The Merkato

I recall Anthony Bourdain saying that the first place a person should go when arriving into a new town is the local market. It is in the market that you get a feel for the people. Addis Ababa is home to the Merkato, Africa’s largest open air market. It was one of two things I told myself I must do before leaving Addis this time. The other is to check out the night life. I meant to see the merkato my first time through in 2007 but I ended up passing on it.

Before leaving I had been warned by fellow blogger Adrienne-is that the merkato was nothing special and that she didn’t care for it. I told her that I’ll go ahead and see for myself and let her know. Well, after spending the morning wandering through its many streets of import knock-offs, textiles, spices and animal carcasses, I decided for myself that this could have been skipped once again and I wouldn’t have missed much. The merkato is a mess of people and very uninteresting in terms of a market. The size is about the only thing it has. I’ve been more impressed with the souqs of Marrakesh, which may not be as big as the merkato but pack a much greater cultural punch.

After about 2 hours I was spent from the dust, dirt and odor of Addis Ababa’s heart. I didn’t carry much with me since I’ve been warned of pick pockets and scammers in the merkato. I did bring my camera but was reluctant to take it out for fear of drawing attention. It was bad enough having to say no to thank you to every self employed tour guide in the market.