Nightlife during AU summits
As Addis Ababa hosted the 29th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union this week, hundreds of delegates verged into the capital. The delegates were able to enjoy a rare hospitality coupled with near-perfect weather within the city.
It was not just the lofty ideals on peace and prosperity that was being discussed in the halls of power at the headquarters of AU, but the nightlife that was a hot topic of discussion. Addis was capturing the pockets and the hearts of delegates, excited to spend resources to have the most of their visit in the busy and crowded capital.
There also seemed to be a universal sentiment the city had ample choices for visitors to enjoy and appreciate. To some delegates, many of these goodies and privileges came at an exaggerated price, as a number of delegates complained to The Reporter. “The taxis are expensive in Ethiopia,” one delegate complained to The Reporter as he entered Ramada Addis. “I was charged USD 25 to come from my hotel at Ghion to Ramada. Is that how much you pay,” he demanded to know.
Another delegate complained about losing his cell phone the night before, as he attempted to have cheap drinks around the Stadium area in the wee hours of the night. “But it was my fault; I had consumed your beer to the fullest and I met lots of beautiful people.”
Brand-name hotels such as Hilton, Ramada and Sheraton saw brisk business and full house as the shantytown and ordinary pubs and those in between, saw lukewarm success in luring visiting customers. With cheap beer and adolescent girls helping lure customers, the area known as Chechnya near Atlas Hotel became the after-hour destination for most. There were many go-between entrepreneurs looking to help them exchange US dollars to birr.
There were many delegates looking to get favorable rates in the open. “I have changed more than USD 400 in the black market in one night and spent it all,” one delegate said, as he entered a pub known for attractive women. “I love Ethiopia; I never knew I could enjoy it as much as I am doing now. There are too many beautiful Ethiopian women everywhere,” he pointed out.
“This is no ordinary week for us, and we can go on as late as our customers want,” a businesswoman told The Reporter. “The girls are making money, they are being showered with gifts and money and I am selling and charging what I want as my patrons do not care about money,” she added as delegates danced and mimicked Ethiopian dance moves.
As the capital continues to attract conferences, regional or international, more specifically the gatherings associated with the African Union, these gatherings are a milestone for local entrepreneurs, an easy way to make money for many. Many are using the opportunity to take advantage of delegates with little information bringing no fixed prices on goods and services in the city.
“Many just pay what we ask, they do not negotiate,” a bar owner told The Reporter. “Many entrepreneurs seem to have two sets of prices – foreigners and local prices and that seems to be a problem most of the time.”
The many delegates that The Reporter spoke to seem to enjoy the city fully and appreciate the many choices they have in their disposal. However, as many learn the way of life in Addis, perhaps the black market exchange that was offered to them, the negotiation they could have taken advantage of, many feel overcharged and shortchanged, according to a translator, driver contracted by the AU.
“We try to warn them, teach them the basics, but they are too overwhelmed and excited to be preached, but only learn from their own mistakes,” the veteran driver said. “Local beers, night clubs and women, are what they want, and they seem to master Amharic words for us to understand them. I have seen prostitutes demand to be paid in US dollars, in prices that are extremely expensive, taking advantage of vulnerable gullible foreigners,” he said.
“With no translator and little knowledge of the value of things we want to enjoy, Addis is a beautiful city but there are too many trappings along the way,” a delegate protested to The Reporter. “But, I can’t deny, I have enjoyed visiting this beautiful city”.