One of the keys to a successful family travel experience is figuring out where you plan to rest your head at night. A cozy bed to ensure restful and peaceful sleep can temper the stress of your day’s adventure and rejuvenate you to tackle what’s ahead. Thankfully, we had the time and insight to scour reviews and plan our accommodations before arriving in Ethiopia. Even when some of our preferred guesthouses or hotels couldn’t be reserved online, we still had their names and phone numbers ready which saved us a lot of hassle and headache. Each guesthouse and hotel was unique and finding vegan dining options wasn’t always easy but, in the end, we found a few places good enough to recommend and one to coronate with this year’s Raggamuslim Greenfist Award 2012.
La Source Guest House, Addis Ababa
Our first warm reception in Ethiopia was courtesy of the La Source Guest House shuttle service. The warm chocolate face that met us at the airport was one of their receptionists. Even though we arrived much earlier than the scheduled check-in time, we were ushered to our room and invited to the buffet breakfast.
After settling into our modest room with tasteful decor, we feasted on the vestiges of the morning buffet: hot tea, fried vegetable sambusas, and rolls. While lacking in vegan variety, the sambusas were so delightful that we ignored the rest. We stayed at La Source for a total of three nights and paid $30 USD per night for a double occupancy room with buffet breakfast and complementary airport shuttle service.
Rewda Guesthouse, Harar
The heart of Harar is within the walled city and Rewda is the only pulsing accommodation within. Granted, there are finer accommodations beyond the walls but staying at Rewda’s is like staying at a distant relative’s home.
Our bedroom was nestled on the main floor of the home, adjacent to the shared bathroom. The wooden bed frame cradled a soft mattress with piled blankets soft from wear. The short door frames were secured with a wooden door and padlock. Just outside of our room was a cove for another bed alongside the aisleway which led to a common room where backpackers can crash. I’m sure a full house would feel very…cozy.
Just after sunrise, we were served hot tea with freshly prepared fried Harari bread and local honey. Being Muslim-owned, we were offered prayer rugs and the guest house owners conversed with us in short Arabic clauses. Accommodations can only be made by phone to one of the tour guides affiliated with guesthouse. For 350 birr, almost $20 USD, we enjoyed a double occupancy room with a shared bathroom and breakfast. A guide escorted us to and from the bus stations by foot.
African Village Hotel, Dire Dawa
This part-Swiss, part-Ethiopian establishment has character. Each room is designed as a free-standing hut with a bamboo ceiling and thatch roof.
A talkative, caged cockatoo resides outside between the restaurant/reception area and a conference hall that hosts services and events. The hotel feels secure with a round-the-clock guard and gated entry. What we loved most about African Village was the serenity of the grounds and the availability of vegan fare for every meal, every day. For 400 birr, a little more than $20 USD, we had a double occupancy room with a private bathroom and one complimentary breakfast meal and beverage.
Milano Hotel, Mekele
The Milano Hotel entrance is gaudy and imposing. The guards and staff wear bright uniforms with twined rope and shiny medallions. They have a reputation for being pushy but we didn’t mind. What was shocking to us was to see our room behind the grand facade. Between the windowless opening in the bathroom wall, the leaking toilet, and retired carpet, we weren’t sure how they mustered up the courage to call themself a four-star accommodation. The only vegan breakfast options were toast, orange juice and tea but for lunch they offered us shiro wat, a steaming pea flour stew, with injera and an assortment of steamed vegetables.
The meal was a bit overpriced but the low-budget room compensated. We paid 193 birr, a little over $10 USD, for a double occupancy room, with a private bathroom, that we hope to forget.
Tres Stelles Guest House, Addis Ababa
We kinda got tricked into staying here. The fast-talking cab drivers on a late arrival into Addis Ababa somehow hoodwinked us into testing out a guest house closer to the airport, instead of our original desire to loyally return to LaSource. Tres Stelles was hard to find, on a poorly lit back road. The attendant was eager to receive us and excitedly showed us the available rooms throughout the new building. Wooden floors with modern textiles and fixtures left a stunning impression but communicating with the attendant was a challenge. He spoke no English and had to feverishly call the owner to translate our basic inquiries. We changed rooms twice; the first room, with its jacuzzi tub, was overpriced and the second room had no hot water in the shared bathroom. Our final room selection had a private bathroom and fluffy white duvet bedding at a cost of 350 birr, nearly $20 USD. The included breakfast was nothing more than hot tea, white bread with jam, and cold fruit.
Our vegan buddy, Mesfin, rescued us in time to return to LaSource before the breakfast buffet ended. When the owner at LaSource saw us, she asked with concern “Where were you?” We tried to explain that the taxis were overpriced, to which she replied, “You should’ve called us! We would’ve picked you up!” Her concern was genuine and we happily ended our stay at LaSource.
So, out of the five candidates, this year’s Raggamuslim Greenfist Award goes to… African Village Hotel of Dire Dawa.
At African Village, we were more than pleased with the vegan offerings. Each meal was freshly prepared, served piping hot, and memorably delicious. The earthy interior decor and attentive landscaping made our stay homely and alive. The smiley staff were attentive and exceptionally helpful in directing us around town and securing our ride to the airport at the local cost. Though our stay at African Village was brief, it was relaxing and rejuvenating.
If you’re planning on visiting Bahir Dar, do consider B&B The Annex. We didn’t make it to Bahir Dar but the owner of the property was helpful and hospitable in the accommodation she arranged for us. Even when we had to cancel our stay, she was still just as kind and we really appreciated that.