Addis Ababa was founded by Emperor Menelik II, who relocated his capital from Ankober to the Entoto Hills in the early 1880s.
The capital’s development was bolstered by the arrival of the Djibouti railway in 1917 and an associated influx of Armenian and French traders, as well as by the drive for modernization, following the coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1930. Addis Ababa was chosen as the base for the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in 1958, and five years later it was made headquarters of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), now the African Union. The city’s population has grown from around 100,000 at the time of Menelik II’s death in 1913 to almost four million today.
Addis Ababa has an amazing number of worthwhile museums. The landmark National Museum of Ethiopia is of particular interest for its paleontological hall, displaying a hominid skeleton stretching back 5.5 million years. Nearby, the IES Ethnographic Museum, set in a former residence of Emperor Haile Selassie (now Addis Ababa University), has a wealth of fascinating displays exploring the cultures of South Omo, as well as the country’s largest collections of traditional musical instruments, costumes and medieval ecclesiastic artworks. Other more subject-specific installations include the Red Terror Martyrs’ Memorial Museum, Addis Ababa Museum, National Postal Museum, Zoological Natural History Museum and the museums associated with St George’s Cathedral, Selassie (Trinity) Cathedral and Entoto Maryam Church.
Addis Ababa has a thriving cultural life embracing some excellent art galleries, traditional restaurants and live music venues. A feature of the city is its wonderful cultural restaurants, which are typically housed in traditional tukul-style buildings, and serve the full range of meat-based and vegan Ethiopian specialities, accompanied by colourful traditional music and dance performances. Ethio Jazz and contemporary Ethiopian music can also be experienced at a variety of nightclubs.