There is nothing particularly exciting about this blog entry, but perhaps it will give you some sense of what Mekelle is like on a day to day basis. It is about 5:00 in the afternoon. Let’s take a stroll. We are still staying in the Axum Hotel while we await the final negotiations on our long-term residence. As we stroll out of the parking lot of the Axum Hotel, the first thing we see is a giant sign for tuxedo rentals. The Axum Hotel is a favorite location for weddings and social events, so perhaps this makes sense. All of the dignitaries in Mekelle come here at some time or another.
If you look closely at the advertisement, it appears to be suggesting that Barack Obama has been a customer, which I doubt. Jackie Chan? Perhaps.
Turning to the right, we stroll down a rather broken and cluttered pavement which winds its way in front of apartment buildings and ground floor shops and businesses. There are an abundance of coffee shops, pool halls, internet cafes, small “mom and pop” convenience stores, as well as larger, more impressive businesses.
There is plenty of construction in Mekelle. Almost every street you pass seems to have a new building going up somewhere. There must be two dozen new hotels under construction, as well as countless private houses. Much of the money seems to be coming from “The Ethiopian Diaspora,” often businessmen working in the United States who are sending money home as an investment or who are building their homes for future retirement.
Traffic is much less congested than In Addis Ababa. On this stroll, the light is starting to drop a little bit. It is cool–shirt-sleeves weather–and not at all unpleasant. There is a gentle breeze blowing down the street and the air is clean and pleasant–not filled with exhaust fumes, trash or the odiferous smells that can overwhelm you in some African cities. it seems almost pastoral…
As we walk further down the hill, the buildings begin to get a little more impressive, but if you glance to the side down the side-streets, the neighborhoods are quiet and uncongested.
There are a surprising number of pool halls down here (I think I counted five on this walk). Most of them are located in a one-room storefront with a single pool table inside.
Plenty of small shops, businesses, commercial ventures and restaurants can be found side by down down the street.
There is an abundance of restaurants, “watering holes,” and cafes scattered along the road.