A Little Bit of Boston in Ethiopia
Two Queen of Sheba descendants, awaiting their appointments at the Spa
Residents of Addis Ababa have a pragmatic, no frills attitude about toilets and bathrooms. They exist for one function only and those contained in houses or public buildings are often pretty dismal. It's also not unusual to see someone squatting without fuss to discharge their body's waste products on a hillside, in an empty lot, or by the side of the road. Having used some of the city's inside plumbing, I can hardly blame them.
A friend and I, both of us desperate to pee after an evening concert at the Emperor's old Palace, finally located a rank old potty tucked into a dark wet corner underneath a wide marble staircase at the back of the palace. Holding our breath against the smell, we took turns trying to find and then perch upon the one tiny patch of dry floor while taking care of business (not an easy task, especially after a few glasses of wine. I offered her the option to go first, partly to see if she survived.)
The spacious royal bathrooms upstairs are much nicer ~ his and hers studies in vintage European 1930s or 40s decor, one blue, one pinkish.
But, unfortunately, not for public use.
The newer hotels and restaurants in Addis are catching on, however.
The bathroom in my room at the Faro Hotel, for example, was modern and very clean.
My floor of the hotel wasn't quite finished when I stayed there, however...
...so I may have been the first to actually use it.
Another loo, at a restaurant outside the National Museum (note the use of native art to help you decide which door to enter) was also fine...
... although there was no running water to wash up with the day I was there.
A waiter or waitress stood by patiently with a pitcher of water to pour over your hands once you'd finished soaping them.
And then there is the Boston Day Spa ~ a clean and calming refuge from the streets of Addis. With its colorful inlaid mosaics, soft lighting, gentle music, aromatherapy, and happy staff, you might actually want to move in.
Wait a minute... Boston?
Why on earth would something be named "Boston" in Ethiopia?
I soon found out.
The Boston Day Spa is the creation of Tadiwos Belete, an Ethiopian refugee who fled his country in 1974 when the communists overthrew the Emperor.
Just 17, Tadiwos emigrated to America.
He landed in Boston (hence the Spa's name) where he pursued his interest in hairstyling by taking classes at a community college. Twenty-three years later, with two posh salons, including one on trendy Newberry Street, Tadiwos had nailed the American dream.
In 2000, heading his country's millenium call to the diaspora, Tadiwos sold his salons and returned to Africa, wanting to be part of the new, emerging Ethiopia. Shortly after, he opened the Boston Spa in the Bole neighborhood of Addis Ababa.
Tadiwos explained his decision in a 2006 interview with the BBC ~ "Ethiopia needs its own people to come back with a vision to create a new style of business in areas that have not been developed (here) before."
Just one of several ventures Tadiwos has envisioned and brought into being in Ethiopia, the Boston Day Spa combines western services with a unique Ethio chic distinctly its own.
And at Ethiopian prices ~
a pedi & a dream-inducing, hour-long massage set me back just $27.
© Kristin Fellows 2011