So I was invited by my good friend to Addis Ababa. The flight from Nairobi to Addis only took a couple of hours. We spent the weekend sightseeing in Addis and I felt amazingly free. Walking down the street without anybody shouting ”white man white man” at me, took me by surprise. Ethiopians are much lighter then Kenyans and have almost European Arabic features. People in the capital mind their own business and no one was looking at me… It made me happy as I needed a break out of busy Nairobi where you are always the main attraction for local people. Even though the population of white Kenyans is huge, they are still an attraction… The main reason is that white men in Kenya equals rich men! In Addis Ababa it seems different. It reminded me of some Italian town. It had so much to offer, from a Greek restaurant, jazz cafes to massage and spa parlours.
We took a day trip up to mount Entoto which is the highest peak overlooking Addis Ababa. It is a historical place where Emperor Menelik II resided and built his palace when he came from Ankober and founded Addis Ababa. It is considered a sacred mountain and has many monasteries. It is also the location of a number of celebrated churches, including Saint Raguel and Saint Mary. The mountain is densely covered by eucalyptus trees that were imported from Australia during the reign of Menelik II, and mostly planted during Emperor Haile Selassie’s reign; thus it is sometimes referred to as the “lung of Addis Ababa”. The forest on the mountain is an important source of firewood for the city. It was also a source of building material in earlier times.
After a beautiful weekend break in the Ethiopian capital, it was time to return back to Nairobi. Emmanuel, my Nigerian friend who is working for African Union which is based in Addis, dropped me back to the airport and I found my departure gate.
Confused by the Amharic signs I asked the airport staff if this is the gate to Nairobi and once sure it was, I sat next to a group of Muslim women all dressed in colourful hijabs and head scarves. Soon we were called to board a bus which would take us to our plane. Another ticket check and we boarded the plane. I sat comfortably by the window and looked around. There were more and more Muslim women coming in and I was slightly nervous as none looked Kenyan. I thought to myself, they are just going on holiday to Kenya, when one interrupted my thoughts and said I am sitting in her seat. I was sure that it was my seat so we looked at each other’s tickets and discovered that we both had the same seat. I suggested she sit elsewhere as there were other seats available. The flight attendant overheard our conversation and asked what the problem is. We told her and she said to the lady to sit elsewhere, but in a minute she came back and asked us to show her our tickets again. She looked at mine properly and with a shock on her face screamed at me that this is a plane to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia not to Nairobi! My heart stopped for a moment and I was immediately rushed outside.
Luckily for me, my plane to Nairobi was next to that one and people were still boarding. After three security checks before boarding the Saudi Arabia plane, no one noticed that my ticket was saying Nairobi, Kenya. Even when I asked the airport staff, they just nodded, probably not understanding what I was asking… What if I ended up in Riyadh? What would they have done to me without having visa? Would I be a terrorist to them? I thank God that I did not discover too late that I was sitting in the wrong plane.