Addis Ababa

For the long-distance runner, see Addis Abebe.
Addis Ababa cityscape Courtesy:
Addis Ababa cityscape Courtesy:

Addis Ababa (sometimes spelled Addis Abeba, the spelling used officially by the Ethiopian Mapping Institute; Amharic አዲስ አበባ, Āddīs Ābebā "new flower"; Oromo Finfinne) is the capital city of Ethiopia and the African Union, as well as its predecessor, the OAU. As a chartered city (ras gez astedader), Addis Ababa has the status of both a city and a state. The city has as many as 80 nationalities speaking 80 languages, and Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities. Addis Ababa is located about 2,500 m above sea level at 9.03° N 38.74° E). [1]

The site was chosen by Empress Taytu Betul and the city was founded in 1886 by her husband, Emperor Menelik II, and now has a population of around four million, and an eight per cent annual growth rate.

The city lies at the foot of Mount Entoto, and is home to Addis Ababa University. Addis Ababa University was formerly known as Haile Selassie I University, after the former Emperor of Ethiopia, who donated his Guenete Leul Palace to be the University main campus in 1961.

Map of Ethiopia
Map of Ethiopia




Addis Ababa was founded by the Ethiopian emperor Menelik II. Menelik, as King of Shewa, had found Mount Entoto a useful base for military operations in the south of his realm, and in 1879 visited the reputed ruins of a medieval town, and an unfinished rock church that showed proof of an Ethiopian presence in the area prior to the campaigns of Ahmad Gragn. His interest in the area grew when his wife Taytu began work on a church on Entoto, and Menelik endowed a second church in the area. However the immediate area did not encourage the founding of a town due to the lack of firewood and water, so settlement actually began in the valley south of the mountain in 1886. Initially, Taytu built a house for herself near the "Filwoha" hot mineral springs, known to the local Oromo people as Finfinne, where she and members of the Showan Royal Court liked to take mineral baths. Other nobility and their staffs and households settled the vicinity, and Menelik expanded his wife's house to become the Imperial Palace which remains the seat of government in Addis Ababa today. Addis Ababa became Ethiopia's capital when Menelik II became Emperor of Ethiopia. The town grew by leaps and bounds. One of Emperor Menelik's contributions that is still visible today is the planting of numerous eucalyptus trees along the city streets.

On 5 May, 1936, Italian troops occupied Addis Ababa during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, making it the capital of Italian East Africa. Addis Ababa was governed by the Italian Governors of Addis Ababa from 1936 to 1939. After the Italian army in Ethiopia was frustrated by Ethiopian patriots, and defeated with British help during the Liberation of Ethiopia, Emperor Haile Selassie returned to Addis Ababa on 5 May, 1941—five years to the very day after he had departed—and immediately began the work of re-establishing his capital.

Emperor Haile Selassie helped form the Organization of African Unity in 1963, and invited the new organization to maintain its headquarters in the city. The OAU was dissolved in 2002 and replaced by the African Union (AU), also headquartered in Addis Ababa. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa also has its headquarters in Addis Ababa. Addis Ababa was also the site of the Council of the Oriental Orthodox Churches in 1965.



Based on figures from the Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia (CSA) published in 2005, Addis Ababa has an estimated total population of 2,973,004, consisting of 1,428,001 men and 1,545,003 women. The CSA estimated that presently there are no rural parts to the city, so 100% of the inhabitants are considered urban dwellers; Addis Ababa contains 24% of all urban dwellers in Ethiopia. With an estimated area of 530.14 square kilometers, this chartered city has an estimated density of 5,607.96 people per square kilometer.[1]

These estimates are based on the 1994 census, in which the population of Addis Ababa was reported to be 2.3 million of which 28,149 lived in the rural parts of the city. 51.6% were females, while 48.4% were male.

Almost all ethnic groups are represented in Addis Ababa due to its position as capital of the country. The major ethnic groups represented are the Amharas (48.3%), Oromo (19.2%), Gurage (17.5%), and Tigrean (7.6%), while others constitute 7.4% of the population.

82% of the population are Orthodox Christians, 12.7% Muslims, 3.9% Protestants, 0.8% Catholics, and 0.6% followers of other religions (Hindus, Jews, Bahais, Jehovah's Witnesses, Agnostics, etc.).[2]



The CSA of Ethiopia estimated in 2005 that farmers in Addis Ababa had a total 20,700 head of cattle (representing less than 0.1% of Ethiopia's total cattle), 7,900 sheep (less than 0.1%), 3,150 goats (less than 0.1%), 380 horses (less than 0.1%), 270 mules (0.18%), 4,780 donkeys (0.19%), 21,420 poultry of all species (less than 0.1%), and 170 beehives (less than 0.1%).[3]



Arkebe Oqubay was a Mayor of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He held office from early 2003 to May of 2005. On March 31, 2005, Arkebe Oqubay was named African Mayor of 2005 by Broadcasting Network of Africa. Mayor Arkebe Oqubay lost the mayorship of Addis Ababa in May of 2005 to Berhanu Nega, but as the leaders of the CUD, theopposition party which swept the election in the capital, were imprisoned and not permitted to assume control of the city, he had remained in office. However, the government has appointed a provisional city government with Berhanu Deresa the acting Mayor.


Other features

Addis Ababa is the headquarters of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the African Union. The fossilized skeleton, and a plaster replica of the early hominid Lucy (known in Ethiopia as Dinkinesh) is preserved at the Ethiopian National Museum in Addis Ababa.

The city is home to the Ethiopian National Library, the Ethiopian Ethnological Museum (and former palace), the Addis Ababa Museum, the Ethiopian Natural History Museum, the Ethiopian Railway Museum and the National Postal Museum.

Hager Fikir Theatre Addis Ababa (April 2006)
Hager Fikir Theatre Addis Ababa (April 2006)

Notable buildings include St George's Cathedral (founded in 1896 and also home to a museum), Holy Trinity Cathedral (once the largest Ethiopian Orthodox Cathedral and the location of to Sylvia Pankhurst's tomb) as well as the burial place of Emperor Haile Selassie and the Imperial family, and those who fought the Italians during the war. There is also Menelik's old Imperial palace which remains the official seat of government, and the National Palace formerly known as the Jubilee Palace (built to mark Emperor Haile Selassie's Silver Jubilee in 1955) which is the residence of the President of Ethiopia. The Hager Fikir Theatre, the oldest theatre in Ethiopia, is located at the Piazza district. Africa Hall is located across Menelik II avenue from this Palace and is where the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa is headquartered as well as most UN offices in Ethiopia. It is also the site of the founding of the Organization for African Unity (OAU) which eventually became the African Union. Near Holy Trinity Cathedral is the Parliament building, built during the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie, with its clock tower. It continues to serve as the seat of Parliament today. Across from the Parliament is the Shengo Hall, built by the Derg regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam as its new parliament hall. The Shengo Hall was the world's largest pre-fabricated building, which was constructed in Finland before being assembled in Addis Ababa. It is used for large meetings and conventions. Near Bole International Airport is the new Medhane Alem (Savior of the World) Cathedral, which is the second largest in Africa. In the Merkato district, which happens to be the largest open market in Africa, is the impressive Anwar Mosque. The Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family is also in the Merkato district.

Other features of the city include the large Merkato market, the Jan Meda Race Ground racecourse, Bihere Tsige Recreation Centre and a railway line to Djibouti. Sport facilities include Addis Ababa and Nyala Stadiums. The Entoto Mountains start among the northern suburbs. Suburbs of the city include Shiro Meda and Entoto in the north, Urael and Bole (home to Bole International Airport) in the east, Nifas Silk in the south-east, Mekanisa in the south, and Keraniyo and Kolfe in the west.



Public transportation is through public buses or blue and white share taxis, locally known as "blue donkeys". The taxis are usually minibuses that can sit at least twelve people. Two people are responsible for each taxi, the driver and a weyala who collects fares and calls out the taxi's destination.

The city is served by Bole International Airport, where a new terminal opened in 2003. The old Lideta Airport in the western "Old Airport" district is used mostly by small craft and military planes and helicopters. Addis Ababa also has a railway connection with Djibouti City, with a picturesque French style railway station.



  1. CSA 2005 National Statistics, Table B.3.
  2. FDRE States: Basic Information - Addis Ababa (accessed 12 March 2006)
  3. CSA 2005 National Statistics, Tables D.3 - D.5.

External links

Subdivisions of Ethiopia Flag of Ethiopia
Afar | Amhara | Benishangul-Gumaz | Gambela | Harari | Oromia | Somali | Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region | Tigray
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Addis Ababa | Dire Dawa
Provinces prior to 1995
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