Preparation for Ethiopia: Who Wants to Do Some Shots?

I have a good friend from college who now lives in Ethiopia.  He works for an economic development organization that is based in DC so we see him  in the states 2 or 3 times each year.  Over the past few years he has slowly convinced us that we need to visit.

Not what I had in mind when they said, “Let’s do some shots!” Now my passport shows updates for Yellow Fever, Hepatitis, and Typhoid, among others.

He makes a good argument.  When else will we have a local tour guide, a place to stay, and an instant network of friends?  So last summer my wife and I bought two round trip tickets to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

It seemed so far in the future that it wasn’t real, but now it is just a week away!  The preparation has been serious.  We had to get visas from the Ethiopian embassy, and shots…lots of shots!

These weren’t the shots I’m used to like Irish whiskey, vodka and Fireball.  These were Yellow Fever, Hepatitis, and Typhoid.  I also had to get boosters of shots I hadn’t had since I was a kid like Tetinis, Diptheria, and Pertussis.  In all, it was 5 shots, an oral vaccine, and additional anti-malerial medicine.

I now have a long multi-page supplement to my passport with updates for all my vaccinations.

As we read about Ethiopia, the travel guides give the standard warnings about safety but they naturally zero in on the most terrifying things.  Watch out, for instance, for a scam where someone bumps into you and turns and grabs your arm and apologizes while an accomplice behind you reaches into your pocket and takes your wallet.  OK, that could happen in New York, but one guide also warned of occasional armed robberies of buses!

The travel doctor who administered the shots warned us not to eat any fresh produce, no fruit, vegetables, or anything raw.  She also warned not to touch any animals, no petting dogs, cats, etc.  Don’t drink the water, don’t even brush your teeth with it!

Shiro and Doro Wot (center) served over a piece of enjera bread.

On the verge of freaking out, wondering what I had gotten myself into, and what I had dragged Alice into, I instinctively began the vacation early.  We went to a local Ethiopian restaurant.  It was packed, mostly with Ethiopians.  There was even a wedding reception going on in the next room.

We told the owner, a really lovely woman, that we were going to Addis in a week and she lit up with a warm smile.  “Oh I am so jealous!” she said.  She assured and reassured us that we would love it.  ‘The people are the most friendly in the world and they will love you and make you feel welcome!” she said.  She also pointed out that having a friend with local knowledge would go very far in steering us clear of any trouble.

We had a fantastic meal of Shiro, a chickpea puree, and the very classic, Doro Wot, a chicken stew.  Ethiopian food is typically served on a communal platter and instead of fork and knife, one uses a pancake-like bread called Enjera.

I went to the rest room and came back to find this enjera bread folded in my place. I almost unfolded it an put it on my lap!

The bread is very porous and at first looks like a large cloth napkin!  It is soft and pliant and a great way to enjoy the exotically spiced food.  You have to be careful however, because it seems to expand in your stomach.  It’s hard to walk away from the table because it’s so good but over-eating induces a Thanksgiving-like food baby!

By the time we left, we were so excited and had re-focused on the many positives of this epic journey.

Next Monday we leave Washington, DC at 11:30pm, and fly to Istanbul, Turkey.  From there we fly all day to Addis Ababa.  It will be 1 am on Wednesday when we arrive!

I look forward to posting of many great adventures and sites from this trip!




  1. Tony – Bon Voyage to you and Alice. Look forward to hearing about your adventure. A couple years ago Mom and I were going to Boston for a concert so I asked Doug Quintal for a restaurant recommendation and he sent us to an Ethopian restaurant. It was very interesting and delicious.

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