During Spring Festival, as part of a trip to East Africa, my friends and I embarked on a tour of northern Ethiopia, traveling from Addis Ababa to Bahir Dar, Gondar, Lalibela, and Axum, and before heading back to Beijing. This is the first part of a two-part series, the first focusing on travels to Ethiopia and what to eat as soon as you arrive, and the second on focusing on what to see and do while you’re there.
This paragraph should have been me extoling the virtues of Ethiopian Airlines and how friendly the staff are, how great it is that they had the first all-female airline crew on a plane ever, and how convenient it was to be flying directly from Beijing Capital Airport to Addis Ababa, the incredible transport hub that is Ethiopian Airlines’ home.
Nope. Nope, nope, nope.
In fact, I have decided that although I am potentially considering Addis Ababa as another “could live here in the far future” destination (it is much more exciting than my hometown in the Netherlands, sorry mum and dad), I am actually never, ever, going to fly Ethiopian Airlines again. In fact, I would rather drive around the country because the Chinese have built some incredible new roads that don’t pretend to be something they’re not.
Long story short, they lost/left my suitcase in Beijing for six days but didn’t know it was left behind, couldn’t be bothered to get any of their staff to actually go look for it, refused to call me back to keep me updated, lied to me about how, when, and where I would be compensated, and then decided that customer service wasn’t a thing. Check out this prime sample of Ethiopian Airlines customer service. By that, I mean, this beautiful, empty desk:
This sums up their customer service.
In the end, my suitcase was delivered to me by Kenya Airways staff (thank you, Kenya Airways!), and the only phone call I didn’t have to make myself and spend tons of money on was received from Kenya Airways (thank you again, Kenya Airways!). Ethiopian Airlines, after about a month, decided to compensate me only my phone bill receipt and the few receipts I had left, adding up to approximately RMB 1,500. Nevermind the purchases that had no receipts, the stress, and the time I wasted on my holiday being on the phone to them.
Now that you have taken my advice and flown into Addis Ababa on another airline via two or three other airports (hey, at least you’ll still have your luggage, hopefully), it’s time to eat.
Ethiopia’s national food is injera, a sourdough-risen flatbread made out of fermented teff flour. It is absolutely everywhere, and it is delicious. Usually you just receive a plate of the flatbread doused in different stews made of a different range of ingredients – goat, lamb, chickpeas, and lentils are particularly popular, and vary in level of spiciness. You mix the stews with traditional Ethiopian cream cheese and spinach stew and scoop it all up with some injera using your hands.
Beware – injera is filling, so take it easy if you want to try all the different curries. We went to Habesha 2000, a slightly touristy but fun restaurant where you can eat injera and enjoy traditional Ethiopian dancing simultaneously. If you do go, don’t stop eating or pretending to eat as there’s a risk of getting pulled up on stage to dance as we saw many unfortunate tourists. I could upload their videos but I’ll save them the added embarrassment of their lowest ebb existing on the Internet. Forever.
With every meal, of course, comes a cup of coffee. The cups are tiny but the coffee is delicious and strong, so don’t be fooled. You’ll be presented a cup at the end of the meal, to round it off, and there’s always someone brewing fresh coffee at the airport too.
Keep an eye on the Beijinger for part two which will detail the sights and scenes of northern Ethiopia.
Photos: Margaux Schreurs