The Imminent New Year

New Year of the Western world is around the corner, signalling that Gena, Ethiopia's version of Christmas, is not far behind. But holidays, though merry everywhere, are celebrated far more differently here in Addis Abeba and Europe. Both will see a shopping spike, but of mostly different items. And while it will be warm in the capital of Ethiopia, most Western countries will experience negative temperatures.

Here in Brussels, the climate has changed. The snow is falling torrentially, leaving vehicles to be abandoned for the highways have become slippery. The nights are freezing and the days are no better, with temperatures often in the negatives. The downpour is consistent, turning the mornings darker by the coming day.

And the weather forecaster on TV tells us this is because the New Year, which is our channel through 2018, is just around the corner.  The Europeans, true to form, have set the lights flickering. Similarly, the Christmas shopping bonanza has already begun, giving the atmosphere a holiday feel. The media has nothing to air these days but price discounts.

But, the New Year, much like that of every day, really, did not escape from politics. The United States’ president ,Donald Trump, used his exclusive power to announce Jerusalem the capital of Israel, and that he would move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This decision was made at a time when most of the world’s developed countries agree that a two-state solution is the better path forward to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, similarly endorsed by the United Nations’ Security Council.

The president’s sudden decision was opposed by many countries in the Middle East. At the US embassies of a number of these countries, people went out on the streets to express their anger at what they deemed was an injustice.

But I digress, for the weather of Brussels, the snow piling up on the streets, and making it slippery for pedestrians and cars. Uncharacteristically for the Europeans, one of the things they do in times of such challenges, is to pour salt-water on the snow, getting it to liquidate faster.

And amongst the panoramic views of flickering lights, Ethiopian coffee and flowers imported from Ethiopia are getting a piece of the pie. There are a few contender exporters of coffee like Uganda, but for all their first-class packaging, Ethiopian coffee, especially coffee beans from the walled city of Harer, is favoured in the Middle East. The coffee beans from Harer have a history that dates back centuries, and at times known as Coffee Arabica.

The traditional way of making coffee, and sipping the final concoction is unique to Ethiopia. The coffee pot is typical. The coffee cups are novel. The woman who makes the coffee usually takes her shoes off during the pouring ritual. And many people prefer their coffee with a little bit of salt instead of sugar. Of course, there are also those who sip black coffee with a bit of milk and sugar. They are those who have either been to Europe or, as they call it, the modern world.

There is an Ethiopian coffee shop, Tekul, right here in Brussels, the beating heart of Europe, and very close to the European Union’s headquarters, where coffee is brewed the traditional Ethiopian way.

Tekul is not only a coffee house, it is instead a restaurant where Ethiopian dishes are sold. Many tourists and regulars frequent the house because many staff members are Ethiopian origin including the proprietor who is an architect by profession. There is quite a variety of good food at reasonable prices. And Tekul does not miss out on the New Year festivity, where the interior of the coffee shop is decorated with colourful lights.

Outside the coffee shop, our homes and offices, the trees can be seen shedding their leaves. Windows, themselves decorated with vivid colours across Brussels’ shops glitter with luxury goods they sell for the holiday.

How is the weather in Addis Abeba?

Since I have been away for long, I can only imagine. The order of the times used to be a homemade baked bread, a.k.a Difo Dabo. But that is only one of the many foods and drinks that would be enjoyed during the holiday. And for that reason, chickens, their eggs and sheep will dominate the sort of goods sold in the marketplace. But one commodity that would not be found in abundance is sugar, of course, which of late has become a rare sight for most Ethiopians; subsequently, the prices for it have jacked up.

Fortunately, the press keeps me well informed about the state of affairs of the country, especially Addis Abeba. The government may be trying to keep people calm, but food is one basic necessity that cannot be negotiated. Thus, all the imports from overseas that will probably continue as Ethiopia’s holiday season, off by a couple of weeks than that of the Western world, comes to a grind.

For all of that, despite the expensive Gena (Ethiopia’s Christmas) tradition, that comprises having to buy sheep, goats or ox, and definitely a chicken, most of them high priced, Ethiopians can at least bask in the sunshine. The country’s weather can be considered ideal under most circumstances, which is more than I can say for that of Brussels’.

By Grima Feyissa

Published on Dec 16,2017 [ Vol 18 ,No 920]



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