Mercato, Addis Ababa © Philip Kromer
The Mercato is one of the largest outdoor markets in Africa and Addis Ababa's most colourful sight. There are tinkers, tailors, spice merchants, camel traders, and purveyors of just about every possible commodity under the sun, including, of course, wonderful Ethiopian coffee. Needless to say the market is a great place to pick up souvenirs. Mercato really is an exhilarating place to visit although it is not for the faint hearted. With animals wandering the streets, vendors hollering, the pungent aromas of local dishes and a riot of colour and sensations, you will find a visit here to be a memorable experience. The spice market is particularly interesting with its exotic colours and smells.
The Mercato is a pick-pocketing hotspot so be careful with your valuables. Wear a money belt under your clothes rather than keeping cash in an accessible place. Bargain hard as prices are enormously flexible and foreigners are routinely charged three to four times the going rate. Often you can bargain your way down to as little as 20 percent of the original asking price. Be careful of purchasing antiques and historical artefacts as without a certificate they may not be genuine and even if they are they could be confiscated at the airport. The market is enormous, chaotic and easy to get lost in - many travellers prefer to hire a local guide to show them around.