Salambo discovering Ethiopia
I thought the annual Sheraton Art of Ethiopia fair, which took place a few weeks ago, was THE event in town, gathering crowds and generating envy for those not on the invitees list. Well, I was wrong. The most highly praised social event here is the Beaujolais Nouveau evening, organised also at the Sheraton, by French companies and a group of Ethiopian sponsors. So popular it is that the complimentary invitations are strictly personal and do not cover partners! People in Addis are so eager to attend the event that they almost fight for it, using all the contacts they have to secure an invitation for themselves. So I suppose I should consider myself extremely lucky, if not socially important here (only here!), if I got one through my contribution to the Alliance Ethio-française!!
Having now witnessed the event, I can say that it lives up to its reputation. In a few words, it is a display of overabundance in a country that is used to such limited supplies, and we all indulge like small children presented with rare sweets! Held in the ballroom of the Sheraton, no expense was spared to satisfy the invitees’ tastebuds. Frog legs and snails were being panfried in front of the guests, king prawns and fresh fish were flown in from Djibouti, five different types of meat and hot dishes were on offer, the miniature patisserie and cakes were competing with the giant chocolate fountain, while the cheese board would have put no one to shame back in Paris. In fact, the flowing Beaujolais Nouveau itself as well as the amazing selection of French cheeses arrived the same morning on the Paris flight.
The purpose of this annual event is actually to promote French food and wine using the Beaujolais Nouveau as a pretext, something French companies do in many countries in the World. However, in Addis it has taken a whole new social aspect! It is the most sought-after evening for the good society of Addis, and it is the one event where they absolutely want to be seen to show everybody their social status in the city. I met there a few acquaintances from the French school who do not go out at any other occasion. They were Ethiopians, Italians or Greeks born in Addis, traders, artists and owners of businesses. There were also many many other people I didn’t even know. Being a Beaujolais Nouveau evening, the French community was extremely well represented, but they were far outnumbered by the local society. Interesting human comedy!