Ethiopia’s mediocre service providing industry

Dear Editor,

The article on the poor quality of service in Addis is right on. (Inside Ethiopia’s service providing sector, Dec. 2012).  As an expat recently arrived here I went to a local restaurant. After waiting for 15 minutes while the service staff ignored me I left.  Finally I figured out what to do. When you go into a restaurant go immediately to the counter where they keep the menus. Pick up a menu, decide what you want and find a waitperson. Tell that person what you want and where you will sit. Go sit down and about 15-20 minutes later your food will arrive. Not all in one piece, but little by little and may be without a napkin or eating utensil.  Finally when it comes time to leave there will not be a check. Go to the cashier and tell her what you ordered. Be sure to pay the exact amount as change might not be available. 

This system works. It just takes some getting used to. The waiters are not rude, just untrained.  The best bet is to go to small places and get to know the people there. What is particularly irritating to me is the additional 20% charge for tax and service.

John Martin

Addis Ababa
 Robbery at Bole International airport?

Dear Editor,

In mat 2012, I was in Addis for work, and previously having seen the amazing detailcontained in the local metal crosses I decided to travel two days earlier to findthe crosses that I wanted before my meetings started.

After paying out of my own pocket for an early flight and two nights hotel accommodation I found the crosses. I found two crosses each about 75 cm high and free standing metal crosses that were silver in color. I then attended my meeting sand a week later departed from Addis.

When I got to the airport I went through security and was about to leave for the flight check in desk when a security guard approached me and asked if I was carrying crosses. I told him I was carrying crosses. He then asked to see them so I unlocked and unpacked my luggage and gave him the crosses, he then looked at the crosses and asked me where I bought them, I told him I had bought them at the market by the postoffice in Addis. But he said they were old Ethiopian Silver and that he was confiscating them. I asked him how it was possible to buy these items at a tourist market and then for them to be confiscated at the airport?

The only answer he gave was there was nothing he could do and I would not get any type of refund. I asked him if  I could at least take a picture of the crosses. He refused but I asked him for a receipt he gave me one. But for what? I am deeply traumatized by this incident especially as I discovered that the very same crosses are being sold at the Duty Free Shop in Bole Airport.

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I borrowed money from afriend and wanted to buy the crosses at the Duty Free shop, but before I did that, I asked the airport security if they would allow me through with the crosses they replied “buy them first and we will see”. I decided not to buy the crosses.

My trauma was made worse when I discovered that a white American female friend of mine who had bought crosses with me was allowed through security two days later after showing her ICASA badge.

My questions are:

1. Why does the local government allow the crosses to be sold freely in the market and then confiscate them at the airport from tourists?

2.  Why is there no notice at the market advising tourists about the “fact” that crosses will be confiscated at the airport?

3.  Why are the very same crosses available for sale in the duty free shop at BoleAirport if they are confiscated by security in the same building?

4.   Why can airport security not give a clear answer as to whether or not crosses areallowed through security check points?

I am now left with no crosses that I travelled especially to buy in Ethiopia, I am left with my savings gone, I don’t even have a picture of the crosses, but most of all I am left with a feeling of betrayal and a feeling of mistrust for a country that I respect.

Tian Johnson,


Post Net Suite #172

Private Bag X9, Melville

2109, Johannesburg, South Africa

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