19/08/2017

I have always considered 19 my lucky number. Reason being is that it’s my birthdate, I traveled to the Pearl of Africa when I was 19 & it’s also the first time my blog – Live And Die In Afrika went live giving my step by step account of my road trip from Nairobi to Addis Ababa.

Today is a very special day for the blog, marking exactly one year of being ”alive” in the internet world. You would not believe me if I told you that I started this blog while I was in Ethiopia, seated at Jupiter International Hotel in Bole, Addis Ababa out of sheer boredom.

I had been waiting for a business deal to go in my favor but after it took so long for anything to materialize, I opened an e-book on my computer about blogging that gave an analysis of the different websites one could use to open a blog and I decided to call it Live And Die In Afrika, inspired by Sauti Sol’s album and Tupac’s To Live And Die In LA song. I had been wanting to start a blog for the longest time and the universe had put me in Ethiopia, guided me to do a road trip from Nairobi to Addis Ababa while my colleagues flew Kenya Airways and even made sure that my deal does not go through just so that I could start this blog which will impact countless people in the future.

Just before I put this piece together I thought to myself of the great mountain that I have to conquer. When I begun, I set a goal to visit all of the 54 African countries over the next 5 years which is still on track. Today marks the 1st year meaning that I have 4 more years to achieve that goal. You know when they say that if your dreams don’t scare you then they’re not big enough, that was the emotion I was experiencing while writing this. I have only been to 3 of the 54 countries, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia so far since I started this journey which represents 5.5% of my goal. Thoughts such as where will I get the money to cover the airfare to all the countries, hotels & accommodation fees, will I be kidnapped by some militia group in the middle of the Sahara desert, will I encounter a landmine in Mogadishu? These are but some of the things that run through my mind. But nothing comes easy and my dreams for Africa are bigger than myself.

Inspired by Bob Marley’s Africa Unite song. “How good and how pleasant it would be, before God and man to see the unification of all Africans”. My dream is to change Africa and how I’ll do that is by visiting all the countries and experiencing first hand the cultures and challenges that most African countries are facing. Because I believe that for you to know the problems of the ‘poor’ you have to first live like them and connect with them on a deeper level. That way I will be able to be an agent of change and influence others to be part of the change & now that I am part of the Rotary International Organisation, I have the right platform to address majority of the pressing issues in Africa.

I still have tonnes of places to visit in the countries that I have already visited. In Ethiopia, I still have to travel to the north and visit cities like Gondar (Ancient city of kings), Mekelle, Axum (One of the holiest cities in Ethiopia), Dire Dawa, Lalibela (To see the rock-cut churches) and to Harar to feed hyenas among other towns. In Tanzania I still have to visit Zanzibar, travel to Mwanza, Dodoma, go back to Dar es Salaam and then sip Amarula on the rocks in the Serengeti while watching the sunset and wildlife. Closer home to Kenya and I feel like I still have to visit each and every corner of the country from the highlands to the seas, numerous destinations across the rift valley and up north to Turkana and to towards the Somali border too.

Thank you very much to all the readers across the globe who always take the time to read the articles on the blog. The likes on social media, comments on the blog and numerous shares have all contributed to the blog’s success thus far. We will strive to continue traveling to new destinations and posting interesting content to show you Africa & the world. Looking forward to traveling to all of your countries some day and meeting you all in person. Happy 1st birthday to Live And Die In Afrika. Long live the blog & long live my readers!

Uhuru Kenyatta! You Nearly Gave Me A Heart Attack At Radisson Blu Nairobi

It’s not every day that you get to have an encounter with the most powerful man and commander in chief of the Kenya Armed Forces. My encounter with His Excellency, Uhuru Kenyatta, at the world renown Radisson Blu Hotel in Nairobi was for me a rather very interesting experience.

Africa is a beautiful place and Kenya more specifically. Will Smith famously quoted, “Africa is beautiful, it feels like God visits everywhere else but lives in Africa”.

There are some places that I visit in Nairobi and the beauty is beyond comprehension and Radisson Blu Hotel is one of those places.

Radisson Blu 2

This particular Friday was one of the best Friday afternoons I’d had as I was excited at the prospect of dining at Radisson Blu Hotel.

Excited is an understatement as Lord knows how many times I have passed outside the majestic Hotel that is, Radisson Blu with the hope of one day stepping into this masterpiece of a hotel and having a meal without having to feel the pinch. As we approached the Radisson Blu gates we went through the thorough, professional security check up.

We then proceeded to the basement parking where we parked our car and made it straight for the lifts. We got to the ground floor and made it straight for Alfresco Restaurant.

Radisson Blu 3

Walking in, the place makes you feel like you’re in the white house. It has this aura of wealth that was confirmed by politicians and high profile businessmen wining and dining around that made us feel like we were totally out of place. I liked how Biko Zulu once mentioned while watching politicians eat, comparing it to watching pigs being fed. Nonetheless, we settled for a table out in the open.

If I had a choice, I would only dine at 4-Star and 5-Star plus hotels. Considering the fact that I had great experiences in Addis Ababa at Saro Maria Hotel and Capital Hotel & Spa. 

Sooner rather than later, the well dressed, bright faced waitress in high spirits approached us with two menus and politely said, “Good Afternoon gentlemen and welcome to Alfresco Restaurant, what may I serve you.” I opened the menu and leisurely scoped through what they had to offer. Call me boring but I’m the kind of person that doesn’t appreciate disappointments when it comes to food I order. I prefer to order food that I’m familiar with. I ordered for their tenderly grilled chicken which came with french fries along with a cup of delicious iced coffee to help beat the heat and to keep my brain active for the rest of the afternoon. My friend on the other hand ordered for a beef burger with creamy mushrooms and fries.

Our meals arrived at the same time and what I must applaud Radisson Blu Hotel for is their value for money and time. That was indeed the fastest time I had been served in a restaurant while the meal’s quality was not compromised. Excuse our bromance, but we had a bite of each other’s meals and I must say that after all the Burger Festivals I have attended in Nairobi, none of the burgers I had in and out of the country come close to the burger that my friend had ordered. Gentlemen, if you want to surprise your girlfriend for lunch, look no further than the burger from the open grill (pictured on the right). It goes down well with a glass of Fetzer Chardonnay.

Food

We finished our meals and sat right there under the bright afternoon sunshine in the shade, waiting for dessert while we affirmed each other that we would work so hard that eating at Radisson Blu Hotel would be the norm. Dessert was served though I was extremely satisfied from the lunch. Although after the first bite of my pancake and chocolate mousse, my appetite was back in a heart beat.

Dessert

Everything good thing comes to an end and so we walked out of Alfresco Restaurant and headed to the reception and thought that taking a few photos for the sake of our reminiscence was a great idea. The art on the walls, statues and generally everything about the place was worth writing home about but what really caught my attention was this 250-year old bottle of Hennessy.

Hennessy 250 years

I was so caught up with the beauty of the place that I forgot to notice who was around me. My friend, always being the one to spot things and people before me said in a rather surprised tone, ‘Uhuru Kenyatta is right behind you!’ At that very moment I froze because I knew I was meeting with the most powerful man in the country and one of the wealthiest too. It was quite strange because the place was so calm to an extent that you wouldn’t imagine that the Head of State would be there. But you know how down to earth Uhuru Kenyatta is, he probably just wanted to catch a cold one with the boys like the old days.

And there he was, the man himself staring at me. Never did I ever think this would be the way I would meet Uhuru Kenyatta and indeed it wasn’t. Never mind, we were both fooled in the exact same way but if you happen to read this article your excellency, it would be an honor to meet you some day, in person and not in the form of a piece of magnificent art! Kudos to the artist!

Uhuru Kenyatta

Nairobi Challenge Seekers

No pain no gain had been ringing in my mind from the gym work out on Friday. I had just been invited by my two great friends to accompany them to the gym. So we had had a very intense lower body work out in a gym in Parklands and since Saturday was the day the Nairobi Challenge seekers event was taking place, I found it very difficult getting out of bed in the morning but I gathered enough strength to.  I had a few errands to run and so I had to work with speed as time was running against me. After running a few errands, I passed through Tuskys Supermarket and grabbed myself a cold Redbull because I know how handy it comes in when doing strenuous physical activities.

I had been given the physical location and told that it was off Ngong Road. After further consultation, I was told that indeed it was  in Kibera at a place called Ayani at the Scout’s Camp. Kibera is actually one of the largest slums in the world, the largest in Africa. Nothing to chest thump about. So I advised the Cab Driver to end the trip close to Ngong Hills hotel at a gas station that I can’t quite remember its name so that I could find my way using public means as I wasn’t sure how much further I had to go into Kibera and of course I didn’t want any surprises when it came to the total bill at the end of the trip.

So I asked one of the gas attendants how to get to Kibera and luckily enough I was less than a minute to the road that leads to Kibera. I got into the bus and asked the conductor if he knew where Ayani was. After consulting with the driver he told me that he would drop me right there. I had been to Kibera once before in 2011 when I had gone to collect my National ID. What you notice as you continue treading into Kibera is that the place is like a country of its own, has its own way of life and to some extent the faces of the people you see show that they have sort of adapted to life there and come to complete terms with their situation. So the bus dropped me off at the last stop that was Ayani and even advised me to walk to my destination which he advised was a “3 minute walk” from the place. Being my first time in a new territory and knowing very well that the locals would clearly identify that I was new to the area, I decided not to put myself at risk and instead took a motorbike to the scouts camp. I got in and joined the rest of the Nairobi Challenge Seekers.

I was given a warm welcome and immediately invited by the Yellow Team to join them. The team leaders consulted each other and due to the seemingly stronger appearance of the Yellow Team, I was asked to join the Green Team of which I did. Just before being asked to do the activities that I had missed, two other challenge seekers joined and they were also allocated into teams before doing the activities that we had missed.

Challenge # 1

Tunnel Quest

So the first challenge was going through a tunnel quest. A first I had very many questions such as if I could fit in and also what some of the obstacles were that lay inside it. But I was so much more motivated to do so when one of my team members went ahead of me and got out of it in nearly less than a minute. So I was next and you can only imagine how I struggled at first to get in as most of my body was aching due to the intense work out that I had been through the previous day. I remember being cheered on as soon as my head got into the tunnel. I must have taken longer than usual as I could hear people asking after a while, “Where has he disappeared to”. I eventually showed my head and my team members including members of the opposite team congratulated me for completing the first challenge.

2Some-33

 

Challenge # 2

Monkey Climb

The next challenge was known as the monkey climb where you’d have to get from one end of a suspended log and make it to the end. There was no specific method to use – but it all depended on you to figure out how you’d make it to the other side. I remember the first challenge seeker on my team standing on top of the log and trying to walk to the end but quickly retreating as soon as he figured out that he is not as skilled as a monkey to make it to the other end using his legs alone. So he quickly jumped down and hang upside down making it to the other end. I followed suit and I must say that it was pretty simple despite the fact that my whole body was aching.

Monkey Climb

Challenge # 3

Wall Climb

We made it to a wall and this one was another challenge that I enjoyed as it mostly involved using the strength of my forearms and biceps to lift myself up but all of this was done with the help of my team mates who lifted me up until I got to a point where I could reach the top and then pull myself to the top of the wall. I did it with ease as I consider myself to have an upper body capable of lifting the rest of my body out of any tough situation.

2Some-56

Challenge # 4

String Maze Challenge

This challenge seemed to be the easiest but actually turned out to be the hardest. There were different strings that formed mazes and the challenge was to get into the maze and out of it without any part of your body touching the strings. I was amazed by the creativity that people have to say the least.

String Maze

***Lunch***

We broke off for lunch which was a simple but scrumptious meal of burgers and sandwiches and a choice of your soft drink. It was an interesting moment as we watched primary school scouts camping and cooking lunch with the help of their guides and/or teachers. It reminded me of my primary school days despite the fact that I was not a scout.

2Some-31

Challenge # 5

Mud crawl

Surprise surprise! This was more like the dessert that we had not had over lunch hour. Walking towards the next challenge, we found one of the coordinators fetching water and pouring it on dry soil. So you know what that turned into. MUD! So apparently one would have to get on the ground and make their way to the other end while someone followed closely behind holding onto their shoes. I was lucky to have excused myself early enough as the aches from the gym workout the previous day had resurfaced and this time I had no option but to relax my muscles. I did not mind actually for the reasons that I would not get dirty and I had the opportunity of watching the rest and timing the two teams. I remember at the end of the challenge one of the ladies’ echoing these words, ‘I love dirty men!’

Mud Crawl

Challenge # 6

Tyre Balance

This was a rather easy challenge in my opinion. All the teams had to do was get the tyre to the top of the pole without it touching either of the sides. The team that did it in the quickest time without it touching either of the sides of the poles would be crowned winner of this challenge. The only hard part came in when the pole was increased in length and the teams had to devise a smarter way of getting the tyre to the top of the pole.

Tyre Balance

Challenge # 7

Tyre Maze Challenge

This challenge was similar to the string maze challenge in many ways only that the teams had to get all of their mates into the tyres and out in the quickest time. The team that could accomplish that in the fastest time again won the challenge. Luckily enough, it was not an offence to touch either sides of the tyres unlike the string maze challenge.

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Challenge # 8

Water Bottle Balance On A Plate

One of the most challenging of them all was this challenge coupled with some ruthless tactics to make sure that the opponents bottle of water was always falling to the ground and forcing them to start all over again giving them a rather unfair competitive advantage. The idea was to balance a bottle of water on a paper cup whilst holding it together using ropes being held around the paper cup. The starting point was one end of the field to the other, going round a chair and then making it to the starting point without dropping the bottle.

Water Bottle Balance

Challenge # 9

Wheelbarrow Challenge

This was the rib cracker of the day, I remember at the end of the challenge both teams including the team that had lost just losing it for a moment and savoring the moment of nothing but sheer laughter and happiness as one of the team members had given up half way through the challenge. But the funny part was not him giving up but rather his facial expressions right before he had given up. Since I was not participating, I remember being somewhat sympathetic while trying to hold in my laughter. At some point even thinking that I should call the ambulance just in case one of our soldiers started shouting mayday.  But the laughter all started with one guy and then it became so infectious and spread like bush-fire. In no time, everyone including his team mates and he himself was laughing uncontrollably. I remember almost falling out of my sit severally.

Wheelbarrow

Challenge # 10

Tug Of War

It’s not quite a challenge without determining who has the strongest muscles and this was quite evident in the tug of war challenge when one of the teams won all the tug of war challenges. I was on the losing team but in my defense, the ‘winning’ team had much heavier men than we did.

That marked the end of a day well spent with the Nairobi Challenge seekers. The winning team was the Green Team with 650 points & the runners up was the Yellow Team with 330 points. There are no losers when it comes to the Nairobi Challenge seekers, everyone is a winner.

Tug Of War

Follow Nairobi Challenge Seekers on Facebook and check out their Website and stay up to date with Challenges taking place in and out of Nairobi.

A Very Unique Encounter With Boko Haram Traveling to Nigeria

Oh West Africa! Mysterious yet renowned as the land of the great Mansa Musa. The richest man to ever live. He was a native of Timbuktu, Mali. This man was so wealthy and so generous that during his pilgrimage to Mecca, he gave out so much gold in the cities of Cairo, Mecca and Medina thereby inadvertently causing hyperinflation and nearly impoverishing the 3 cities for over 10 years.

But this is neither about Mansa Musa nor Mali. This, ladies and gentlemen is about the men and women responsible for coining of the hashtag#BringBackOurGirls.
Yes, believe it or not, this is the story of how I came to a close encounter with the infamous Boko Haram. The militant Islamist group causing havoc in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, through a wave of bombings, assassinations, abductions  and fighting hoping to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state.
Touchdown was at Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos after a great flight. I love Nigeria. I have been there countless times in the past and I must say that I too love Nigerians and Nigerian men to be specific. They have this aggression and grit that makes a young lady wonder if they are descendants of Shaka Zulu. And without any bias Nigerian women have bodies that can only be compared to goddesses.
Anyway that’s more than enough of my Nigerian fantasies. I have been to Nigeria before because I love to travel the continent of Africa once in a while and I am still young and wild at heart with a thirst for exploration and new territories, I sometimes wonder why I was not among the European men that ‘discovered’ some of the places on earth like Christopher Columbus. But then again I remember that I am just a mere citizen of the world born in the 20th century and loving it!
I leave the plane and await to be transported to my room at Eko Hotels & Suites, Lagos.
The sun was shining bright and it looked like it would be a great day ahead. For lack of a better word, I couldn’t stop thinking about how I was gonna ‘chop money’ from the Nigerians that night. I mean, Nigeria is home to the richest man in Africa so spending a few thousand Nairas on this beauty would be nothing but a drop in the ocean for the Nigerian brother that would catch my attention that night.
I must admit that at that very moment my head was floating far above the clouds just as it always does when flying from one African country to another. But this time it wasn’t the pilot responsible for me being on Cloud 9 but it was this tall, dark and handsome man whose body is probably oiled with dark chocolate cream and who’s ego is bigger than that of a 17th Century African monarch – my Nigerian – my African King.
My short stay in Fantasy Haven was interrupted by gunshots and screams. I hadn’t even realized that we had made it to the departure hall of the airport and with nowhere to escape or run to.
‘EVERYBODY GET ON THE GROUND!’ and a few familiar Arabic words were all I could hear while I lay on the ground in total disbelief and terror. I was in tears, praying to God to protect me and making empty promises to Him like we always do in times of desperation.
Everyone in the terminal was silent apart from the distant sounds of women wailing and breathing heavily. One unfortunate old man tried to be a hero by trying to snatch a gun from one of the assailants but he was intercepted by one of the masked men and taken away into a room and all we heard was a lot of bashing and crashing. We could only imagine the worst.
Just when we thought that things were finally taking shape and the help that we were all desperately anticipating for was on its way or finally arrived, a tall and heavily dressed man in all black and face covered with a mask stood in front of all of us and took off his kanzu. What we saw beneath the kanzu left us all saying our last prayers. He had explosive devices planted all over his body.
Before he could trigger a device that was on his hand, he took off his mask and just before he had uttered a few words, military police stormed the departure hall from exit points and places that we did not even believe could fit grown men strapped with AK 47’s and seizing the armed assailants in record time and taking them away. And then a man who I assumed to be the head of the counter terrorism squad entered the departure hall with a loud-speaker and announced, ‘Don’t worry no one got hurt, that was just a COUNTER TERRORISM exercise and you all acted appropriately if it were a real life situation except from the old man’.
Could you believe this? A drill? I was so relieved but still very angry at the whole situation and so was everybody else around.
That was my close encounter with ‘Boko Haram’. Thank God it was not the actual militia group. I however enjoyed the rest of my stay in Nigeria and hoped never to be caught in between such a drill in the future.
[The above is a true story regarding a counter terrorism exercise that took place at Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos Nigeria, November 2016. The original author is a lady of Ethiopian descent by the name of Samket Amanuel getting into Lagos at the time of the counter terrorism exercise and experienced everything first hand]
 
Have you ever been in such a situation or what would you have done if you were in such a situation? Let me know in the comments section below…

My Top 4 Ethiopian Beers

What is the definition of cheap? In my opinion it’s Ethiopian beer. But when I talk of cheap, I do not mean that the quality is low. NO! Hell NO! Surprisingly enough, most of the beers that I had in Ethiopia were of such high quality I even asked myself, what’s the big fuss about Tusker? But then again I realized that, it’s all about branding and it probably is EABL’s flagship product.

But I have to say that the prices of most commodities and especially beers are highly exaggerated in Kenya. I remember once going to Friendship Supermarket in Bole to purchase a few beers during the Ethiopian new year on September 11th in 2016 and the price of a beer was a shocking $0.6. If you don’t have empties you may have to part with some money but it’s refundable when returned. Unlike in Kenya where you have to part with more than double of that same amount, a whooping $1.6 for the same.

So now straight to the beers that i think you should try out and also depending on what kind of taste buds you have.

# 1 St. George

One of the most popular beers in Ethiopia with quite a presence even in towns outside Addis Ababa is none other than St. George. It is a very light beer so if you’re looking for a good pass time beer then look no further.

The beer is named after St. George who was born into a noble Christian family and legend has it that he was responsible for slaying the dragon which was used to represent the devil in the middle ages. The bottle’s branding clearly shows him slaying the dragon.

Just to confirm its popularity in Ethiopia you can check out this world beer map from Vine Pair and confirm how popular it is in Ethiopia. It also has a relatively good rating on beeradvocate.com

FYI – When asking for a St.George, you would rather say Giorgis which it is highly referred to.

St. George Beer

# 2 Habesha

What I really love about the Habesha beer is that it has this pride associated with it that I believe Ethiopians carry with them of it being originally Ethiopian. From its branding alone, it shows the picture of a typical Ethiopian boy with an afro, big eyes, chocolate skin color just like a pure non-mixed Ethiopian boy. I remember during my 2nd visit to Ethiopia via road we stopped at a town called Yabelo together with two Ugandan nationals who were making the same journey and began from Kampala-Nairobi and we met in Moyale. There was this gentleman who served us at the restaurant that we were in and looking back I think Habesha beer should start paying him royalties for using his image which was a complete replica of the image on the bottle. Habesha is a stronger beer but very enjoyable. They have this slogan ‘cold gold’ which will give you that desired effect on your first sip. It will probably get you ‘feeling high much faster than most of the other beers.

Habesha Beer

# 3 Amber

For the gentlemen or ladies that still have a sweet tooth then this beer is definitely for you. I think it’s one of the few beers that one doesn’t need to have an acquired taste before enjoying it. Last time I checked, it was the Ethiopian beer that I came across with the highest alcohol content. It was actually decreased from its previous high as it was extremely strong for the faint hearted.

Amber Beer

# 4 Meta

I recently became a fan of sugarless beer and for that reason I switched from drinking Guinness to now drinking White Cup or Summit Lager depending on which one is available when at home in Kenya. In May while having dinner at Roomi burger, one of my best burger joints in Addis Ababa, I ordered for a Habesha but it was unfortunately out of stock so my friend recommended Meta for me and I instantaneously fell in love with it. Later on in that week I took my girlfriend out for dinner at New York Cafe at Kirkos in Addis Ababa. I ordered for a Meta and she was surprised, ‘When did you start loving Meta?’ I told her that I had tried it 2 days before and it was my new birra.

Meta Beer

 

Do I miss Ethiopian beer? Yes I do. Not that I am an addict or anything, I don’t even enjoy getting excessively drunk. 3 beers are more than enough for me in one sitting. But what I also miss is the beer culture in Addis Ababa where you can go into an open air establishment like my all time favorite – The Brick House and have a draft and just catch up with friends without the price injuring your pocket. I let my friend know that I could buy him beers in Addis Ababa but not in Nairobi because beers are so overpriced especially in so-called up market clubs and lounges going up for as high as $7. But anyway, I am just complaining because I am not yet a Billionaire even though I was a BIRRionaire while in Ethiopia.

Have you been to Ethiopia and feel like there are better beers than my top 4? Any recommendations for places to hang out in Addis Ababa? Please share below…

Santa Claus Comes To Africa

Thursday December 22nd 2016 – 9.30pm

I’m here in beautiful Africa, to be precise – Kenya at my office in one of Nairobi’s affluent suburbs. 48 hours from now will be the Eve of Christmas but my workaholic self sees no need to take a break as I have a lot of planning to do for the new year before I travel for Christmas with my family, destination – Lake Magadi which is Southwest from Nairobi & to the Southern part of Kenya. Not too far from the Tanzanian border close to Lake Natron. (Stay tuned for my Magadi experience)

lake-magadi-kenya-africa
Section of Lake Magadi

 

A lot of things have inspired me to write this article and one of them was my friend who a few days ago had put up a profile picture of Santa on WhatsApp. The reason it struck me is because like most people, I sleep close to my phone and it’s the first thing I check in the morning when I wake up. I felt a great sense of connection to the Christmas Season unlike in the past few years. Another reason I was inspired to write it is because one of my role models – Billionaire Bill Gates was voted the best secret Santa on Reddit and it also reminded me how much I would want to play the part of Santa some day and make people’s wishes come true every Christmas. But most importantly it reminded me of the time Santa Claus paid us a visit as children.

bill-gates-secret-santa
Bill Gates Secret Santa Gifts

It was December 24th 1998. I was around 6 years old. And Yes, now you can do the math and figure out how old I am! I was excited more than ever about Christmas because of all the Christmas movies we would watch (Remember Home Alone!),  amazing Christmas carols and the gifts that we would receive. We had a massive Christmas tree with all sorts of decorations and lights and every year we would receive gifts from none other than “Santa”. We lived in Lavington & since it was one of the areas European settlers had resided, the houses had chimneys making it easier for Santa to get into our house from the roof. I recall once asking my father what Santa Claus would bring me for Christmas and he told me to print out whatever I wanted from his computer and stick it on my bed. That way Santa would see it and drop the exact same gift from his sack under the Christmas tree. On that specific Christmas during boxing day, I received a red remote controlled car – The exact same car that I had printed out from my father’s laptop.

red-remote-control-car

December 25th 1998, Christmas day. My two sisters and I woke up very early in the morning. We were always very excited about Christmas and would wish each other Merry Christmas joyfully and run straight to the Christmas tree. There would always be Christmas carols being played from one of the TV stations that would make the Christmas mood come even more alive. Just as we had expected, we found gifts and cards under the Christmas tree very well wrapped. We knew that we would have to wait until the next day to unwrap our gifts. I asked my sisters if any of them heard Santa coming in but they all said no. Then we all turned to our mother and she said that indeed she had heard him coming in and that there was so much noise that she couldn’t get any sleep. We were all so amazed that she had actually heard Santa coming in and she even claimed that there was a lot of noise probably because he needed to lose his belly and couldn’t come down the chimney with ease LOL. Then we asked her the big question – WHY SHE DIDN’T GO TO SAY HI TO HIM. She replied – I was too tired but next year I will. We all said that we would wake up the next year, but you know kids – all of them sleep like logs!

santa-in-the-chimney

 

And that ladies & gentlemen, was my childhood experience with Santa Claus. I am grateful that I had one of the best childhoods and I would love to give the same to my unborn children who I am sure I will give the world and myself to them. Do I still believe in Santa Claus? The answer is YES. I still believe in the magic I once believed in as a child and I have no doubt that when you really want something, the whole universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. I hope that you get everything that you desire during this season and even after this Christmas season and that life may be good to you.

This is probably going to be my very last article of the year 2016. I am looking forward to writing many more articles with my new team and giving you the best travel & African experiences on the blog in the coming year.

From the whole crew at Live And Die In Afrika, we want to wish you a Merry Merry Christmas and the best year just yet – A CHEERFUL 2017. Stay safe and see you on the other side 🙂

merry-christmas-happy-new-year

 

 

9 Interesting Things You Will Notice When You Visit Ethiopia

The Greek Poet Homer in the Odyssey: “But now Poseidon had gone to visit the Ethiopians worlds away, Ethiopians off at the farthest limits of mankind, a people split in two, one part where the Sungod sets and part where the Sungod rises.” Below are some interesting facts I found out when I visited Ethiopia.

  1. ETHIOPIANS ENJOY EATING RAW MEAT

Before visiting Ethiopia for the first time in April 2016, my friend who had visited Ethiopia before warned us, ”Don’t eat raw meat while you’re in Ethiopia, our friends tried it and ended up in the ICU”. There and then, I knew that eating raw meat was not on my to-do list while I was there. Fast forward to my second visit in June and on a road trip to Debre Zeyit with some friends on a sunny Sunday afternoon during lunch we ordered for some meat and the usual injera. Just before the waiter left to place the order, one of my friends said, ”Today you will eat raw meat for the first time”. They were like, but if you don’t like it you don’t have to eat much. So the food was brought and history was about to be made, I was going to eat raw meat like a lion. So I had my first bite of raw meat which was actually a gursha from my friend. Gursha is the act of someone feeding you with their own hands. Remember the Simpson’s episode, ”EVERYBODY GURSHA! GURSHA!”.

Luckily the raw meat was covered in mitmita an Ethiopian spice which makes the taste bearable. It took a while for me to finally swallow the raw meat and when I was asked how it was, my simple response was, ”I would rather have it cooked than eat it raw!” I tried raw meat once again during a friend’s family function that I had been invited to and the raw meat wasn’t bad at all. The best raw meat I ate was when I was invited for a Ethiopian Muslim Wedding and on this occasion I literally fell in love with it. This one had been specially prepared and had the right spices in it not forgetting to mention that it was very soft. I was told that after you’ve eaten raw meat for the third time, then you become fully hooked to it. I am not hooked to it and I still prefer my meat cooked. While I would not discourage you from trying any local food when you travel to Africa, you need to know that eating raw meat consistently can cause tapeworm infection (Class 5 Science)

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  1. ETHIOPIA IS THE ONLY AMHARIC SPEAKING COUNTRY IN THE WORLD

Amharic is the 2nd most spoken Semitic language in the world after Arabic, and has its own writing system called fidel. The fact that Ethiopia was never colonized and most public schools do not teach English or any other foreign language, then communicating with most of the locals can be quite challenging and frustrating. To make matters worse, if you are buying bus tickets like I did during my first road trip visit to Ethiopia then you might feel like you’re in a different planet if there is no one around you that can translate what’s written to you. Remember in one of my articles when I mentioned how most people are unable to speak English even in Addis Ababa apart from in places that are of International standards. Yes it can be very frustrating . I will write an article on the basics of Amharic so that if you are planning to visit Ethiopia, you can easily find your way if you are stranded or alone. So stay tuned! Some of the numbers in Amharic below.

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  1. ETHIOPIA IS THE ONLY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD THAT USES BIRR

Ethiopian currency is in Birr and it is the only country in the world that Birrs are in circulation. Actually unlike other African countries that have foreign exchange bureaus at almost every turn, like of course my motherland Kenya, the only place you can get dollars legally is in the bank and you can only access the dollars to a certain limit. You hear of the black market where you can access dollars but at a higher rate than the banks but I would urge you to exercise caution when dealing with them. I hear that it’s illegal and if you ever come into contact with them, you need to ensure that the dollars are not fake or you might end up burning your fingers. And when you are in Ethiopia, it is the only time you can be a ‘Birrionaire’ if you are not yet a Billionaire so enjoy your “new found status” while it lasts. Below is a 100 Birr note, the highest currency value in Ethiopia which is around $4.5

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  1. ETHIOPIANS LOVE THEIR MUSIC

On my journey from the Moyale border to Addis Ababa, I had access to the music system of the bus and so I played some of the music from my phone only for me to be told that the other bus travelers were complaining and wanted Ethiopian music to be played. I got to the capital, Addis Ababa, and so I thought that things were probably much different. Only for me and my friends to go out to some of the clubs and observe how excited Ethiopians get whenever Ethiopian music is played as opposed to music from the West. There is this common dance that involves vigorous shaking of the shoulders. It can be difficult at first, but after a while you get the hang of it and it becomes very easy. Below is Aster Aweke, don’t I love this lady’s music even though I can’t understand what she’s saying throughout her songs! But luckily for me, I had this one special Abyssinian lady by my side most of the time to translate what was being sung.

 

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  1. ETHIOPIA WAS NEVER COLONIZED

Who in the world doesn’t know this? Ethiopia was never colonized and you see exactly why when you visit and interact with the people. Most of the Ethiopians have a great love for their country and they won’t let you take what’s theirs without fighting for it. My friend actually told me that in the Amhara region of Gondar (What I like to call the Ancient City of Royals) when a man gets married, he is given a gun to protect his household. So you may never know who is ‘strapped’ around Addis Ababa and the wider Ethiopia. I recall the same friend telling me that Ethiopians are always ready to fight. When an intruder attacks they all unite against them and when the intruder has been dealt with, they get back to fighting each other.

There was also this very interesting culture in the Gondar region whereby if someone killed a member of another family, one of the males in the family of the deceased had the right to kill a member of the killer’s family. The reason as to why the killer wouldn’t be the victim is the fact that he would escape to the jungle knowing his fate very well. One of the killer’s family member’s life would be taken away and then the two families would come to an agreement that they are now square. They would meet and put their guns in front of them and cross over them close to 3 times and peace would be made between the two families. Interesting, right? Word of advice – BE NICE IN ETHIOPIA! Below is King Menelik II, Defeater of the Italians.

 

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  1. YOU CANNOT SEND MONEY OUT OF ETHIOPIA

Another major set-back is the fact that you cannot send money out of Ethiopia. The reason being that the country has a small currency reserve but there are some certain conditions that allow you to send money out of this African country such as paying for imports which can be sent using a Letter of Credit or Telegraphic Transfer. There is also another category of people allowed to send money out of the country such as expatriates working in Government institutions and whose salary is dollar based. So if you ever visit Ethiopia and need to send money back home, at least make sure that you have some money in your bitcoin wallet.

  1. TAXI HAS 2 MEANINGS

I remember the first time I was I Addis and we were going to a famous burger joint with other Rotaractors so we asked our guide how we were going there and he said that we are going to use a taxi. I asked him how much and he said, it will cost us not more than 3 Birr (15 cents) per person and I was like wow that’s super cheap for a taxi. Only for us to walk until the bus stop and then a public ‘taxi’ stopped and we entered. The difference is this, the cabs are referred to as contract taxis or ‘lada’ (first image) while the public ‘taxis’ are referred to as the big taxis (second image). So next time you’re in Abyssinia, don’t confuse the two.

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  1. ETHIOPIANS ARE VERY RESPECTFUL

In every village there is a mad man. This is not an exception to the fact that you will find a couple of Ethiopians who have strayed away from their culture. But if you take a look around you, you will find out that Ethiopians have a lot of respect for the people that serve them, their employers and elders. You will also find yourself being treated with a lot of respect and differently if you’re a foreigner. But I have been mistaken for an Ethiopian man on very many occasions. I am one of the lucky Kenyan men not to have kinky African hair and my hair tends to look slightly curly when it’s not too long. So at least I wasn’t taken advantage of much while I was in Addis only until they realized that I cannot speak Amharic.

  1. IN ETHIOPIA, THE BEAUTIFUL ONES ARE YET TO BE BORN

 Ha! Ha! Ha! Well, this statement is absolutely correct if you were born last night. But for most of us with more than 20+ years, we know that waiting for the ‘beautiful’ ones to be born might just as well be a chasing after the wind OR writing on water OR winking at a your crush in a dark room and expecting her to notice you. Do you get my point? I hope you do!

The Kebra Nagast and the Old Testament talk of the beauty of Queen Makeda, Ethiopia’s beautiful powerful black woman. In the former it even talks about Queen Makeda traveling to Jerusalem to see King Solomon and having a love affair with him. Why would the wisest man to walk the earth and possibly the wealthiest (I also call him the ‘Old Testament’s playboy‘) have fallen in love with this Ethiopian Queen yet he had 700 wives and 300 concubines – HER BEAUTY is perhaps the best answer.

‘Descendants’ of Queen Makeda still walk around the streets of Addis Ababa in the 21st Century and one thing that’s certain is that there is not a scarcity of beautiful women in Ethiopia. Luckily for me, my girlfriend is not only Ethiopian but the most beautiful in the whole of Addis Ababa and Ethiopia so you won’t find me on a mission like the infamous #TeamMafisi members when they visit Ethiopia or other African countries.

What is Team Mafisi? This is a Kenyan coined term to refer to men who are constantly on the chase after ladies and  would be very persistent to make sure that they fall for their advances. Most of the time, they don’t give up getting what they are after without putting up a good ‘fight’.

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What other interesting things about Ethiopia do you think I have left out? Please share below 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Capital Hotel & Spa – The Tour

It was a sunny Friday afternoon, I was going about my usual business in the New Flower when I decided to stop by for a cup of Ethiopian coffee at this mysterious looking hotel at Urael, the ‘Ceramic Capital of Addis Ababa’. So I went straight to the parking lot and into the 5-Star hotel I entered. Passing outside of this hotel can be mistaken for your average road side hotel until you enter and get a feel of the Capital Hotel and Spa.

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The reception is very expansive and can be overwhelmingly welcoming as you walk in. So I went upstairs to the first floor and as I went up the stairs what I really appreciated about the place is the peace and silence that it offers. It is the best definition of a haven of peace. I sat down at the counter and got my laptop out of my Urban Phunk Leather Bag to do check out some emails. The bartender approached me and asked me what I wanted to have. I asked her to recommend something that would aid my ailing stomach. She did so in a few minutes and what I was served was the best special tea I had taken while in Abyssinia. I can confidently say that my stomach felt much better not so long after.

A few minutes into using my laptop, I came across the Executive Sales and Marketing Director, Mr. Wegene and I requested to be shown around the hotel of which he assigned me to Ms. Liya Mariam, a brilliant lady who’s also a Computer Science graduate from Mekelle, a city to the North of Ethiopia close to the Eritrean border.

We started off with the conference rooms which are named after African Icons and African water bodies such as Nelson Mandela, Wangari Maathai, Afework Tekle, OMO and the Great River Nile. Depending on the style, they can hold a capacity of as few as 12 people up to a maximum number of 700 people and are all fitted with a pre-function area, super fast & reliable Wi-Fi, a business center and translation booth options.

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Then we went to the rooms, the place has an impressive 114 rooms which are all fitted with a Bathtub and Jacuzzi, A Bathrobe & Slippers, Direct Dial Telephone, Mini-bar (YES IT COMES WITH THE PACKAGE), TV, Wi-Fi, Free Gym facilities (outside of the room). The facilities are all the same whether you are in the suite or the usual standard room. Only key difference is the size and in the Presidential Suite, you get to have your own living-room. I call that the Capital Experience!

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Next were the dining areas and bars which were very classy and cool. The main restaurant dining can hold up to 140 people, the Gallery Bar on the mezzanine floor accommodates 30-45 people, and the highlight of the bars is the Sky Line Lounge and Bar with a capacity to hold 70 people located on the 9th floor (top most floor) overlooking Urael on the left and Hayahulet to the right, an absolutely breath-taking experience. But sorry folks, don’t leave work too early or Bole International Airport in a hurry to come and have a drink. The Sky Line Lounge is only open from 4.00pm – 11.00pm. Happy hour is from 2.00pm – 5.30pm at a 30% discount only applicable to the pool bar and gallery bar. And for those of you with a sweet tooth and a love for pastries, then look no further than City Stop Pastry.  The baker recommends you to try the Chocolate & Caramel cakes next time you want to stop by. The prices are also quite reasonable for a place of its stature. A slice of cake for $1.5 & a Kilogram for $14 is quite a good deal. So next time you want to treat that special girl at a classy place the Capital City Stop Pastry has got you covered.

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Last but not least, I was led to my favorite amenity in every hotel that I visit. The gym and spa. The gym is truly state of the art, fully equipped and very spacious (100 square meters to be exact) and you don’t need to worry about your safety or if your gym partner is going to drop their weights on you like a gym I used to attend way back in the day LOL. No doubt, it’s one of the best gyms I have ever stepped into. For a more detailed explanation of the gym and the different equipment that are available, you can check out it out right here  and also for group fitness.And if you like swimming, then the Capital Swim is definitely for you. If you’re looking to exercise or just relax, you will be glad to find out that the outdoor pool is heated so you will have every reason to go out for a swim while you stay at Capital Hotel.

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Then we concluded with a tour of the men’s spa. The first thing that strikes you is the sculpture just at the entrance of the spa that looks like a 15th Century Michelangelo sculpture, very legit, and the paintings on the walls make Leonardo Da Vinci come alive in the place. I felt like I had been transported to a totally different dimension. The heat from the sauna and steam bath could have you thinking someone dropped you right in the middle of Timbuktu but nonetheless the relaxation mood is set just right for what you need when you want to take a break from the busyness of Addis Ababa. And then as you keep going in you realize that Capital Hotel doesn’t just boast of having the biggest spa in town but also the best. The Jacuzzi is elevated with just the proper lighting and tons of beds to relax on once you’ve had enough of the Capital Spa Experience. You can also experience different kinds of Massages, Moroccan bath, Vitamin court, Barber shop and Beauty salon for the ladies.

Have you visited Capital Hotel & Spa before? What did you feel stood out the most for you? Please leave your comments below and remember to click on the share button of your favorite social media platform.

4 Things You Will Not Like About Ethiopia

1. TELECOMMUNICATION

Telecommunication is generally expensive in Ethiopia and can be very unreliable at times. Part of the reason is because it is not privatized and there is only one player in the whole country. Coming from a country where telecommunication is privatized and is much cheaper, that stood as a great challenge for me. I mean, we are supposed to be connected around the clock and not only get online when we feel like we are missing out. Anyway, I don’t know about you but when I am back in my country, my mobile data stays on all day, all night. When you are in the land of the Queen of Sheba, forget about streaming your favorite music videos and movies using your mobile data. If you need to use unlimited internet, I would recommend you to visit some of the hotels around Edna Mall in Bole. Most of them have affordable coffee and other drinks which gives you access to unlimited WI-FI. I will be letting you know which hotels I recommend for high speed interrupted internet connectivity.

2. LANGUAGE BARRIER

In my first blog article when I was explaining how I made it from Nairobi to Addis Ababa using a bus, I clearly explained how difficult it was to understand what was written on the bus tickets that we had just purchased at the Moyale bus stop (Ethiopian side) and also how it was difficult for us to communicate to anyone in English. It’s not surprising to find out that communicating in English to most people in Addis Ababa can also be quite challenging and frustrating especially if you have no local showing you around and is fluent in both Amharic and English. This is especially true for Ethiopians working in the informal sector but at least in most professional settings and hotels, this becomes less of a challenge. I will be sharing the basics of Amharic so stay tuned!

3. STRICT BUSINESS LAWS

If you’re a foreigner and have ever tried importing goods into Ethiopia, well you’re not alone. Doing business in this African country can be quite challenging especially if you are not well connected or are doing it for the very first time. I will not get into the details of the challenges that I encountered right now but I will write a full article about why I decided to import goods to Ethiopia business and ended up waiting for them to be cleared for 41 days. I will also let you know how you can avoid the mistakes I made as well as why you should move your manufacturing business to Ethiopia.  After all is said and done, Ethiopia is an African country with so many business opportunities that are unexplored and untapped.

4. POVERTY

Being in Ethiopia for 41 days sure did expose me to a lot of things some of which includes the high levels of poverty and homelessness in Addis Ababa. Most of the places you visit, you find beggars and street families even in neighborhoods that are considered rich such as Bole. At least some of them have decided to take matters into their own hands and you find young girls and boys selling chewing gum referred to as Mastika. Buying the chewing gums from them at least makes sure that they are able to get a meal and not sleep hungry. I really applaud them for that and what you realize is that they do have selling skills. Something an unsuccessful salesman can learn from. They do not take no for an answer and can persuade you to buy from them even when you hadn’t planned to. I call it selling salt to a slug. Another negative effect that poverty has is the high level of prostitution on the streets. Go out to one of the clubs on a weekend around Bole and you will understand why Addis Ababa is referred to as the ‘Bangkok of Africa’.  The high levels of poverty have forced many young women and girls to go out onto the streets and look for a way to survive. It’s probably not their fault or their choice but with very few job opportunities and low wages, this has turned out to be the only alternative to survive instead of wallowing in poverty and starvation.

These are my top 4 things I do not like about Ethiopia. Have you experienced the same in Ethiopia or Africa? If the answer is yes, please share below.

 

My Most Memorable Moment In Ethiopia

Unlike other foreigners who have probably had wild and crazy experiences in Ethiopia and other African countries, mine was quite a funny one that actually brought back fond childhood memories. The day was September 11th 2016, the first day of the Ethiopian new year, Meskrem 1 2009.

The following day was eid ul adha and so my good friend who also happened to be my host told me that later on in the day we would have to go for shopping in preparation for the Muslim holiday.

I was excited knowing that we were going to the mall to buy pleasantries and join hundreds of other Ethiopians on the same mission as we were.

So we got into the car together with his elder brother and an employee of theirs. We drove from Tor Hayloch to a place called Addisu Gebya and there we found very many cars lined up, actually on the same mission as were, ‘shopping’.

We all got out of the car and headed to the market. I asked my friend what we were going to buy and he said a bull for the holiday and advised me not to speak English while we were there or the prices would sky rocket.

On our way to the market, sheep and other bulls that had been sold or waiting to be sold were being looked after by their owners for the very last time before they eventually would end up as delicious meals for the holiday. Just as we were about to get in we encountered a bull that had just been purchased but it wasn’t going to get into the back of the pick-up truck without putting up a good fight. So there it was refusing to move at all, and men trying to push it from all sides looking like the Charging Bull of New York. The path that we were walking on was very narrow and there was a wall right behind us and the bull right in front of us. If it had charged on us then we would have had nowhere to run to.

We were able to pass the ‘charging bull’ and boy wasn’t I relieved thinking that I had had enough bull drama for the day and as the old saying goes, out of the frying pan and into the fire. We got into a yard that  was full of bulls probably upwards of 500 some of which had really huge horns that would only make a young man from the city imagine the worst. Holy Cow! I was in bull haven and for a split second it took me back to the Lion King scene where Simba was caught up in between thousands of wildebeests and Mufasa came to his rescue, God bless his departed soul. In this instance, at least I was much taller than both Simba and Mufasa were at the time.

Another childhood memory it brought back was when I was around 9 years old when I had visited my grandmother in the Kenyan highlands at the slopes of Mt. Kenya, the 2nd highest mountain in Africa after Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, at a place known as Kirinyaga. One of the workers was touching the adder of a cow that was grazing in the compound and I thought to myself, why not do the same? Only for the cow to start chasing me and after running for a few feet I tripped and fell down. I lay there knowing that it was the end of the road for me. After a few seconds I looked up wondering where the cow had gone to and to my amazement, the worker had held it back. I remember my aunt after hearing what had happened exclaimed, ‘You wanted us to find you on top of the tree!’ She was trying to be funny and at the same time concerned.

So back to the yard full of bulls. We walked around the yard looking for the perfect bull to buy while still trying to be cost effective. The ground was very messy with a combination of mud, hay and you guessed it right, bull $#!t. It was not a walk in the park. Actually for most of the time, we were constantly trying to stay away from the bulls that seemed to be aggressive or that were being led out of the yard. Luckily one of us had a stick and all you have to do to keep the bulls away from injuring you is to strike them on their horns. After a while I actually found out that the bulls were much more frightened by us than we were frightened by them. You realize that we human beings are actually very superior for us to be able to put these strong creatures under control. I stood much taller and confident and even tried scaring off any bull that came our way with my bare arm and it actually worked. But I still had to watch my back every often for any charging bulls.

We kept on shopping around for the perfect bull until I got excited and pulled out my camera to capture this rare moment in my life. I had taken a few photos and even asked my friend to take me some, only for my friend to inform me that they had settled for a good price for one of the bulls but after seeing me taking photos and being sure that I was not Ethiopian, he increased the price by $250. That came in as a huge blow for us and I decided to play it cool and act like I have a farm full of bulls in my back yard. It turned out that word spread around fast that I was a foreigner and almost every broker had been alerted, making it very difficult for us to get the kind of bull that we wanted at a fair price. We eventually decided that we would buy meat from the local butcher instead having realized that the work that would be put into transporting the bull and slaughtering it would drain our energy the following day rather than using the time to rest.

What was your most memorable moment in Ethiopia or any other African country? Please share below so that others can hear to your story too.