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PORTRAITS OF ADDIS ABABA

The Ethiopian capital is changing fast. We went in search of the people who are forging the city’s future
LEAP OF FAITH: A member of Ethiopia Skate, a grassroots community working to promote the accessibility of skateboarding in Addis

The old man in a dapper jacket and sunglasses watches the skaters doing kickflips off the metrehigh wall and racing off down the hill. “When I was young,” he says, “I used to do this same thing with my friends. Back then, though, there were no buildings here. There were no tarmac roads and that hill was just a grassy slope. We didn’t have these skateboards either. Instead we took the thorns off cactuses and slid down the hill on the cactus leaves.”

I am in Addis Ababa, the booming capital of Ethiopia, hanging out with a small group of local skateboarders. Their presence is testimony to how much this city has changed in the nearly quarter of a century since the Derg, a brutal junta, fell from power. I first travelled to Addis in 1993, less than two years after its collapse. Back then the city was desperately poor and underdeveloped. Since those first glimpses I have returned often and seen the city expand and mature beyond all recognition. The current building frenzy is so overwhelming that parts of the city are barely recognisable from my previous visit two years ago. With Addis transforming so fast it is time to sit down with some locals and get them to paint a portrait of a city likely to shape East Africa for years to come.

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About Travel Africa

50 Secrets about Botswana • Riding in the Pearl of Africa • Walking with camels in northern Kenya • Diving Lake Malawi • Portraits of Addis Ababa • Tanzania's Lake Natron • Lions in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park • Namibia's Etosha National Park • South Africa's wild flower route in spring... and much more!
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