Photo Essay - June 21, 2003 - The New Bole Airport Terminal Building

As photographers and narrators of stories from home, we hadn't realized how much moral issues and bigger events inside the country weigh on our work until we were assigned to do a story on the new Bole terminal project. Here we were sitting in the office of one of the officials at the terminal to request permission to do this story when - as scheduled - power went off as the distant humming of generators  reminded us the energy crisis in the country. Add to that the fact that farmers in the traditional bread baskets of the country like Northern Sidamo and Bale are on the verge of starving and you get a small picture of our moral predicament. Truth be told that we wished we could do a story on the Gilgel Gibe hydro power project which has a potential of delivering 185 MW and save Addis Ababans from 2 days of darkness every week. 'Wait until September', say our engineer friends who profess that the project will be finished by then. May be December 03 is our guess; but limited budget and bureaucratic hassle that requires us to get permission from at least 5 kilils stand on our way of doing a story on this.

But today, the story is about the new airport terminal at Bole and despite the troubles in the country, we still feel it is a welcome development for the city and the country as a whole. Hence this edition of photo essay. What will strike any visitor to this building first is not only its sheer size - 3 stories of open space as you enter the terminal - but its design concept that gives it a feel of a vast welcoming open space. Even the security people starting from the EPRDF soldiers with AK47 to the well-groomed senior 'zebegnas' seem overwhelmed as the building design seems to offer them little control on the flow of  passengers and their well-wishers, especially at the wide public area.  For a system bent on controlling people, architecture seems to have taken a sweet revenge. This is not to say that security is a problem; on the contrary we are told that security for passengers is as tight as usual. After most Ethiopians felt insulted by the Israelis who harassed our plane and passengers a few months ago, the Airlines keeps on reassuring everybody on safety issues. From what we saw at the terminal, we believe the airlines. 


Talking about the Israeli incident, we are still intrigued why the airlines resumed its flight there after all that harassment in the Negev desert. Besides, it seems to us it is safer to fly to Badme and Tsorna than Israel these days. One of the coolest stuff we liked at the terminal is the nice use of fabric decorators. It looks like a white people's idea; but it gives the terminal a very Ethiopian feel and look. Occupancy of the shopping areas is another area where we thought things were off to a slow start. Some of the cafes are already looking like cafes at Arada shopping center in Piazza with bright and un-coordinated colors that do not much the theme at the building. We are also told that if the Italians ever admit to their stealing, the Prince Tsehay plane is supposed to be on display at the terminal. Another old DC-6 plane is also supposed to be on a permanent display near the large parking lot. All in all, the terminal seems to live up to the huge expectations it has raised. Now only if the Ethiopian Airlines gets back to its day-time flight schedule instead of its headache-causing nocturnal schedule, the terminal will then have more color and activity. 


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