Culture innit?

A couple of contrasting nights out this week. Wednesday night – at the request of one of the folks I was going out with – I found myself at the Sheraton, the poshest hotel in Addis by some considerable distance. It was quite an experience – probably the poshest hotel I’ve been to with the possible exception of the one in Johannesburg – the Westcliff I think – that I went to when accompanying a group of British MPs on a visit (apparently there was a good deal on) a few years ago. Sheraton was all done up for Christmas and was nauseatingly flash.

Last night, much more interestingly, I went to one of the Yod Abysinnia restaurants, courtesy of Mesfin – a mate of mine who I met in Ethiopia several years ago, again on a visit with MPs – and his brother who was the chair of the Ethiopian Football Federation. Yod Abysinnia is a “cultural restaurant” – really not sure what the equivalent would be inn the UK – where musicians play ethiopian music and dancers dance dances from different regions of the country. One of my favourites was the Gurage dancersĀ – this one kicks in after 2 or 3 minutes.

Food-wise, I had a selection of “fasting food” ie vegetarian food on a huge injera. Hardly managed half of it, so fasting it was not. Won’t be ordering quite so much next time. Mesfin’s brother is extremely generous and insisted on paying, despite my best efforts. Apparently the Ethiopian (or Amhara?) culture is very generous, but all the same I was a bit uncomfortable with him paying for everything, especially when he said that I would return the favour by paying for everything when we do similar in London!

One of the dancers asked me to join them and apparently it’s not the done thing to refuse. So I played the part of rubbish ferengi (foreigner) with inability to dance. After my “dance”, a bloke with a camera came along to ask if I wanted to buy a photo of me dancing; he seemed apologetic about asking, clearly realising that I wouldn’t particularly want a reminder of my efforts.

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