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Monday, March 17, 2008

Last full day in Mali; Ethiopia tomorrow

Bought my air ticket to Addis Ababa but at 30 euros more than the internet price. The Ethiopian Airlines website only accepted credit cards with "Guaranteed by VISA" or "Mastercard SecurePay" logos, and so I had to pay cash at their office, for which the staff argued I could no longer pay the internet price. Very expensive ticket that cost FCFA 552,000, one way, for Bamako-Addis Ababa on 18 March and Addis Ababa-Entebbe (Uganda) on 14 April. Even then, I wasted some time at their office showing them my Ethiopian visa and arguing that I would have no problem entering Uganda without a visa even though I do not have a ticket out of Uganda. They took some time to accept my point that my ticket from Nairobi to Dubai and Dubai-Singapore would meant that I would certainly leave Uganda.
Once that point is accepted, the reservation manager at the Ethiopian Airlines, who is a booby Malian lady, said that she was in Singapore ten days ago, and that she visits Singapore once a year, to buy air conditioners for import into Mali, which is her sideline business. She praises our open door policy which allows Malians to enter without visa – I told her I had to get my Malian visa in Abidjan, which was most troublesome.
I then walked around downtown Bamako, spent some time at the beautiful air-conditioned lobby (a mediocre lobby like this by Asian standards becomes a paradise after one spends 2 months in dilapidated West African cities) of 5-star Sofitel Hotel reading about East Africa, and then had early lunch at Long Ma, a Chinese restaurant run by Henanese from Zhengzhou. Back to Hotel Tamana in Hippodrome now.
On Tuesday, my flight will be at 6:30am (airline says report at 3am!). The plane will fly west to Dakar, Senegal, one hour stopover and then 7+ hours eastwards across the African continent to Ethiopia. I am scheduled to arrive in Addis Ababa at 20:00 local time, which is GMT+4 hours. Mali is at GMT. I would be spending the whole of tomorrow flying!
Wutma Hotel of Addis Ababa would pick me up at the airport. Plan in Addis would be to apply for visas for the breakaway, unrecognized Republic of Somaliland, and possibly for Djibouti as well. Then fly to Hargeisha, capital of Somaliland, as soon as possible. From Somaliland, I would move on to Djibouti, and then try to get Eritrean visa in Djibouti. After a visit to Eritrea from Djibouti (can't visit Eritrea from Ethiopia because both countries have not normalized relations since the war a few years ago), I will return to Ethiopia, hopefully by 1 April. Then spend 2 weeks in Ethiopia visiting sights of the "Northern Circuit" of historical cities, and move on to Uganda on 14 April.
Ethiopia will be country number 163.
Sounds exciting?

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