Addis Ababa, also spelled Addis Abeba, is the capital and the largest city of Ethiopia. It is located on a well-watered plateau surrounded by hills and
mountains, in the geographic center of the country.
Only since the late 19th century has Addis Ababa been the capital of the Ethiopian state. Its immediate predecessor, Entoto, was situated on a high tableland and was found to be unsatisfactory because of extreme cold and an acute shortage of firewood. The Empress Taitu, wife of Emperor Menilek II (1889-1913), persuaded the emperor to build a house near the hot springs at the foot of the tableland and to grant land in the area to members of the nobility. The city was thus founded in 1887 and was named Addis Ababa (“New Flower”) by the empress.
Addis Ababa was the capital of Italian East Africa from 1935 to 1941. Modern stone houses were built during this period, particularly in the areas of European residence, and many roads were paved.
Other innovations included the establishment of a water reservoir at Gefarsa to the west, and the building of a hydroelectric station at Akaki to the south. There were only limited changes in Addis Ababa between 1941 and 1960, but development has been extensive since then.
Located in the city are the museum at the Institute of Ethiopian Studies (operated by Addis Ababa University), the National School of Music, the National Library and Archives, palaces of former emperors, and governmental ministries. Several international organizations have their headquarters in the city; the most important are the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
The bulk of the export and import trade of Ethiopia is channeled through Addis Ababa on its way to or from the ports of Djibouti. The city is also the collection and distribution center for much of the country’s internal trade. The Mercato, located in the western part of the city, is one of the largest open-air markets in Africa. Piazza in the central city, and the Bole Road to the southeast feature more-expensive European-style shopping centers.
Formally designated recreational areas are limited, but there are many open spaces suitable for recreational purposes. A small zoo is located in a park near the university, and the volcanic lakes, a short drive to the south, has facilities for boating, waterskiing, bathing, and bird-watching. The most popular spectator sport is football (soccer). Basketball, volleyball, and other sports are also played, chiefly by school teams.