Arabella Stewart

As a child growing up in Addis, I recall the feeling of great excitement when the first skyscraper building of 11 floors in Addis opened its doors in 1968 and specifically the fact that it had a lift that would whisk you to the top for panoramic 360-degree views of Addis Ababa and the surrounding mountains – stunning vistas at any time of day.  Of course the landscape has changed vastly over the years but the hotel and that rooftop terrace continue to hold great sentimental appeal and still offers fantastic views of an ever-changing urban landscape.  The mountain ranges are still as beautiful as ever albeit more populated than they were in 1968.

The Wabe Shebelle Hotel opened its doors in 1968. Emperor Haile Selassie had it built specifically as a gift for his five grandsons, the sons of Prince Mekonnen who died tragically in a car accident in 1957. The Hotel was then nationalized during the Derg regime in 1975. The hotel remained under the management of the Privatization and Public Enterprises Supervising Agency (PPESA) until it was eventually returned to the Royal Family. In 1999 Prince Beede Mariam, one of the five grandsons, began the process to reclaim the hot​el​. The ​entire ​process  ​ending up taking 11 years. “We are very delighted,” Beede Mariam announced when the Hotel was finally returned to its ​original owners in 2010. ​Today ​Prince Beede runs the hotel on behalf of his ​brothers and his nephew Joel Makonnen is the Board Director.

The “Segnet” restaurant on the 10th floor adjacent to the outdoor terrace is an ideal place to visit either for a drink – anything from fresh juice to beer or coffee. At dusk the view of the sunsets from different terrace vantage points is marvelous and gives you a real feel for the city and its surroundings. There is no view or terrace to match it in the city in my opinion. The restaurant also serves a good selection of well-prepared continental food if you choose to stay for lunch or dinner.

The hotel is currently in the ongoing process of being renovated and updated with possible expansion and although it may not yet have caught up with and acquired the latest updated and modern furnishings of its recent and plentiful “cousins” there is a unique and timeless appeal of this old world hotel and it truly is a historic landmark.

In addition to over 100 rooms (with great city scape views) and other facilities, which include executive suites and three restaurants, there is a large ballroom that can host over 700 people! One of the attractions of the hotel for me is that it distinguishes itself by standing alone and is not clustered alongside many other hotels, as is often the case in Addis.

For great Ethiopian crafts and books, the Ethiopian Tourism shop next to reception has always been filled with unique items very economically priced and on my latest trip I came away with a handwoven cotton carpet, beautiful Axum cross necklace and locally published books in English on Ethiopian herbs and Christianity in Ethiopia.

As one of only two major 4-star hotels in its time (alongside the Hilton) the Wabe Shebelle was the tallest building in the city with 11 floors and it was THE place to visit along with all the international dignitaries and celebrities of the time – if walls could speak, what interesting tales and fascinating observations there would be to hear….

Address: Ras Abebe Aregay Avenue Mexico

Phone: +251 115 517187