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National Museum. Mon-Sun 08:30-17:00, email Entrance Birr 10 foreigners, Birr 2 Ethiopians (sometimes also for foreigners with residence cards). Where: Drive North past Arat Kilo, cross the first traffic light and its on your left, inside a grand entrance, almost opposite the recommended Blue Tops restaurant.What: A well-informed museum guide will normally show you around, included in the price. Basement is archaeology. There’s a replica of 3.5 million-year-old Lucy/Dinkenesh (the Amharic name means “you are wonderful”), now being upstaged by the even-older toddler Salam, plus other remains of pre-humans, well-displayed with video and good write-ups and also displays on animal evolution. Lots of interesting bits of historic sites including very ancient remains, statues, etc. of the pre-Axumite kingdoms when parts of Ethiopia and South Arabia were one kingdom (about 1,000-600 BC). Also lots of thrones, coronation robes and swords, etc. Excellent floor of paintings.

Institute of Ethiopian Studies. Mon-Fri 08:00-17:00, Sat-Sun 09:00-17:00 (closed public holidays), tel 011-1119469. Entrance – foreigners Birr 20 adults, Birr 10 children, Ethiopian Birr 3 adults, Birr 1 children, pricing more ambiguous if you have resident IDs. The IES Library is open from Monday-Friday 08:00-17:00. Where: Beautiful location inside the glorious University gardens (the well-preserved Genete Le’ul formal gardens). Drive North past Siddist Kilo, its on your left inside the main and imposing entrance of the Addis Abeba University. Drive straight up through the beautiful gardens, go round an archway and fountain, the entrance is a grand building at the top of an oval drive. Go in past the display on the history of Addis and head to the right and right again, then up the stairs, right at the cheerful lion and down the corridor (its easy to find/well-marked).What: Entrance has a good display on the history of the university buildings, and with it some of Ethiopia’s history, mainly the Italian occupation, the attempt to blow up Graziani with hand grenades and the subsequent reprisals, liberation, hand over to academia, etc. The first floor is full of interesting bits of culture (“ethnography”) from all over Ethiopia, including Hamer initiation ceremonies with pictures of boys running up the backs of 30 cattle and girls waiting to be whipped to prove their devotion and lots of displays on farming, fishing, medical charms (art heals), initiation, clothes, lunchboxes (the leather agelgils still in use today), death, religions, etc. Full scale huts, scary waga (funeral sculptures) and even a boat. Worth visiting before and after a regional tour, especially for explanations of religions, festivals, etc. Highlight for me is the imperial bedroom, for anyone who ever wondered what an emperor sleeps in, together with desk, dressing room and even the sunny and airy imperial bathroom with original porcelain. Very atmospheric with a bulletmark in the main mirror from a 1960 coup attempt - did the gunfighting rage all the way up to the bedroom? The second floor is called art gallery and is well laid out display of paintings dating over the last 4,000 years. It is interesting to trace, for instance, the influences in the giant display on icon painting (Jerusalem, Cairo, Venice, Byzantine – at 332 icons its apparently one of the biggest displays in the world) and also a good range of paintings, including illustrated manuscripts, witty paintings such as animals having a feast and reading. Unmissable to me is a series of partitioned-off chambers with good lighting displaying a wide range of traditional instruments, including drums, flutes, lyres, lutes, panpipes, dresses for dancing, sistren, leg rattles, finger pianos, etc.

Guide to some Ethiopian instruments:

Tom – a finger piano, a wooden rectangle with metal pieces sticking forward, played by pinging them. Chezachey – impressive long trumpet (1.5 metres or more), maybe made of bamboo. Washint – flute of bamboo, often four finger holes. Hoora – shepherds use it to communicate. Bagana – big 10-string lyre with strings made of sheep bowels for extra vibration. Masingo – the famous (also illustrated on this page) and eloquent one-string fiddle or lute, the only instrument played with a bow, strings are horse hair, the wooden sound box diamond-shaped. Krar – traditionally 4-10 strings, now mostly 6, a lyre where you pluck the strings.

The Longest History of Ethiopia, Institute of Ethiopian Studies (IES). Artifact show Monday-Sunday 8:30-17:00, Birr 2 Ethiopians, Birr 10 foreigners, call 011-1119469.

Sofies, lectures by different speakers on different subjects, some Wednesdays, call IES on 011-1231068.

Interest Group, lectures every Friday at Hilton at 09:00, different subjects, call 011-5518400.


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