Reputed to be the largest open-air market in Africa, visiting the Addis Mercato is a hectic and bustling adventure like no other.
And as it’s so large, it’s pretty easy to get lost in the frenzy of people walking around.
Here are a few tips on how to navigate it, including what to do, what to avoid, and what to buy.
First, you’ll need to actually get there — the streets surrounding the market area are usually full of traffic, so it’s usually best to just take a taxi outside of it, get out of the car and walk in.
Once you’re inside the market streets, make sure you keep a close eye on your wallet as crowds are large and pickpocketing is pretty common.
Bringing a tourist backpack or other valuables into the area is probably not a smart idea as you’ll definitely stand out.
Try not to look lost, and even if you don’t know where you’re going, walk with a sense of purpose.
Some of the most interesting things in the market are the surplus of food items and related goods.
If you’re looking for fruits and vegetables, there is an entire section of the market dedicated to it where you could easily spend a good half hour looking around.
You can also get incredible deals here on exotic local vegetables — just be sure to wash them thoroughly before taking a bite.
Another great thing to buy at the market are the numerous Ethiopian spices, including many exotic mixes you’ve probably never seen or heard of before.
Even if you don’t plan on buying the spices, it’s worth getting up close to get a smell.
Ethiopian pottery is also available from many vendors in the market and is much cheaper than what you’ll find at areas geared towards tourists.
Another popular item to pick up is a jebena (a clay pot used to make Ethiopian coffee).
Of course, you should probably pick up some Ethiopian coffee beans too while you’re at it.
Thankfully, you can get them at the market, too.
Last but not least, be sure to bargain hard when you’re at the market, as prices aren’t set and often start out much higher than a vendor is willing to sell for.
For more information, see: City Guide: Addis Ababa and A Budget Guide To Addis Ababa