In this episode, I’m crashing a few weddings in Ethiopia. Weddings seem to be a huge deal in Ethiopia. If a wedding is happening, you’ll know, because there’s deafeningly loud music, dancing on the streets, and once in a while, videographers filming couples in moving vehicles like a music video. I don’t know if it’s a seasonal thing, but there seemed to be quite a lot of weddings happening during my stay.
I crashed quite a few weddings and parties, because Ethiopians are very hospitable and inviting. Here are some that stand out. In the first one which happened in Mekelle, I got pulled into it just by virtue of being curious. The music, however, is deafeningly loud. I actually carry clear little earplugs with me at all times for situations like this, and I had to break them out. If you go to an Ethiopian wedding and value your hearing, bring earplugs.
Now, the best wedding I crashed was out in a village near Hawzen, in the Tigray region, where I went to do some climbing and cave churches. The climbing guide I was training took me there. It’s an all-day or possibly multi-day affair even. I did my best to integrate and pulled out all stops – magic tricks for the kids, dancing, and gulping down the local homebrew and food. I’m sure a few tourists come out to these weddings, but I can tell by the stares that it doesn’t happen that often.
So… about that homebrew. It looks terrible and murky, but it actually tastes OK. That being said, I wouldn’t call it the safest drink because it’s pretty weak in alcohol, and there are several pieces of hay in it. I drank a cup, but if I had my water purification drops, I totally would have mixed it in.
The food may also be a risk for some travellers. It’s injera mixed with mitmita-heavy gravy. Mitmita, as you may recall, is the hot spice that I got sick of in the raw meat party episode. The celebration and dancing go late into the night, but it’s time for me to go and to move onto another party crash.
The final party I crashed wasn’t a wedding, but a celebration for a small park opening in Addis Ababa. I act as a curious onlooker, and kind of like the wedding, I’m able to sneak my way into the festivities. Next, celebrities and media show up, so it seems to be a pretty big affair.
Then I notice food is going to be served, but like many things in Ethiopia, it would probably take a while before they started serving. Fortunately, curiosity keeps me around until its dark, and that’s when the live classical music begins. I have to kill a little time by dancing a bit across the fountains, but security doesn’t seem to like it, and they rough me up a bit.
I can’t tell you how rare this party is. It’s extremely extravagant by Ethiopian standards. In fact, my friends who live in Addis Ababa told me they’ve never encountered a party like that. However, what’s kind of strange is that the newly opened underpass park was closed the day after, the fountains were shut off, and it was guarded by security for several months after before finally opening as a cafe. That’s Ethiopian bureaucracy for you.