Where to Experience Ethiopian Traditions in Addis Ababa

Discover the wonders of Ethiopia, the country that was once historically named Abyssinia and now one of Africa’s most promising destinations.

Located in East Africa, Ethiopia is rich in culture and history and the country is now repositioning itself as a central hub for travelers.

Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia has around 108 million people. It is scattered with historical buildings, vast open markets, and the African Union.

View of Addis Ababa Skyline and a pool

In April 2019, I visited the Addis for the second time this year and the difference is remarkable. The country’s busiest airport, Bole International is undergoing construction to renovate and expand the current airport.

After exploring the inner-city during my previous visit, this time I decided to scout the surrounding towns, villages, and historic sites located outside of the capital. Meter taxis are available throughout the city. I recommend renting a car to get around the city. You will need to rent a vehicle with a driver and it is definitely more enjoyable and efficient due to the traffic. I booked my day trip with Zersi Tours, the friendly driver picked me up and we proceeded to the Debre Libanos.

Cream colored church with a large white dome and a cross scepter

Debre Libanos Monastery
We passed vast farmlands and several small towns before reaching the monastery of Debre Libanos. The compound includes a large, Orthodox Christian church which was rebuilt in 1961 by order of Emperor Haile Selassie. The church contains beautiful and elaborate mosaics and stained-glass windows with reference to Biblical scriptures.

large wall with square stained glass windows from top to bottom

Adjacent to the church is the monastery’s museum. It includes royal regalia and crowns, artifacts from the original buildings, Italian guns, and musical instruments. Another significant site is the Cave of Saint Tekla Haymanot who founded the monastery in the 13th century and is said to have meditated there for 29 years. Take a fifteen-minute hike up the hill next to the church to reach the source of the Debre Libanos’ famed holy water.

Stone bridge in the Addis Ababa mountains

Waterfall Views
On our way back towards Addis, we stopped at the famous Portuguese bridge. According to legend, the bridge is constructed out of ostrich eggshells and vegetable oil.

Pay a small fee to the guide at the bridge for a tour to the top of the cliff.  The tour features an amazing view of the 600-meter waterfall and the Blue Nile Gorge. While you gaze at the view you might see a few Galada Baboons in their natural environment. Take a peek below to see locals splashing around in the rock pools during hot summer days.

People dressed in white gather on a stage to perform traditional Ethiopian dances and plays.

Where to Dine
After I arrived back to Addis Ababa, I decided to enjoy dinner at 2000 Habesha Cultural Restuarant. The restaurant was bustling with locals, expats, and travelers enjoying the local cuisine while watching traditional singing and dancing performances from local artists.

Ethiopian beef tibs and injera bread served in a black kettle pot

After perusing the menu, I opted for the spicy beef tibs, served with traditional injera -Ethiopian sour flatbread. After the waiter took my order, he returned with a bowl, soap, and hot water to wash my hands where I was seated. I was once again amazed by the culture and local Ethiopian customs.

Meals are typically consumed by hand which I found very enlightening. Ethiopian food is also vegetarian and vegan-friendly. The food was delicious, although the portion was way too much. I will treasure my Ethiopian dining experience forever.

Black coffee in a white mug placed on top of coffee beans
Courtesy of unsplash.com/@muustudio

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremonies
You definitely don’t want to leave without experiencing a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony. The smell of frankincense fills the air while the roasted beans are ground with a small mortar and pestle. Then the coffee is brewed in a traditional clay pot called a ‘jebena’. Coffee is served in a small cup and it is customary to drink at least 3 cups during the ritual. This is an amazing experience that all coffee lovers should try while visiting.

Although my visit to Addis Ababa was short I recommend visiting this beautiful city full of adventure. If you are planning your first trip to Addis Ababa definitely book a guided tour to learn about the local culture and top attractions. Above all of my other recommendations, you must try authentic Ethiopian cuisine. It will leave your palate satisfied and your soul full!


This post was written by Hilton Suggests Team Member, Driaan J. Are you interested in traveling to Addis Ababa? Let us know if we can help you with any other recommendations. Tweet us for more great local travel tips!

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