Inspiration Insider's cultural guide

An insider’s guide to Addis Ababa: Car crashes, coffee and contemporary art

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From the Ethiopian Jay Leno to a serious coffee culture, artist sanctuaries and a history of motor accidents, the streets of Addis Ababa host a collision of culture. Ethiopian project manager and creative director, Metasebia Yoseph, who also is the founder of Design Week Addis Ababa, and author of Culture of Coffee, has put together an Insider’s Guide to Addis. The New Africa gives you the highlights.

Who’s top of the playlist?

Jano Band has taken the city by storm with their modern melodies and rock-influenced electric guitar and percussions solos. When they are not touring internationally, they are guest performing in jam sessions around the city. Please click here to watch them perform Ayrak.

What your city does better than anyone …

Coffee rituals can resemble performance art in Addis. Photograph: Girma Bert

Coffee! Besides being the birthplace of coffee, and the world’s biodiversity source for Arabica coffee, Ethiopia is also the origin of collective coffee culture. Coffee in Ethiopia was once an integral part of spiritual worship, complete with elaborate rituals. Today’s coffee ceremonies are more traditional performance art than veneration practice, but the two-hour demonstration is a worthwhile experience. In Addis Ababa, every block seems to have a dozen cafes. Coffee is available in a variety of styles, from the old-fashioned made with the traditional Ethiopian ceramic Jebenna coffee pot, to macchiatos and lattes to unique coffee/tea/juice blends called “sprices”.

What’s the big talking point?

Although most would assume the major talking point would be the recent elections, the real topic on everyone’s lips, regardless of their political affiliation, is car accidents. There are so many wrecked cars and destroyed roads that there are Facebook pages and forums dedicated to documenting the absurd pervasiveness of accidents in Addis Ababa.

Moment in history?

The establishment of the Organisation of African Unity on 25 May 1963, now replaced by the African Union (AU). This moment brought together 32 African governments, marking the end of colonialism and embodying a new era of African independence. The AU recently celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013 with a retrospective on the Pan-African mission of the former OAU.

For the full Insider’s Guide to Addis please click here.hg 

You can follow Metasebia Yoseph on Twitter @MetasebiaYoseph.

To see more pictures taken by Girma Berta, the local art director who is receiving critical acclaim for his iPhone-captured vignettes of Addis Ababa streets and city life, you follow him on Instagram and on Twitter @gboxcreative.