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Addis Ababa Ethnological Museum

The Ethnological Museum is housed in the former palace of Haile Selassie, which is now on the grounds of Addis Ababa University. The building is also home to a library and the offices of university administration. Upon entering, visitors are provided a history of the university, which is accompanied by contemporary photographs.

Addis Ababa Ethnological Museum2After paying the 100 birr entrance fee (steep for Ethiopia but a bargain for a good museum) and passing a stuffed predator, the first exhibition starts. Visitors are taken through the life cycles of various peoples and tribes of Ethiopia, with explanations of childhood games, rites of passage, marriage ceremonies and living arrangements. Below are an example of the informative posters and a tombstone.

Following the life cycle portion of the museum, a glass case displays wooden pillows and a variety of drinking vessels for the traditional Ethiopian beverages like tella. The hallways lead past historical examples of Ethiopian currency to the restored bedrooms and bathrooms of Emperor Haile Selassie and his wife, Empress Menen. Including the furnishings, visitors can see Haile Selassie’s uniform and an array of gifts given to the Emperor by other foreign heads of state. In the anteroom, philatelists will be pleased by the extensive collection of Ethiopian stamps.

A walk upstairs yields a different set of culturally important pieces. Several historical paintings line two of the walls. The first one below depicts the monumental victory of the Ethiopians against Italian armed forces at Adwa in 1896. This military feat is commemorated annually in March and Ethiopians are very proud of the fact that they were never colonized in the Scramble for Africa.

Addis Ababa Ethnological Museum1

Musical instruments from the various regions and epochs line a labyrinthine room behind the paintings, with krars, kissars and massenkos featuring heavily. Traditional and centuries-old crosses from northern Ethiopia are also displayed on this floor (lighting too poor to even attempt a photo). My favorite part of the entire museum is a reproduction of photographs that closes out the visit. Two Dutch diplomats traveled to Ethiopia in 1930 to attend the coronation of Haile Selassie. They recorded their voyage, the festivities and their subsequent travels into the Ethiopian wild beautifully through an extensive series of photographs. The pictures are accompanied by descriptions and interesting biographies of the diplomats.