Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ethiopia – First Glance

Today, in addition to our regular programming, we feature a guest post by Aneesh Dubey, who is a first year MBA student at IITD. Aneesh loves traveling, writing poetry and critiquing movies. Here he shares with us his very first impressions of Ethiopia, a country that he's had the chance to visit several times in the past two years.

The problem with the media is that it often generates prejudices which are strong, and as I discovered – unfounded.

When the Ethiopian Air plane banked to begin its descent to land at the Addis Ababa airport, I was bracing myself to witness a rundown airport with visibly impoverished staff and almost no facilities. I was scared for the safety of my luggage and also in a vague sense, my own.

The point is that is what you are made to think of Africa – poor, famine struck and criminal. One can then imagine my surprise then, when the airport turned out to be better than most airports I have seen here in India. The immigration process was smooth and people smiled effortlessly. But none of this was to prepare me for what I was to see outside.

As the taxi waded through traffic, I could hardly believe what I was seeing, a large, rich metropolis; with its tall buildings, wide roads and large SUVs. Big Coca-Cola billboards on flyovers and a huge LED screen showing advertisements on the Bank of Ethiopia building. It couldn’t have been farther from what I had imagined. To add to the staggering impact, there was a certain sense of the ‘exotic foreign land’ which Indians generally associate with smaller European countries.

The cars were on the wrong side of the road (24 years of seeing vehicles drive on the right side of the road does make the other side ‘wrong’) which was lined with small bistros and cafes. The weather was chilly by Indian standards and young men and women in typically western clothes dotted the eateries. To add to the exotic was a large number of old VW beetles and buses on the road. The land was most definitely ‘foreign’.

I had read about the communist past of the country and the genocide, but it seemed that they had forgotten it and moved on to a better today. I was later to realize that they definitely had not forgotten the past. The memorial museum had a huge wall of human skulls and the caption said ‘never ever again’.

The half an hour drive to my father’s bungalow was full of prejudice killing moments. And as I got out, the driver who I realised hadn’t spoken to me at all throughout the ride held his hand out and said ‘Welcome to Ethiopia. How did you like my country?’

During my stay there, I did find out many things about the country, and not all of them were as shiny as the city, but still it looked like a country that was walking with an assured gait. A country full of energy and possibilities, and of people with amazing tenacity and verve.


  1. Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness -- Mark Twain

    This is after all where humans originated from :)
    East Africa

  2. @Khalil Sawant: Great quote! *like*