Addis Ababa Mercato

Shopping Essentials

Where: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia bustling capital city of 5 million people
What’s in store: 
Africa’s largest open air market packed with foodstuffs, crafts and practical essentials

What’s in Store

The Addis Ababa Mercato is the largest open-air market in all Africa. Within the labyrinthian alleyways it is possible to purchase anything you desire from cheap electronics to exotic fruits. Let the products be your landmark, for there is no map for getting around the miles wide trading centre. The only way to distinguish your location is to notice the product being sold. Spices, papayas, mangos, lemons, oranges, pomegranates and passion fruits, lamb, beef, carved crafts, jewellery and over one hundred coffee merchants, hawking their region’s variety, are crammed into the narrow streets of the Addis Ketema district.

Half a mile east of the present day Mercato is the Arada district, where the market used to be located. During the Italian occupation the traditional location in front of St. George’s Church was reserved strictly for Italians, driving the Amhara and Tigray further afield. The native Ethiopians joined the Arab trading centre in the Addis Ketema district, subsuming it completely by the 1960’s. Today, Arada’s streets are adorned with upmarket shops.

People Watching

The Mercato’s merchants sit on small three legged stools or burlap mats within the mountainous piles of grains and spice. The fresh produce of the market is usually grown in small lots just outside or even inside Addis Ababa and tended by city residents. It is carried to the market by foot or loaded onto the tops of cars and trucks. Children carry the goods from wagon to stall in large baskets on their head. Foreigners are typically charged more than natives in the market, as is true for accommodation and transportation in the city.



Ethiopian Tourism Comission
More information on planning your trip to Ethiopia

By Alyssa Moxley

Main image: Merkato in Addis. One of the largest open air markets in the world by Sam Effron