Salambo discovering Ethiopia
It happened. After months of uncertainty, the decision fell for Dashen restaurant to close down. The whole process didn’t take long, we had a goodbye lunch on a Sunday some three weeks ago and by the following Saturday half of the house was already gone. As I drove past it, it was reduced to four bare and broken walls just about standing still.
The closing of Dashen restaurant is symbolic of an end of an era in Addis. Built in the late 1950s under the reign of emperor Haile Selassié when Addis was going through a new phase of development as seat of the nascent African Union and Ethiopia was opening up to the World, it first was a school before becoming a restaurant during the Derg regime. At the time, the aristocratic family who owned the house had had all their assets confiscated by the marxist-socialist government known as the Derg, except for that one house. They ended up living upstairs while turning the downstairs area into a restaurant to secure themselves a source of income. For some thirty years, it was one of the best Ethiopian restaurants in town as well as a social gathering point where people would invariably meet. With the massive urban transformation under way in Addis, it no longer had a place in the centre of the city, now reserved for high-rise business buildings, so it was brutally erased from it. For me, Dashen was one of the very first Ethiopian restaurant I went to after moving to Ethiopia and one of the best I experienced in Addis. As my friendship with Manale and her family (the owners of Dashen) grew, it became my second home in Addis. So I was particularly touched to see it go.
Now the house is no longer, but the restaurant will re-open elsewhere in the Kasanchis area, on the way to the British Embassy. Tsege, the co-owner (together with her siblings) and manager, is in the process of refurbishing and re-organising the new space she has found for the new Dashen.