Ethnographic Museum of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies

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Date of travel

January, 2016

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The Ethnological Museum is located in the University of Addis Ababa, which was formerly the royal palace of Haile Selassie.

Outside the building was a concrete set of steps leading to nowhere but with a lion on top – each step was placed by the Italians as a symbol of Fascist domination, one for every year Mussolini held power (starting from his march to Rome in 1922).

Having paid the 100 birr (£3.30) entrance fee, we climbed cool, marble stairs to a floor which told us about Ethiopian life from birth to death. There were lots of writing and exhibits explaining what happened when people gave birth, to the games played by children to the feats performed when moving from childhood to manhood (think jumping over bulls). In the final section on death we saw wooden totem poles and stone memorials which mark the location of graves.

At this point two young unruly French children began shouting and running about so we gave their parents a disapproving glare.

There was some interesting art and a huge display of different types of crosses (neck, hand, processional and dome) and we learned that each area has a different style of cross.

A huge display of photographs, signatures and press cuttings commemorated an eight-day visit by the Queen and Prince Phillip in 1965.

Somewhat bizzarely we ventured into the bedrooms and blue bathrooms of Haile Selassie and his wife before entering rather dark, low ceilinged rooms containing various musical instruments and finally, a display of costumes from the different tribes.

All the exhibits had excellent labels in English and we could have spent much more time there than the 90 minutes we did. If you visit at the beginning of your trip around the country, it provides a great insight into the things you will see, but if you visit at the end, it would serve as a good reminder of what you’ve seen.

Helen Jackson

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