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A happy Ethiopian New Year (for most)

December 28, 2010
ethiopian new year meat market, shola, addis ababa, ethiopia

new year's meat market, shola

Mid-morning, Shola, Addis Ababa: I step outside, past fruit-stalls and games of table football, into a sea of livestock, bleating uproariously and churning the earth to mud.

Poor animals. Today, September 10, is both New Year’s Eve and Eid, and meat, a symbol of affluence and prosperity, is the only way to ring in the good times.

I’m celebrating at my friend Hayat’s house, so I squeeze onto one of Addis’ ubiquitous blue-and-white minibuses, full to bursting in the pelting rain. My neighbour, a man in a red jumper, strikes up a conversation.

Suddenly I notice the head protruding from the binliner on his lap. Delicate as a model, all clean, bright feathers and minute, baroque embellishments, a live chicken blinks at me.

 ‘At this time of year, we slaughter many sheep and chicken,’ the man smiles. ‘It’s the eve of his life too’.

At Hayat’s I get a taste of what he’ll become. Her mother beckons me to a feast of sweets, biscuits and orange squash, before bringing out the maincourse: kitfo, raw meat, tibs, chunks of lamb, and doro wat, spicy chicken stew – with spongey injera bread to scoop it all into parcels.

She watches my progress keenly, anxious I’m satisifed. ‘Ayezosh!’ she encourages, ‘bi!’ Hayat translates: ‘Feel free! Eat!’ And with food like this, it’s easy to oblige.

Later, nearing home, I watch sheep hides fly unceremoniously through the air to land – aim permitting – on the back of a white truck. A happy new year, for most.


This post has been entered into the Grantourismo HomeAway Holiday Rentals travel blogging competition


****** EDIT: I won! I can’t believe it, there were so many great entries. Thank you so much Grantourismo and HomeAway. To any new readers – hi! I hope you like my blog, and stay tuned for some new posts throughout the week.

Also, if anyone has any recommendations for where to stay with my £500 holiday rental, much appreciated (current thought: paris 🙂 )


13 Comments leave one →
  1. December 29, 2010 8:45 AM

    What a picturesque post! I can almost imagine myself being there. Poor sheeps!

  2. December 29, 2010 2:13 PM

    Dear Grace,

    Thanks so much! Addis is good at being picturesque, everything’s so colourful and vivid it just jumps out at you, it’s great (except for sheep..!)
    i checked out your blog, it’s literally the first thing ive ever read about life in an arab state, really interesting. my friends who’ve been there say it’s basically a european-style city in the desert, is that fair?
    anyway thanks for stopping by 🙂

  3. January 1, 2011 3:43 PM

    Hi Sophie – agree with Grace, a great post! You captured the celebration (for ‘some’, as you say) so vividly. Ethiopia is high on my list – even more so now.

    Re your question about Dubai being a European-style city in the desert? As someone who has been based in the UAE since 1998 (first Abu Dhabi, then Dubai), I can answer that for you: No, Dubai is not European at all! The Europeans living there wish it was though 🙂 It’s appearance is modern, with cities of towering skyscrapers and shopping malls, etc, and that’s probably what your friend means. But cities are like that all around the world – Shanghai, Bangkok, Singapore, Mexico City – yet they’re not ‘European’. The UAE is quintessentially Arab, and a Muslim state, which a rich Bedouin heritage and history that’s not always apparent to people who pass through for a few days and don’t take the time – or have the time – to get to know it. Let me know if you’re ever visiting and I’ll give you some tips so you can experience the ‘real’ Dubai. 🙂

    Thanks for entering our contest! Best of luck!

    • January 10, 2011 12:16 PM


      Thanks so much for your lovely comment! I’m glad it makes you want to visit ethiopia evnen more – I really think it’s one of the most amazing places, and I haven’t even been to the bits everyone raves about, like axum and lalibela with their incredible ancient churches hewn out of the rock, or the colourful, diverse tribes of the south omo – but its friendly, beautiful and cheap, so – come!

      Re: dubai – thanks for the insight! Thinking about it, what I asked is just the kind of generalisation passing tourists level at addis ababa, althoguh when you look below the rapidly-westernising surface you realise how unique and rich the culture is… I guess I should know better! So far my experience of dubai extends to airport stopovers, but yes, hopefully I’ll get to go one day and experience the reality…


  4. January 6, 2011 2:02 PM

    Hi Sophie, thanks for your entry, and Happy New Year from London!

    • January 10, 2011 12:17 PM

      Dear Sarah,

      Thanks for your comment (and enormous thanks to whoever it was who chose my entry to win! It’s made my new year…) Happy new year to you too!


  5. January 10, 2011 10:59 PM

    Hey, really great blog post… I’ve enjoyed reading through your blog because of the great style and energy.

    I actually work for the CheapOair travel blog. If you’re interested, we would love to have you on as a guest blogger. Please send me an e-mail: gchristodoulou(at)cheapoair(dot)com, and I can give you more information. Looking forward to hearing from you.

  6. Leslie Letterbug permalink
    January 12, 2011 3:35 PM

    Venussian Venice is like the Paris of fiction, and it’s sinking… Though French/Italian men are almost as likely to be macking foreign women as Ethiopians.

    Pretty good blog in a genre that’s easy to hate (for me). A friend did a travel blog from India where he did a decent job of describing the atmosphere and the general behaviour of the local people, but glossed over the individual to the point that it was insulting. Sort of felt like you were getting this stereotyped view of their society, never actually seeing or meeting the people. Your writing is like the opposite, even in crowded places you notice the individual, and they give the rest of the place its personality.

    • Leslie Letterbug permalink
      January 12, 2011 3:36 PM

      Sounds a bit facetious but it’s true.

  7. January 17, 2011 6:02 PM

    Hi Sophie,

    Congrats on your win! Could you please get in touch with me so I can send you details on how you can book your holiday rental and post you the Trourist notebook as well?


    • January 17, 2011 8:38 PM

      Hi Anca,

      Thanks for getting in touch. I’m not sure how to contact you – when I click on your name it takes me straight to the homeaway website. i don’t know if messaging me would work? also lara and terence have my email if that helps…




  1. How NOT to start a year « SOPHIE'S WORLD

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