Piazza is the heart of Addis Ababa and the old neighborhood which still captures the spirit of the past that invites for exploration. This picturesque Old town’s name is a legacy of the Italian Occupation (1936 – 41 G.C.), thus Piazza is still preserves a bit of an Italian flavor.
Piazza is an interestingly historical place of Addis Ababa where old buildings constructed in the early twentieth century with their touch of Ethiopia, Greek, Armenia, India and Italy. Still functional old Italian first patisserie, restaurants, Coffee Houses, Cinema Halls, Playhouse, the very first Ethiopian Hotel, silver and gold smiths, Historical Ethiopian, Greek and Armenian Orthodox churches, Old schools, impressive stairs, historical old bank, post office and many more.
This part I episode is giving the world a virtual tour through this mesmerizing Addis Ababa’s very own old town locally known as Piassa /Arada. This particular journey starting from around Doro Manekia (Eden Street) all the way through Haile Selassie Street to Ras Mekonnen Bridge.
For many locals including me, Eden Street at Piazza means … stopping over at one of the oldest local cafés in Addis Ababa which locally known as Ras Mekonnen Café as Piazza is home to many still operating old cafés and restaurants which most scores more than 50 years in business and still being a timeless and memorable place where local patronize.
The paintings behind the espresso machine counter, the sturdy old furniture, the glooming woodwork and even the old building this café housed in gives it a historical aura worth experiencing.
Many remember this fascinating old café for its unforgettable signature of serving up the adored sweet treat by the locals – Baklava – and most probably being the first one to give this palate to Addis Ababa and still do in spite of the test of time.
For me this is more like pouring some sugar on sweet memories of childhood growing up in Piazza while enjoying the crunchiness of the honey drenched thin fried filo dough at the top and getting all rewarded by the roasted peanuts sprinkled inside…So Delicious!
Passing De Gaulle Square and heading to Haile Selassie Street means interesting block of shops. Here you can find one of Addis Ababa’s oldest Cinema Empire which is one of the legacies of the early twentieth century, many jewelry shops, Boutiques, shoes shops, watch shops and many more.
Chasing back on history… legend has it; during the early twentieth century Greeks and Armenians were active community and were playing huge role in the economy. The Greeks were running many factories, cinemas, retail shops, import export enterprises and more.
The Armenians in the other hand was well known in the city as cultured shoe factories, eyeglass and watch repair business, gold smith, shoe factories, cinemas and more along with the building in piazza where the shops located.
One of the fascinating legacies of the Greek community is The Greek Orthodox church which was built in 1935 G.C. Besides being one of Piazza’s historical sights of interests, services are still held in the church every Sunday till this day.
Talking about leaving legacies, in spite of the fact that Coffee is a religion here in Ethiopia, it is without a doubt that Italians put a mark on Addis Ababa’s most adored Café culture of enjoying the delightful foamy Macchiato – espresso with a dash of milk – and of course Italian cuisines along with still operating old Italian restaurants in Piazza are the most cherished ones by the locals till this day.
Therefore, an excursion in piazza would not be complete without indulging in delicious Spaghetti or Lasagna and watching the captivating everyday life of piazza while having the revitalizing Macchiato afterwards somewhere at this mesmeric old town of Addis Ababa – Piazza.
Ras Mekonnen Wolde Michael (May 8, 1852 – March 21, 1906) was a general and the governor of Harar province in Ethiopia and The father of Ras Tefari Mekonnen (Pre-coronation name of Emperor Haile Selassie I).
The Ras Mekonnen Wolde Michael monument was established in May 1944 G.C. and it was built on the foundation laid near Ras Makonnen Bridge by his son Emperor Haile Selassie I as a tribute for his service to the country.
At the interestingly green terrace there is a local café and restaurant bar where locals hang out. It is a relaxing place which provides an opportunity to enjoy refreshing local beers that Ethiopia is also known for and Piazza has always being an enchanting place.
Another fascinating church that graces the historical old town Piazza is the St. George Armenian Apostolic Holy Orthodox Church which was built in 1935 G.C. in the replacement of a chapel that existed since 1923. Legend hast it, the first stone was set by the Archbishop Asanian who came from Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1928 G.C.
While walking through this old town, you could not help noticing interesting old buildings with high ceiling and hard wood floor so here is another building which have been housing one of Piazza’s old school for very long time now which formerly and locally known as La Fontaine Kindergarten. I bet this one brings up sweet memories of childhood for many.