Addis Airport

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs

A trip from Heathrow to Kilimanjaro proved interesting

Addis Airport

We were in England visiting our kinfolk, and because it was the best option for Asifiwe to visit her homeland and her kinfolk, I had pre-booked a flight for the pair of us from Heathrow to Kilimanjaro. The plan was for me to accompany her for a week, while she was to stay for an extra week and then return to Heathrow. Even in the queue to board the Ethiopian Airlines plane, it felt like we were in Africa. The lack of formality, the louder voices, the women’s dress and some of the men too… and racially, I was on my own.

I had booked a window seat so Asifiwe could view Africa through the haze as we headed south, she also saw southern Europe and the Mediterranean because we had a brief stop at Rome. The aircraft wasn’t quite as pristine as say, Singapore Airlines and there were a few age-related rattles, but I felt comfortable having flown in a few more-dodgy machines in my time… not to mention piloted by dodgy blokes. The service was fine and I had no hesitation in hopping back in for the return trip or for Asifiwe on her own.

We disembarked at the old Haile Selassie Airport, which had had its day and was due for an upgrade. I remembered Haile Selassie, he as a colourful fellow during my youth. After WWII and the Italians had been booted out of the country, he became Emperor of Ethiopia. He had been in the news a lot throughout his life, being pivotal in uniting Africa and he had spoken wisely at the League of Nations and later at the United Nations. He wanted Eritrea to be a province of Ethiopia, but they wanted to become independent, so there was ugomvi, bad feeling about the situation. In 1942 he abolished slavery and after the devastating drought in 1974 at the age of 82 he was deposed. Led by an army officer who had Eritrean links, the usurpers imprisoned him while most of his officials faced a firing squad. He died of ‘medical complications’ in 1975, but an investigation in 1995 found that the poor old bugger had been strangled. I didn’t tell Asifiwe any of that. 

Our stopover was for three hours but our luggage was booked right through to Kilimanjaro, so we were unencumbered. There were only about ten of the passengers who were going on to Kilimanjaro, so the airport was fairly empty for a while. Tropical heat found its way into the waiting area but because we had been fed and watered on the plane, we didn’t need to look for food or drink, we just wanted to stretch our legs. The airport wasn’t very big so we skirted the boundary three times before choosing a quiet spot to people watch. Most of the people had the bearing of Islam, the women in hijabs gave us a clue and the men with taqiyah, skull caps confirmed it. One small boy, maybe six years old, took a shine to Asifiwe, she wore long braids which might have attracted him. He sat down beside her and gazed at her for a while, she spoke to him in English and Swahili but he didn’t understand either and just smiled back at her. His mother noticed what has was doing so took him by the hand and said, ‘Sorry’ to us… but there was no need for an apology.

A crowd gathered because there was a plane departing for Kenya, and we watched a guy making a fuss at the walk-through x-ray machine. It turned out he was a 'famous' entertainer, but the people at the machine were neither intimidated nor impressed that he was gracing their presence. He wore enough gold necklaces to start a jeweller shop! But he had to take them all off, he had bangles, another chain under his shirt, a wrist watch, rings and he wasn’t a happy chappy having to remove them! He complained loudly all the time. They even made him take his shoes off because they had shiny buckles. The other passengers were getting titchy with him too and were grumbling at the holdup, but the machine operators remained calm and unflustered! 

We departed the airport with no fuss… we weren’t required to remover our shoes. After my time in Tanzania, I arrived back at the airport for another three hour wait before heading to Heathrow. Again I wanted to stretch my legs, so around the building I walked and not long before my flight was due to be called, some of my hydration was ready for emptying. I’d been to the toilet on the other side of the building and thought I’d just pop into another as I was walking past. I soon found it wasn’t exactly a toilet… it was a washroom at the entrance to a mosque! I was in there before I realised and I wasn’t sure what I should do! There were men there doing their cleansing and they looked sternly at me, knowing I didn’t belong, they neither welcomed me nor shunned me, and I think some felt sorry for my embarrassment. I suppose they were all in transit so nobody belonged there, otherwise maybe someone might have welcomed me. Anyway, I quickly found the way out and hurried to the other dunny.

Asifiwe was only fifteen at the time, and she was to pass through Addis Airport to return to Heathrow on her own. I had every confidence in her, but when I think about it now, it was a risk. If she had gone missing, where would I start? Anyway, she didn’t and I think the experience made her a more self-reliant person. As expected we met her at Heathrow and enjoyed the rest of our time in the UK.

 


Submitted: October 21, 2021

© Copyright 2021 moa rider. All rights reserved.

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dewey green

Lovely story mate!

Thu, October 21st, 2021 9:54am

Author
Reply

Thank you Dewey, appreciate you reading and commenting. Usianguke

Thu, October 21st, 2021 1:30pm

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