Piazza area is a custom-built dance club that serves the wider population.
The town’s chaotic, buzzing market, located just at the back of Arab Sefer (which harbors the biggest Muslim community), is a great place to absorb street life and pick up ripe, seasonal fruit. Commodities, such as coffee,cabbage, potatoes, grains are brought to the market and are directly supplied by the rural people themselves. Straw hats, baskets, and mats are available at the market.

A monument in honor of the Sidama people, the predominant people living in the area stands in the center of the town. The mosaic statue has a form of the enset plant, an essential plant that forms the main food of Sidama and southern people. It has a climbing tower and a fountain.

During my stay last weekend in Awasa, I learnt that some people are unhappy about the monument because they say it blocks the view of the Bete Gabriel Church, a large and impressive structure that stands in front of it. Some people suspect the monument was deliberately erected in the place to put the Orthodox Church out of sight which was becoming the landmark of the town. Protestantism is strong here and surrounding area following many decades of missionary activity.

Bicycling is a popular mode of transportation in Awasa, many residents commuting to work regularly by bicycle. Smaller lada taxis and scooters also choke the streets of Awasa. The scooters (called bajaji) have a bit of notoriety for racing one another through the streets, routinely picking up and discharging passengers in mi-traffic.

While the main roads are clean and neat, other smaller roads are not. As in most other urban areas of Ethiopia, no sewer system exists in Awasa. Liquid waste is disposed in the compounds of individuals or on the street.
Yet still Awasa is an extraordinary place, with the tropical vegetation and lovely, warm climate. Just give it a try and you are sure to get mesmerized with it.

Categories: My Trip, Towns, Travel Guides
  1. Amanda
    February 9, 2012 at 11:38 am

    Hi Aref!

    Great article. Did you have a chance to meet up with ONE LOVE theater / Awassa Youth Campus while you were in Awassa? It’s a vibrant community center and youth-led. I hope one day you get to meet them and check out their wonderful projects including the ONE LOVE HIV/AIDS education circus.



  2. February 9, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Hello Amanda,
    Good to hear from you. I didn’t this time arround. But i will be going back after twenty days. Then i will definitely visit the center.

  3. Rado
    February 9, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Nice one Arefe!!as always

    • February 13, 2012 at 2:05 am


      Thanks a lot. A great read as always. You wrote some ppl are unhappy about the monument as it blocks the view to the EOC church….I am glad you said ‘some’ but felt uneasy about your remark that links it to the fact of Protestants being the dominant religious expression. I think it is more a reflection of the cultural-religious ‘revivalism’ than an expression of a feud b/n Orthodox and Protestant Christians. I wish you use more caution when commenting on a volatile topic as religions…Otherwise, I am a regular visitor to your blog and enjoy it much. Keep it up!

  4. silver
    February 20, 2012 at 5:22 am

    A wonderful read. I enjoyed your lively description of the bustling and fast-changing Awassa. It took me back to the trip I made to Awassa six or seven years ago. Now I long for the rift valley weather and specially the breathy shores of the rift lakes. Its priceless.

  5. Motbaynor
    February 29, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Arefe Selam! Did you say petrified theme park? Wey Gud! FYI Lallibela and Axum and other sacred rock hewn sites in Ethiopia are just as alive as Awassa in fact even more so. Awassa is quickly becoming a commercial decadent unsustainable rotten sin bin that drains the pocket, morale and soul of its residents and visitors. In contrast, the places you have rudely referred to as “petrefied theme parks” actually REGENERATE the human spirit as they have done so for thousands of years. More Pilgrims and tourists flock to these religious places than the weekenders of Awassa because they would rather be in a place designated “wonder of the world” and “world heritage site than” Awassa, which is fast overtaking Addis Ababa and Harar for khat chewing prositution dope smoking and other crimes. Thank you for the post except for that strange reference to petrified theme park. Like your reader woxxa i urge you to use more caution when commenting.

  6. March 9, 2012 at 1:06 pm


    I don’t think the view that Awassa is
    growing and emerging as a tourist attraction site should come to you as a shock. Lalibela and Axum are great attractions too, in their own way. Your way of comparison is not called for….After all, north or south, they are all Ethiopian cities. Take it easy. And, i expressed some reservation on Arefe’s take while commenting on EOC vis-a-vis the city officials…The article as a whole is a great read and I commend Arefe for this and other great pieces he been posting!!

  1. February 10, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: