Later in the afternoon, we went up to Oyster Bay, an upscale residential neighborhood with another beautiful beach that has been attracting mostly expats since at least the 1930s, when Roald Dahl of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fame lived there. At a beachside cabana, we struck up a conversation over a beer with a young Salaamer who’d just finished his day’s search for electrician work. He didn’t have anything planned, so we decided to walk and talk. We told him about some of the cities we’d been to, and he told us about Dar. After a couple of hours, he hopped a ride back to town with us in a tiny three-wheeled cab called a tuk-tuk, and we went our separate ways.
On our last day in Addis, we spent some time in the Mercato, Africa’s largest outdoor market, where the people were far too busy buying and selling and hauling to bother picking our pockets. Later, we were walking around the Piazza district when a man who looked to be in his 70s came up alongside us. In English, he introduced himself as Abraham, and his 50-something daughter as Moona.
As we walked on together, he told us that he’d once been a sailor with the Onassis shipping company and that he had a picture of himself with Aristotle at his home just outside the city. He and Moona were selling laminated maps of Ethiopia. I still hadn’t learned the names of the provinces, so I bought one for 200 birr ($10), probably four times what it was worth, but maybe half what I’d pay at home.
We shared travel stories — he’d been all over the world — and then Moona cut in and said something to Abraham in Amharic. They led us over to a sidewalk cafe, and we ordered four macchiatos, which I’d learned by then is the preferred caffeine delivery system in Addis. When the bill came, Moona took out her money. When I protested, she protested back.
“No, please,” Abraham said, waving my wallet away. “You’re our guests.”
I may yet learn to see the charms of looking at big cats in the company of rich bucket-listers, but as long as there are people like Danny and William and Moona and Abraham walking around town in chatty moods, I’m in no rush.