Our air travel took us five hours and we covered 3837 kilometers. The time difference between India and Ethiopia is 2.5 hours and this time difference was to create lot of confusion but more of that later.
There were tin roofs everywhere. Somehow the movie Fiddler on the roof came to my mind. Addis Ababa at the first look looked very much like the landscape that we see when we take off from Mumbai International airport.
|Map showing the size of Africa|
Most of us have very limited and sketchy information about Africa. Africa is the cradle of the world civilizations. It has the most diverse bio diversity in the world. Diverse in races, people, languages, flora and fauna. Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent. Africa’s land mass is 30.3 million kilometers2 (11.7 million square miles) including adjacent islands.
Africa covers 6% of earth’s total surface area and 20.4% of its total land area. From the most northerly point, Ras Ben Sakka in Tunisia, to the most southern point, Cape Agulhas in South Africa, the distance is approximately 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles). And from Cap Vert, Senegal, the western most point, to Ras Hafun in Somalia, the eastern most point, the distance is approximately 7,400 kilometres (4,600 miles).
Africa consists 57 countries and Algeria at 23,81,741 square Kilometres is the biggest country and at 55 square Kilometres French Southern and Antarctic Lands is the smallest.
|Street View of Addis Ababa, 2002|
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, my home for the next four years is more than three (3) million years old. Ethiopia shares borders with Eritrea to the north and to the northeast is Djibouti which is the nearest sea link for Ethiopia, Somalia to the east, Sudan and South Sudan to the west, and Kenya to the south. After Eritrea got independence, Ethiopia got completely landlocked. Ethiopia is the most populous land locked country in the world.
Ethiopia has a land size of 11,04,300 square Kilometres which is almost one third of India's land size. India’s land size is 32,87,263 square Kilometres. But whereas India’s population stood at 107.1 crores in 2001, Ethiopia’s population is tiny at only 6.85 crores. That is mind boggling, I/3 of India's size but having only 1/16 of India’s population.
Ethiopia is not small by any standards. It is the 26th biggest country in the world by size and 10th biggest in Africa. It is the 2nd most populous country in Africa. Only Nigeria had more people than Ethiopia.
Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia has a land size of 527 square kilometers. It is 3rd highest capital in the world at an altitude of 2355 metres. The average highest temperature in Addis Ababa is 23 degrees centigrade and the lowest is 6 degrees centigrade. According to the October 1994 census the population was 21 lakh people.
|Old Airport, Bole, Addis Ababa, 2002, within one year of our arrival a swanky new airport was opened|
It was almost 10.00 p.m. by the time we finished our inward formalities and stepped into the lobby of the airport which was old was very quaint in its looks. There were traditional Ethiopian Motifs everywhere – Huge murals depicting the coffee ceremony and of smiling Ethiopian faces.
|Ministry of Education, Addis Ababa, at Arat Kilo.|
But we were all tense and tired. Waiting to receive us was a representative from the Ministry of Education, Ethiopia. He was very polite and dropped us at the Ethiopia hotel which was at the intersection of Sudan Street and Yohanis Street and parallel to the Churchill Avenue.
|Ethiopian Hotel, Near Churchill Avenue, Addis Ababa|
We went to the restaurant and ordered the food. The first shock was on us. There was very little choice for vegetarians and no Indian food at all on offer. We ordered some chicken and some bread. The bread tasted different and the even the chicken was prepared differently. It had deep roasted in oil and there was no spice chilly or salt at all! Coming from a country that drowns all its dishes in ample salt, chilly, liberal doses of masala and spice that was the last straw.
We had to leave the food almost untouched. Okay, we learnt the first lesson; eating food outside our own home is going to be a culinary adventure in itself! Addis Ababa was cold but the hotel room was cosy and comfortable. We got into our woolens and settled down.