With Ethiopian New years out of the way (oh, btw it is 2003 now, phew, thought I might be stuck in 2002 perpetually), another holiday springs up and surprises us. This time it is the Meskel Festival, which I was privy to a year ago in Mekele. So one fine, sunny and hot Sunday afternoon I made my way down to Meskel Square, to witness the bonfire of the year that all in Addis that sunday turned out to see! The procession of Ethiopian Orthodox devotees literally piled into the stadium, to watch the parade of different church groups enter onto the square.
So with a lack of space some took advantage of previously empty spaces…
The lead up to the great bonfire, was the chanting of priests over a microphone for about 2 hours. It was not possible to understand what they were chanting about. But they were very colourful, their umbrellas the most exciting array of gold trim and vibrant flashes of colour. It really stood out against the mostly white clothing.
The crowds continued to swell to the point of bursting. This was the point that I gave up my futile search for a friend amongst the hundred thousand or two, and chose to exit the stadium to find a better place by which to view everything. While getting in took all of about 5 minutes, exiting took the best part of an hour! It was not even possible to stay still in the one spot – shoving and pushing of people trying to get further into the crowd (not even sure why – maybe it was just capillary action pulling people along each aisle).
The priests and other holy men (never saw any women), watched on.
Once outside, I was finally able to breath and take in my surroundings (clearly I am not good in crowds!). As much as I wanted to stay for the bonfire, I wanted to check out everything else that was going on around the peripheries.
On my walk home, I saw this man standing atop a huge rubbish bin and shouting into a megaphone. Obviously very passionate about the topic of his sermon, his choice of soapbox was certainly unusual. He held the interest of many walking past, but what he was saying will forever be a mystery.
*edited on 28.02.12.