Bahir Zaf

For his last meal in Ethiopia before heading home, DonQui decides to try out Bahir Zaf. Run by the Tree Alliance  it is a training establishment for disadvantaged youngsters aimed at giving them the skills they need to succeed in the restaurant business. DonQui likes the idea — it is similar to the concept at the Old Boma hotel where he stayed in Tanzania a while back.

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Tucked away on a back street it takes the taxi driver some time to find the place and it does not appear to be in the most salubrious of surroundings. Once inside the gate, DonQui finds himself in a pleasant green oasis. The small restaurant has a few tables in the garden with others on a verandah overlooking it. As it is the rainy season, DonQui opts for the verandah.

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The atmosphere is laid back and casual and the clientele are mostly expats — many of them earnest looking NGOs of the non-carnivorous sort. Fortunately for them there is a wide selection of vegetarian options on offer — known as ‘fasting’ dishes in Ethiopia.

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The menu offers quite an eclectic choice. Despite the fact that it clearly identifies the food as ‘tapas’ some commentators on Trip Advisor have complained that the dishes are ‘ridiculously small’. Smaller dishes suit DonQui perfectly and so he orders two: the ‘fasting’ platter with anebabero injera, along with the lamb and red wine stew, a side of vegetable rice pilaf and a Habesha beer to wash it down.

Unlike the usual flatbread mentioned in DonQui’s previous blog, the anebabero is a sort of cake-like triple layered injera which comes in wedges. It has the same familiar slightly sour taste from the fermented teff flour.

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By his standards the dishes are pretty large for tapas — more like a descent sized regular courses. The food is good, the tastes interesting and DonQui does not feel bloated afterwards.

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He even has room for a desert — choosing apples poached in tej (Ethiopian honey wine) with home made ice cream. This is somewhat disappointing as the apples are a bit tasteless and the poaching juice rather watery with only of a hint of sweet wine.

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The ice cream was excellent, however, as was the coffee.

It may not be fine dining, but the food, the atmosphere and the super friendly staff, make Bahir Zaf a great place for a leisurely lunch. DonQui imagines it would be even better on a bright sunny day. Trust him for coming in the rainy season!

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DonQui enjoys himself so much that he does not see his human companion heading out to the taxi which will take them to the airport. Fortunately one of the friendly servers saves DonQui from being left behind!

Food and Drink in Addis Ababa

Ethiopia has a distinctive cuisine which DonQui would like to know better. The staple is injera – a very large soft flatbread made from fermented teff flour. It tends to be served rolled up and the diner unrolls it to place a spicy thick stew (wat) on top.

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Injera has a slightly sour taste and it takes DonQui some time to get accustomed to it. Dishes without meat are usually identified as ‘fasting’ since the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has a number of fasting days when meat is not supposed to be eaten.

With only a few days in Addis Ababa, DonQui is only able to try out a few places and sample a limited number of dishes. He would have liked to try kifto which is a sort of Ethiopian tartare of high quality spiced meat served barely cooked or raw. Unfortunately he does not get around to it on this trip.

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A ‘Traditional Ethiopian feast with Cultural Show’ sounds frighteningly touristy to DonQui but dinner at Yod Abyssinia comes highly recommended so he decides to give it a go. The show is actually rather good and he does not feel like he has entered a tourist trap.

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The vast majority of customers are well-heeled looking locals and before long many of them are up on their feet and dancing along with the music.

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The food is excellent with an extensive buffet giving DonQui the chance to sample a wide variety of Ethiopian dishes he might not otherwise have come across. This is a good place to come with a group to share the vast array of food on offer.

DonQui is surprised at the large portions which seem to be offered up in the restaurants he goes to. At the Jupiter Hotel restaurant he tries out tibs fir-fir with injera. Tibs are roasted meats — in this case lamb. The fir-fir is a spicy tomato sauce with also has slices of rolled injera mixed in. The dish is is served with two additional injera, not than DonQui needs more.

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It is excellent but the amount is overwhelming and DonQui can barely manage half of it. He reckons that his portion could easily feed a small family. A Kenyan expat tells him that such large portions are increasingly common in Addis Ababa.

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Ethiopian beer is good. DonQui previously mentioned Habesha Cool Gold which is one of his favourite local bottled beers. Better still are the German style blonde and dark beers brewed on the premises of the Beer Garden.

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Catering to a mix of locals and expats this brew pub quickly becomes DonQui’s favourite watering hole. He particularly likes their dark beer but does not go as far as to try out one of the five litre towers. The Germanic influenced food is excellent — especially the chips and the Beer Garden’s signature grilled chicken.

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DonQui does not get around to sampling tej — Ethiopia’s honey wine. He does, however, drink plenty of the country’s most famous beverage which is coffee. The Ethiopians claim to have discovered coffee and they take great pride in it. Served in a similar way to Turkish coffee it has a smooth, slightly chocolaty taste which DonQui likes very much. At the end of a meal it is often somewhat bizarrely served with popcorn.

DonQui does Addis

DonQui cannot quite make his mind up about Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s sprawling capital city.

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At first sight it appears dusty, somewhat ramshackle and plagued by choking traffic and the devil-may-care drivers which are the curse so many modern African cities. On the latter point DonQui feels bound to say that the traffic congestion is not nearly as bad as in other major East African cities, such as Nairobi or Dar Es Salaam.

It would be surprising if the capital of one of Africa’s oldest civilisations did not have some things of interest. Scratching beneath the surface, DonQui finds some of it.

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Visiting the National Museum he meets Lucy — one of humankind’s earliest ancestors. It is not the best laid out museum in the world and DonQui does not linger but he feels it is well worth the trip. He also enjoys a short visit to the Ethnological museum which tells the story of the Ethiopian people.

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Most interesting of all is Holy Trinity Cathedral which is the last resting place of the Emperor Haile Selassie.

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It is also the last resting place of Sylvia Pankhurst — suffragette, turned communist, turned anti-facist who became a great supporter of Ethiopian resistance to the Italians in the 1930s.

DonQui had hoped to make it out into the countryside but the UN issued a warning of political violence in the surrounding districts. Their advice to DonQui was to stay in the city and so he does..

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All the locals he meets are friendly, outgoing and full of life — not least the wedding party he comes across.

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Their joie de vive is infectious.

Would DonQui recommend a trip to Addis Ababa? No, not really. The city is worth a day or two on a stop over to somewhere else but probably not a trip in itself. He hopes that if he visits again he will have the chance to get out of the city and see a bit of the country.