Africa's Largest Market at Addis Ababa

The merkato is something not to be missed, though after being there, I think it's much more for locals than for tourists.  You can find anything.  My husband went there in search of a camera battery.  The locals shop for their daily food.  It covers miles and employs thousands of people.  Anywhere there's an empty spot on the pavement, you'll find a vendor hawking something.  And it doesn't seem to matter that there are dozens of the same identical products just beside a vendor. You would think they could co-op and have some time off while making more money, but who am I to question a market that has been doing this for decades?
a lady mixing spices

and right beside her is another woman with the same ingredients

It is loosely divided into sectors of goods, though it is sprawling.  I was in search of coffee and sticks used to clean your teeth in Africa.  My husband grew up with them and in spite of using an electronic toothbrush, he believes they do a great job of whitening and removing plaque.  He asked the wife of his business partner to take me there so we had a ladies morning out. We found coffee almost immediately, but what I hadn't counted on was that the beans are not roasted.  They are divided by regions so you know the type of coffee you're getting.  Ethiopia is the home of coffee, and they export huge quantities.  This coffee is more what the locals buy to roast and prepare in their home and for coffee ceremonies.  Rather than try to roast at home, I ended up buying a few roasted, ground bags at our hotel.
coffee beans
It would be fun to walk around unnoticed at the market, but it's impossible when you're a white person.  I stood out and it made it difficult to enjoy just looking.  Everyone wants to sell you something and they are persistent.  If you find something you want to purchase, you're expected to barter.  I'm not good at that so it was nice to have a companion willing to translate and get the best prices.  We found some great looking spices and a multitude of other goods.
a variety of spices used in preparing meat and vegetables

baskets used for injeera

Industrial sized pots
Though this market is every day, there are some markets that only happen weekly.  Once you do your purchasing, it's a daunting task to get your stuff home with you in a country where few people own vehicles.  There were donkeys, scooters, taxis, and sometimes just ingenuity and a strong head.
heavy bundles on neck and head

strapping goods on the taxi roof

I was wondering how heavy those would be if they were full
If you want fresh meat, you visit a butcher who will cut the piece of meat you need and put it in a small plastic bag.  If he doesn't have what you need, he finds the goat, chicken, or whatever and kills it to order.
I eventually found the sticks my husband had requested.  You could get a handful for about $1, but there were so many choices.  What type of wood?  Any particular cut?  It was all here on trays like a cigar vendor brought to your car window. My friend picked out what she thought would be good and paid cash.
Though much of this market is still in open air stalls, the government is fast replacing this area with buildings and regulation.  Maybe it's for the better good, but it will be sad to lose the character of the place.  If you decide to go, bring cash and plan on several hours to see a big chunk of it. I doubt anyone sees it all in one day.


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