Ethiopia (March 2013)

Merkato in Addis Ababa

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At first sight the Merkato is not an appealing place. However, it is bursting with life and I found people there incredibly nice. Unlike in the rest of Addis Ababa and other Ethiopian towns, where unemployment is high, there is a strong sense of purpose in the Merkato. Everyone here works, sells, or buys.

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The man on the left thanked me for taking the photo. I guess he was proud that I recognized his great skills at carrying boxes.

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Kotcho shop. Kotcho is produced from Ensete, a plant that looks like a banana tree (picture on the right) but does not produce bananas, hence its surname of ′false banana′. The stem of the plant is pulped and fermented underground for several months to produce a solid staple. Big bundles of kotcho in the back of the shop are wrapped into leaves of false banana trees. On the table a kotcho bundle is being cut and sold into smaller pieces. It is eaten with cheese, vegetable, meat, milk and coffee. It is also used to make pancakes and bread.

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In addition to be the main commercial hub in Addis Ababa, the Merkato is also a huge recycling center, in particular for metals and plastic.

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I heard that the Ethiopian government would like to close the Merkato within a decade, or so. I don′t know if this is true, but the Merkato seems so important for so many people that it will be hard to replace.

 

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