This photo shows the modern, white facade of the Milano Hotel, Mekele,


Sarem International Hotel, Addis Ababa

We knew when we booked our Ethiopian trip that we’d be staying in a variety of accommodation, including tents for some of the time.  We also knew that it was budget travel, so we were not expecting The Savoy.  Some of the hotels we stayed in, though, left a great deal to be desired!  However, as most of the stays were just for a single night, we put up with it and, looking back on it now, each one of them added to our African experience.  If we’d stayed in more salubrious surroundings, we’d have lost one of our main topics of conversation – have you got water? is it hot? electricity? a toilet seat? any leaks? a door that locks?!!

Our first hotel, in Addis, probably lulled us into a false sense of security about what we would face on the rest of the trip.  The Sarem International is a decent three-star hotel with spacious clean rooms and good facilities.  We had lights that worked, hot water, carpet on the floor, and, even, reliable wi-fi.  It was nothing special, but it was functional.  We should have taken heed of the comments from the one member of our group who had been overlanding before.  She was in the middle of a seven-month long Africa trip and had just finished her West African stint.  She was very impressed with the ‘luxurious’ standard of the Sarem, telling us that this was not the usual overlanding accommodation!
Our hotel in Debre Markos
And so it proved!  Our first overnight stop after leaving Addis was at a hotel in Debre Markos.  It wasn’t the hotel we were due to stay in, but, we were told, it was much better than the original one.  I’m only glad we didn’t see the one we were meant to have!  We arrived late in the evening when it was already dark.  This was probably a blessing as, without a working light in the bathroom, and with only our head torches to see by, we didn’t realise just how grimy the room was until the next morning!  Still, at least we didn’t get locked in like some of our group, and we don’t know if our shower worked or not because we didn’t try it!  Most of our fellow travellers reported that theirs didn’t!  The food in the hotel restaurant, though, was OK and very cheap.  It was one of our group’s birthday.  She ordered a fish sandwich for dinner and was pleased with her choice!!  The next morning, however, the hotel only had enough eggs for the first three of us who went for breakfast – luckily we were amongst them!!  The others settled for toast and jam, apart from one of our group who had burger and chips!
The Dib Anbessa Hotel, Bahir Dar
Our next hotel, the Dib Anbessa in Bahir Dar, was interesting!  It was a nice looking place located on the road back from Lake Tana.  The reception and bar area was comfortable and welcoming.  Once again, it was the rooms that let it down.  We had no water in our bathroom.  This wasn’t a great surprise.  The hotel receptionist said it would be fixed and, a few hours later, it was.  The surprise came when we opened the curtains to see what our view was like and found ourselves looking into a meeting room with a meeting in full swing!  I don’t know who was more shocked – us, or the delegates attending the meeting who were now looking at two faranji (foreigners) standing by their bed!!  This was also the hotel where we were served fruit juice with a distinct taste of onion for breakfast – a case of cross contamination of knives and chopping boards, we decided!
When we had early starts on our trip (which was quite often), we invariably found ourselves in the hotel restaurant before any staff had arrived.  We often put the lights on ourselves and then sat waiting for someone to serve us.  In one hotel, we gave the cleaners quite a scare as we hadn’t managed to find the light switch and were sitting there in the dark when they came to start work.  It seems that Ethiopians don’t generally get up as early as we do!
The Panoramic View Hotel, Lalibela
We did stay in some nice hotels – well, one in particular – The Panoramic View Hotel in Lalibela.  Arriving in the dark, we didn’t appreciate the reason for the hotel’s name, but we were impressed by the quality of the rooms and the fact that everything appeared to work.  The next morning, we had the added bonus of seeing the magnificent view of the surrounding countryside from the vantage point of our lovely balcony.  Luckily, we had a couple of days here, so were able to relax and recharge our batteries before moving on.  I say that, but we did have to contend with bugling at 4.45am, the Christian equivalent of the Muslim call to prayer.  The earplugs given to us on our Turkish Airlines flight came in very handy!
Our good looking hotel in Alamata
The Meazza Hotel in Alamata was the most impressive looking hotel we stayed in.  We were very excited when we pulled into the car park, especially when we saw all the UN vehicles parked there.  After all, UN staff don’t stay anywhere grotty, do they?  Well, apparently they do!  The very attractive exterior hid seriously bad rooms!  We had a dribble of cold water in our taps and no power at all.  The toilet seat was propped against the damp and mouldy wall.  The door to our room was half-glazed with no curtain, so we were kept awake all night by the light outside and the comings and goings in the room opposite.
The very pink Milano Hotel in Mekele was better than some of the others.  Our room was OK and I was grateful to have hot water to wash my hair and have a shower.  I didn’t realise until I went back into the bedroom and started paddling that the shower seemed to drain straight under the carpet!


The Milano Hotel, Mekele
Even in the good hotels we stayed in, the electricity supply was somewhat erratic.  I don’t think we had a single night when the power stayed on all the time.  We had to keep reminding ourselves that we were in a developing country and count our blessings, rather than grumble about the inconvenience.  All of our group were very good-natured about the problems we encountered and, as I said earlier, what would we have talked about if everything had been perfect?
Simien Park Hotel, Debark


Hotel Lammergeyer, Gonder

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