It can be a bit tricky finding your way around Addis.
In this city of four million people, only major roads have official names – Bole, Churchill, Ring Road, Victory. Smaller roads are known by landmarks, and are not signposted. There is no street signage anywhere in our neighborhood of Lebu, nor are there building numbers.
Friends of ours who have been here awhile say it was only seven or eight years ago that street signs began to appear. Until then, for the most part even large boulevards were known by informal names like “Flesh Alley” (a double entendre) and “Confusion Square” (haha). Then the African Union came to Addis, and the government decided to honor the members of the Union by naming streets after the countries of Africa. Now those roads are signposted but your average person – including the taxi drivers – only know them by their old names (our school is on Mauritania Road, used to be Euphoria Road).
Why not get a map? Because there aren’t any. At least no good ones. The Ethiopian government‘s security concerns make it wary of publicizing the location of anything. Official maps have to be purchased through the Ethiopian Mapping Authority, a government office with limited public access. When even those maps can’t keep up with the building boom, unofficial maps geared to tourists are incomplete to say the least.
Several of the Varnero faranji realized that we would have to produce our own maps to figure out how to get to and from school, should any of us ever manage to complete the trifecta of car, license, and registration. Our hand-drawn efforts are unlovely but at least somewhat accurate.
Here is an example of directions a friend gave us to get to her house:
Take the road opposite Dembel Center on Bole – go straight past Deluxe Furniture shop – past Champions Bar – past Admas College. At the T junction turn left where it’s signposted in orange to Destiny Hotel. See big school on your left (Ejera? school) and a telecom pylon tower ahead. Keep to right of pylon tower and you’ll see a yellow sign advertising an employment agency and a souk / small grocery shop ahead. You’ll also see a big black gate on the corner to the right of the fruit stand / shop. Go right onto that wide cobbled road, then first left onto very narrow muddy dirt road (about 200 – 300 m down the cobbled road). You’ll see a big beige building ahead on your right. At the end of that short muddy road turn right, and our gate is immediately there on left. We are a 2 minute walk from the big elementary school, so call if you need us! [note: we did call, twice]