Addis Ababa is emerging as a fashion hub in the African continent. Quality clothing and accessories for men, women, and children are now readily available. A few years ago, it was difficult to find good-quality clothes in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, but now, it has more to offer her discerning customers, from casual to formal wear. Talented Ethiopian fashion designers have also emerged; fashion shows, like the Germany-supported Renaissance Ethiopia, have showcased the artistry of young, local apparel designers.Also, the garment industry has surged forward, and is now supplying clients here and abroad. Imported brands from Thailand, China, Italy, UK, Turkey, U.S.A., and other foreign exporters fill the shelves of shops.
With its construction business brisk and healthy, Addis Ababa has seen malls mushroom, providing easy access to all sorts of goods. Fashion boutiques inhabit these malls, offering western-style and traditional Ethiopian attires. The city does not have a main city centre, so shopping pockets are spread out all over.
Bole Road and Olympia
Bole Road offers some of the best clothes shopping. There’s Dembel, by the Meskel Flower Road and Olympia intersection, enticing customers with its fine Ethiopian-made leather products: men’s and ladies’ jackets, bags, shoes, etc. Imported outfits are also available. A perfume boutique completes the picture.
Across Dembel, on the Olympia side, one finds another mall fronted by a popular bookstore. Shops are smaller, but each one holds nice surprises. There’s also a clothes market beside it. Further down Bole, on the way to the international airport, clothes shops line both sides of the road. Large glass windows show off special offerings, allowing prospective clients a good idea of what’s in store. Friendship and D.H. Geda Malls, and Fashion Planet are worth checking.
Bole Medanealem, Haile Gebreselassie Road, Haya Hulet, Kasanchiz
Running parallel to Bole Road is Bole Medanealem, where the grand Bole Medanealem Church is located. Here, one finds Edna and Jambo Malls. Leaving Edna Mall behind, if one drives or walks down the road that goes past the roundabout fronting the church, towards Haile Gebreselassie Road, one ends up in the Haya Hulet district, where St George Hospital is located. Haya Hulet is fashion heaven; clothes shops—bulging with shoes, jeans, trousers, jackets, shirts, winter clothes, leg warmers, stockings, jewellery, bags, and make-up kits—crowd each other.
On Haile Gebreselassie Road itself, more retailers await clothes hunters. Turning to Kasanchiz will take shoppers to more clothes outlets, signaled by the presence of dozens of brightly attired mannequins on the pavement.
Churchill Road, Ambassador Park, Sheraton Addis, Hilton Addis, Piazza
Then there’s Churchill Road, a favourite with tourists. Souvenir shops abound, especially around the Main Post Office, selling Ethiopia and Bob Marley T-shirts, traditional Ethiopian hand-woven costumes, scarves, trinkets, and handmade silver jewellery. There’s also the Ambassador Park, near Churchill, Sheraton and Hilton, for more options.
Sheraton and Hilton have their own selection of boutiques, selling diamond jewellery and fine clothes, for their guests’ convenience. On the periphery is Piazza, where good-quality sports attire and high-end menswear are found. But if one wants to explore traditional style, Mt Entoto has the answer.
The biggest Ethiopian traditional clothes market is found in Shiro Meda. Clothes are displayed either in open-air stalls or inside stores. This is where the locals go, in search of something new to wear during special religious holidays and weddings.
From Entoto, a side trip to the Old Airport area brings one to another shopping district. Every last Saturday of the month, an NGO bazaar is held at an international church. Lucy’s handmade leather goods shop, in front of the church where the NGO bazaar takes place, is popular with the diplomatic community.
A smaller version of the Shiro Meda clothes market is found in Shola, past the British Embassy, near the Yeka Michael Church, on the way to Megenagna. One can also watch the artisans on their sewing machines. Silversmiths also ply their trade here. However, to get that invigorating sense of adventure, Merkato is it.
For the first-time visitor, a guide is highly recommended. Merkato offers a different angle to the word shopping. Shoppers have to navigate around pavement vendors; tread carefully between rubbles, steel bars, holes, and other obstructions due to numerous building construction sites; stay vigilant of pickpockets and moving vehicles. In spite of all these, people still go to Merkato because it has almost everything.