“You You Faranji” so that they call us in the streets “you, you stranger”, and as in many part of the world, the stranger is by definition the rich one, the one that will give a birr, maybe even 10 (which we are just 50 cents) because that’s how things go, we are moved with compassion for them, in the end it’s pretty easy to understand why they act like this, just having a look around, and it’s hard to blame them.
The more we appear faranji , the most we have to get used to and deal with it.
“Birr, Birr”… it happens all the time whenever I go, whoever I meet in the streets.
This morning I went for a walk around the neighborhood of my hotel, Piazza, looking for a restaurant where to have breakfast. Wandering around without knowing where to go I come across a raised bar that called my attention, with no real reason, where I decide to take a sit and have something to eat.
The floor is covered by leaves and shrubs, unlike others restaurant I went to, this has a pitch of African village, as I have always imagined it even if haven’t seen it yet, in the heart of the city.
From up there I can see what is going on in the streets, which are different from the Asian or Latin, to the point that it can be easily defined “African”, and I love watching hidden behind a banana tree planted on the windowsill.
I have chosen that bar not only for the vibes coming, but mainly because a young woman, with a red scarf on her head and a long light blue dress, gets my attention.
She is the most beautiful, delicate and delicious woman I have encountered so far. I seat close to her watching how she makes a coffee that in this country is like a magical celebration everybody will, soon or later, take part in.
Ethiopian coffee is a very popular drink, as it is in Italy. Local people all drink it and are proud of, in fact everywhere there is a separated room, a distinct and recognizable corner, where a woman is in charge to make it.
Doesn’t matter you are drinking it in a bar bar, a restaurant or in a shack on the street the process, as the result, is the same.
Two teaspoons of sugar are poured into the cup and then, from the special “coffee machine”, which is a kind of black earthenware teapot, the coffee is poured into the little cup and mixed thoroughly.
I drink bitter coffee since more than 15 years, but here I leave things go as the tradition wants, enjoying the pleasure to be served their own way without ripping violently the mystical aura that every day I have the pleasure of tasting.
In a small tray on which the coffee cup is, there is also incense that, before the coffee is poured, starts to burn and a magic smell makes of a simple coffee an holy celebration.
The holy smell of incense mixed with the dust of the streets and the incessant mess that comes from there.
A sacred morning ritual I can’t, neither want, to give up.
The cups on the tray are ready to be used, one next to another one.
She is shy and young, with the eyes of innocence and waits quietly squatting in front of the workstation, handling the coffee pot making sure that the coffee is never too hot or too cold.
I was looking for a place where to have breakfast, but once I left the four walls of the hotel, manned 24 hours 24 by armed guards and with American breakfast, even the concept of breakfast becomes different.
The menu is written in Amharic, I don’t understand anything nor can distinguish a plate from the others, just injera and I am not ready for it in the morning, but it’s not all.
Putting the case I wanted to eat it, the dish could feed up to three people, there is nothing for just one person that is not that hungry, like me right now.
Meanwhile around me groups of Ethiopians eat, talk, laugh, it’s interesting how the sense of the African community can be experienced at the dinner table.
Injera in fact is eaten from a large tray from which everyone draws, with their own hands, their own piece of food, it’s a meal that has to be shared. The table, the tray, the size, is just saying to me that.
Many different topping are placed on a spongy round, flat bread, called injera, and from there everyone, without greed but also placid tranquility, takes to his mouth the bite, chewing slowly and continuing to entertain diners.
Easy and strage like that!
It’s all so far from our bars and restaurants with free wifi where sharing no longer happens, even in interactions with others close we now think to whom is thousands of miles away from us.
In western Countries I have the feeling that we are so close each other and yet more and more distant.
Here safety in numbers, and that feeling of sharing can be spotted at every corner of the city and in every activity.
Smell of incense mixed with dust, a cheerful gentleman wearing a bright orange shirt and round glasses, a colored disorder and the costant background made of music and, sometimes (often), You You Faranji !.
The good morning that Addis Ababa has given me in the first 4 days of stay is spicy and sweet at the same time, difficult to decipher butdefinitely an interesting introduction to a land and its generous and abundant people, just as its dishes.