I was in Addis for the Ministry of Education’s 2012 ELIC conference. It was held in the Ghion Hotel, off Meskel Square. I’ve been wanting to check this place out, because it’s mentioned in the Foreign Service Institute Amharic language manual every time the American asks to be shown a good hotel.
“ibakiwo, dehna hotel liyasayugn yicilalu?”
“awo, ghion hotel dehna yimeslegnal.”
The language is so formal. The Ghion hotel recommendation – political?
In the 1960’s, when the manual was written, the Ghion hotel was run by the Emperor Haile Selassie’s government. This is the look of an older Ethiopia. Grey, with touches of modern architecture, interrupted by permanently-blooming gardens, these buildings are wiser and quieter than the boxes now going up elsewhere in the country. From the ledge of an unused fountain, it’s 1974 and you can hear the tanks rolling up what’s now Churchill Road. Is life the same for those few Ethiopians (national population only 33 million) who sip their tea here as it is for their grandchildren (the population’s gotta grow to 88 million somehow) who do the same 40 years later?
When you feel the high altitude burning your nose, walk down the Ghion’s windy drive and turn left. Cross Meskel Square, taking care to steer clear of long-distance runners training on the square’s steps. On the first block of Bole Road, find Bookworld. Happily empty wallet. Read that English has been the language of instruction in Ethiopia’s upper grades for most of the past century, with regime-based exceptions. Consider where that’s gotten them thus far. Return to ELIC conference. Practice asking “liyasayugn yicilalu?”