Four Days in Addis.

A  seven hour flight on Ethiopian Airlines. I am here in Addis for four days. It’s MONDAY..

Meseret meets me at the airport. Meseret iis my friend from  The ECA.

The first thing to  do is check in at The Hilton and take this picture from my room.

And then  to visit and pay respect to The Pankhurst family.  Professor Rita Pankhurst,  Helen Pankhurst and Alula Pankhurst. Here is Helen and Alula.
The Hilton Hotel is a great place to meet intelligent people.  This is Rebecca Araya. She’s  General Manager at The America Chamber of Commerce in Ethiopia.

TUESDAY it’s Easter celebrations. I spent the day with family. As it should be. It was all about food, food, food.  And it was beautiful. The day started at 10.30am with a tradition that goes back a long long way.  The man to my right is the number one vetinary surgeon in Ethiopia. He is family.  The man to my left is the state minister for finance. It was an honour to spend time with them. Melkam Fasika.

  TUESDAY 9AM I meet Aida Muluneh  the most famous living photographer in Ethiopia.
She is  Sony World Potography Award Judge, Director of Addis Photofest and Curator of the next Dakar Biennale. She has four exhibitions opening in France. And others in US.
On reflection I prefer  this picture.  Aida and I are determined to work together. I am honoured that she allowed her  photograoh (of me) to be printed in my book.
In the afternoon at a Dashenl restaurant  in Addis my friend Aster Zaoude  threw a welcome party for me. At this  table from left to right  Mr and Mrs Tadesse, Bernie, Anna, Marcos (ICEADDIS) , and Sally Duncan.  They are all some kind of amazing.
The picture below  is everyone. Thankyou Dashen restaurant. Here there is a supermodel, doctors, lawyers, singers, academics and a princess.

Most of all thankyou Aster Zaoude. Thankyou for everyting. Aster is the cool woman on my right. On my left is Anna Getaneh.  I’ll tell you more about  Anna later.
TUESDAY:  I am guest of honour at The Queens Birthday Partyat The British Embassy. We are  celebrating the strong relationship between Ethiopia and Britain.  There are hundreds of dignitaries dressed in all their finery.


The speech by ambassador Sussanna Moorehead has me in awe.  Before inviting me on stage (to speak) she says “we have a surprise for you Lemn” and The Scots Royal Guards who were stood behind me stepped forwrard and  played Amazing Grace on the bagpipes.  If you have heard Desert Island Discs you will know what this meant to me. I  wept.

Public tears. Very unbritish.Very unethiopian. Then I walked to the podium and spoke.

And thenI spoke some more. In my speechI  link the Queens Birthday with the nature of family. And the nature of family with Ethiopian and British relations.

It is difficult to explain how much it means to be guest of honor at The British Embassy in Addis Ababa.  I dedicate my speech  to Rita Pankhurst and her late husband Professor Richard Pankhurst.

The Ethiopian singer Munit Mesfin was at The Embassy too. Hear her beautiful music.

It was a pleasure to meet Dr  Eleni Zaude Gabre-Madhin. Eleni is an Ethiopian economist and a former Chief Executive Officer of the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX).

WEDNESDAY 9AM.  I had the honour of an audience with The President of Addis Ababa University Professor . Admasu Tsegaye.He also invited Professor Tassew Woldehanna, President of research and technology Transfer and Professor Bekele Gutema of The Department of Philosophy and Director of Graduate Programs

At 10am I am whisked off to meet  Peter Brown. He is the new head of The British Council Ethiopia. It is a kind coincidence that Peter was at The  Ugandan British Council from where he brokered  The Equity and Merit scholarship scheme with University of Manchester.
There were a couple of lessons going on inside The British Council so I popped in for an improptu chat with the students
and another class asked for a pic outside. I’m always happy for  a photo.
Then at 2pm back at the hotel it was my first time to sim in naturally heated spring water.

But as I exit the pool a reporter called Dawit called in  from The reporter

Meanwhile  my friend Anna Chojnicka was in Captial newspaper talking of her NGO –   Reach for Change. It is  99 percent Ethiopiain workers. it is a good place. A good NGO.

Then for a meal at Yehsi’s house. I coud feel the passages of timein her home.


Yeshi owns  Tila which is a beautiful gym and spar.  Yeshi is really close to my family.

Back at The Hilton hotel I meet the Ethiopians who came to my Uganda event a month ago. . They gave me the picture below which was taken in Kampala.
Talking of gifts.  This next one is precious too. It was given to me today by a princess of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie. The princess  heard me talking  of  the tatoo of a cross on my hand.  I did it myself with Indian ink when I was 14. I did not know I was Ethiopian.  A  generation of Ethiopian women tatoo themselves too. Today I received this.

This is Selam. She manages  Tila. Yeshi is her aunt.

THURSDAY: I’m leaving today. I’ve done many more things than in this blog.  while I have been here. I met professor Abebe Zegeye to discuss astronomy developments in unviersities in Ehiopia. I met Architect  Fasil Giorghis an expert in Urban Planning  Below is Bewketu Seyoum. He is the most famous living young writer in Ethiopia.  He is an academic an his readers are the entire country.

Below is Ephrem Seyoum. He has  translated thirty of  my poems into Amharic.

I also met the pilot Yonas MeKcuria . He fought hijackers then landed this plane.

He is a national hero and I am making a BBC radio Documentary with him. he called up to my room at 7am  having flown in from Bejing this morning..

“Each time I fly I whisper to the engines.   I become one with the plane.” He is everything you would imagine a true pilot to be.  It is an inspiring  meeting with a magnificent man”.  At 2pm I meet another incredible. The supermodel philanthropist Anna Getaneh.
I had the leasure of visiting her  new store  – African Mosaique. It’s beautiful.

And so  it is time to check out of The Hilton Hotel (Thankyou Ethiopia Alfred. ) and drive to the airport

And then to fly  through the night & land at Heathrow early on Friday Morning.

I am booked to give a talk to a series of American CEO’s from The texas Chapter of The Young Presidents Organisation . On Friday morning they  had an arts tour of east London.  So I get home and  cycle to my friends new studio in Shoreditch which is round the corner from the venue of the talk I am to deliver..

Me and Stik are friends. His studio roks. We laugh.  “if a tree falls in the forest and nobody blogs then did it fall” he says. I wave goodbye and cycle onwards to The Tramshed (the venue)   in Shoreditch.   This is what I see when I enter.

It  is an artwork by Damian Hirst.The Texas Chapter of The Young Presidents Organisation  are in the  lower floor of Tramshed . So I walk downstairs  and  I speak of art and poetry and my life story.  It links to my time in Ethiopia. It links to my show at the royal court in a weeks timeon 30th April. It links to the heart and the head and to them. And to now.

And then I say.  “what if I told you that artist  STIK whose work you’ve seen this morning was here. Now?”  And stik walks in from the back of the room.

He enthrals them with an impassioned talk and then he’s gone. I finish on my story and then I too am gone. I must apologise because the event went overtime by at least an hour.
SATURDAY: I have been in England less than 24 hours and this article comes out in Ethiopia.

There’s more

And finaly a little more

So that’s my four days in Addis finishing off with two days in London. Are  friends  the famiy you make? I’vespent my life denying that they are. But maybe it’s true. Maybe friends are the family you make and that includes friends inside the family you have. Making friends is good. Keeping them is even better.  I returned to England with a refreshed confidence of one who knows he is loved.

26 thoughts on “Four Days in Addis.

  1. Thanks Lemn, really enjoyed reading this. Sounds as though you have had an amazing trip. I loved the newspaper article and felt a tear at the bagpipe reference ( I’m Scottish by birth!). So looking forward to seeing you in the Report next week – and as promised my ticket is yours afterwards. It’s been a little surreal seeing it stuck to my fridge at home – and on your FB page. Have a good week. X

  2. After that day on EBS HELEN SHOW interview, I always follow your thoughts. When Christmas comes, I remember also LEMIN who went to meet his mother and brothers unfortunatly ends with tragic. I burst in to tears, because I know what lonelyness mean. Now, all come in order……
    Keep the good deed.
    Tesfaye (Uni. of Bristol)

  3. Oh! God, lemn; I can tell you how much I enjoyed your stay in Addis. I was captivated. Enjoyed the memories of Easter. Shade tears where you did. All in all was real fun. Keep on keeping.

  4. I truly enjoyed reading your photo blog and captions. Wishing you all the best in your future endeavors! I especially appreciate your effort to establish a link between the University of Manchester and Ethiopian students. Such a big university with huge resources in many fields of study relevant to Ethiopian young aspiring academic and professionals is less known by many. I wish your effort can come to fruition and I’ll be happy to contribute my part as a current student of the uni and future alumni.

  5. I hand family, and I have friends. I love them both. My friends have chosen to add me th their lives because there is something they see in me that they value. I choose them to be in my life because I admire and value their choices about how to be in the world. Potentially more influential to the best we can be than family? A world with friends is not a poor one x

  6. Wow Lemn I loved your blog. What a journey you have travelled since the first time met you at Bit like where you helped Harry and I get our luggage to our chalet.
    We are very proud of what you have become. Harry saw greatness in you as a child in school. However you have surpassed his expectations. This luck and got speed in all you

  7. What a great time for you especially in the lead up to hearing the report next weekend. It sounds as though there’s much in those 4 days to draw on, both with happy memories and building a rootedness to sustain you. Thanks for sharing Lemn.

  8. What an incredible week! Full of people who inspire and change the world for the better, like you bro. One week to go and amazing grace sings in my ears. Brought tears to my eyes, especially the golden cross. ✨
    Have a joyful Sunday!

  9. I went through all your posts and short descriptions of your stay in Ethiopia, i love them. It looks you almost met all best Ethiopians in their fields, it’s amazing. I hope you had wonderful time. Keep it up Lemin.

  10. Glad you have a joyful week and memorable Easter, with all the traditions and experiences . You have met some of the brilliant people, such as Yonas Mekuria and Eleni Ghebremedhin , my heros and inspirations. So much untold stories of amazing and brilliant people in that part of the world, thanks for mentioning their names and wonderful work they do. Your desire for collaboration between University of Man and University of Addis is admirable. I hope with this trip you have refilled your energy and strength, which you will need for your upcoming event, the Report. Bravery is in your Gene. Use it all. You will need it. You take good, good care of yourself. Good Luck.
    Stay Healthy!!


  11. Loved meeting your crowd! I remember when the Hilton opened and the “trees” were 4 feet tall around the pool. Aster looks like she was the hostess of the year! How fun and amazing.

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