How to Find a Taxi Driver in Africa? Ask Him Who the Overweight Lover Is!

by brian on January 1, 2009

So I messed up my reservation in Addis and could not stay where I originally planned. I spent the night there and then a taxi cab driver drove me to a few hostels/hotels I had fortunately written down back in Cape Town.

The first one was the oldest hotel in Addis…and it showed. I could have gotten a private room for about $20US a night. Not bad, but I felt like checking out another place.

Which brought me to Addis Guest House. A newer looking hotel, the room rate was $40US a night. Kind of steep compared to what I’m used to paying. But it was centrally located, had free laundry service, free breakfast delivered to your room and…the hook for me…free Internet access in the room. They took $2 off so I paid $38 a night. I pulled my bag out the taxi and settled in.

The first day there I didn’t do much of anything. I stayed in my room and ordered in. Internet access was somewhere between nonexistant and poor the entire time I was there.

When I was ready to get out and meet Addis Ababa on Thursday the receptionist, Elham, had a cab driver that she trusted and would take me around when I ready to get going. More about Elham later…

Meet Alem

 How to Find a Taxi Driver in Africa? Ask Him Who the Overweight Lover Is!
Alem is the reason I had a great time in Addis. I hired his car for 400 birr ($40US) a day. He became my driver, translator and tour guide for the next 5 days. That is an incredible deal if you ask me.

and this was my chariot while in Ethiopia, a 1987 Russian made Lada.

 How to Find a Taxi Driver in Africa? Ask Him Who the Overweight Lover Is!The Lada was so old that when we went down a particularly steep hill, we had to stop and Alem had to get bottles of water to pour over the wheelbase to manually cool the brakes.

Alem spent almost 20 years in the US in DC and Arizona before returning to Africa. He’s actually from neighboring Eritrea, but settled in Ethiopia.

The reason I liked him immediately and trusted him: He would always reference old school hip hop. Since he was in the States in the late 80s, we would be driving along and he would suddenly bust out with:

“I’m the overweight lover HeavyD”
“I go to work, like a doctor…”

How can you not dig a cat who references HeavyD and the Boyz, Kool Moe Dee, and Public Enemy and other hip hop and R&B from the “golden age”. I knew I was going to have fun with him.

If you can talk about the Heavster, then you can drive me around Africa.

heavyd How to Find a Taxi Driver in Africa? Ask Him Who the Overweight Lover Is!
Since it was Christmas Day, he took me to one of the most famous Christian churches in all of Ethiopia, the Holy Trinity Cathedral. It was finished in 1931 under the direction of Haileselassie I, the ruler of Ethiopia at the time.

 How to Find a Taxi Driver in Africa? Ask Him Who the Overweight Lover Is!
 How to Find a Taxi Driver in Africa? Ask Him Who the Overweight Lover Is! How to Find a Taxi Driver in Africa? Ask Him Who the Overweight Lover Is! How to Find a Taxi Driver in Africa? Ask Him Who the Overweight Lover Is!
It is only fitting that since I was at a wedding in Siem Reap, that I would end up in the middle of a funeral in Addis. We were stuck in the parking lot for about an hour as the ceremony ended at the church and people got in their cars and drove away.

 How to Find a Taxi Driver in Africa? Ask Him Who the Overweight Lover Is!

No two things are more universal across cultures than weddings and funerals. Celebration and laughter at weddings, sorrow and wails of grief at funerals…

The first day with Alem ended with me seeing a lot of Addis.

You won’t believe what happened next…trust me, it gets better…till the next post!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Louis October 23, 2009 at 1:05 AM

i like your blog, too bad just discovered it, im embarking on a similar trip except in the opposite direction somewhat – south america europe then africa. i think i will check out this Addis hostel and the driver – will book mark this

Reply

brian October 26, 2009 at 12:41 AM

@Louis
Thanks. Let me know when you are leaving I'll pass along the info to you.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: