by John Masterson
As the world shrinks and high streets look similar across the world it is rare to be somewhere that really feels different. Ethiopia provides that wonderful feeling of strangeness and reminds one that travel can still broaden the mind.
The famine-torn Ethiopia of 1984-5 is a distant memory. It is still a very poor country and very much two countries in one. There is the massive building boom in the capital, Addis Ababa, where modern glass buildings are going up side by side with tiny street lock up shops. Many of the women dress like in any European capital. People talk on their mobiles. There are good restaurants and hotels.
Out in the country, one steps back in time to wooden ploughs drawn by oxen, women in traditional dress, children offering to shine your shoes for pennies, poverty but with enough to eat. I never saw a child with a bicycle. I saw kids kick around, but never with a real football. Half used ballpoints were accepted with enormous gratitude. And no one wore glasses. There were very few dogs or cars. Pets eat food.
The new Dreamliner Boeing 787 service from Addis Ababa to Dublin and on to Los Angeles and back beginning in June will open up Africa to Irish travelers. From Addis you can fly on to forty nine African destinations. I had a great night’s sleep on the Dreamliner. It is noticeably quiet and the flatbed in business class is a treat.