Addis Ababa Airport is tiny. Compared to Heathrow, this place looks like a child’s play house. Only Ethiopean Airlines flies to and from Addis, so space isn’t really an issue. It’s freezing outside, and I have packed away all warm clothing (the very British thing to do when going on holiday). We walk from the plane to the airport and instantly confusion begins. I manage to follow the signs, half-asleep, up a flight of stairs and down a corridor to a crowd of people gathered around one short man.
The signs are now unclear, and I realise that I have to ask this man where to go.
‘Excuse me, I’m travelling to…’
‘…Lusaka? This way’ (He signals to his right).
I drag my feet in that direction to the transit lounge. All I want to do is lie down and sleep.
The transit lounge is heaving. All of the seats are taken, so I settle for sitting on my suitcase near the (only) boarding desk. I can see a few shops, which look like market stalls, on the other side of glass dividers, but we can’t go through to the other side.
There are no shops in the actual transit lounge, or somewhere to even buy water. Thank God I filled up a few water bottles at Heathrow. I plonk myself down on my hand luggage, take out a tube of BBQ Pringles and begin to munch away my jet lag.
This stop is supposed to be approximately three hours long. Half an hour in, and I am asked to move from my comfortable spot on the suitcase. Another flight is going to board and the spacious area I had chosen has to be empty. I quickly find another ‘out of the way’ corner, and set myself down again. This time I take out a chicken wrap (thanks Aunty for packing it for me), and continue munching.
About an hour has passed, and another flight is called for boarding. People are walking over me now. This spot is not as out of the way as I would have hoped.
The wrap was super spicy and I have almost run out of water (no thanks aunty).
My husband has been standing since we landed, as the hand luggage only has space for one. After having people’s bags and bottoms brush past me, we find some seats, and I actually run to grab them. I have needed to ‘spend a penny’ since we landed (then drank all of the water), but my inner snob is telling me not to go. The toilet building is adjacent to the transit lounge, and is actually a shipping container, converted into loos. No word of a lie! There is a container with a door on the right for Men and a door on the left for the Ladies toilets. There are people swarming in and out of the toilets, making me question whether they’re worth using.
A flight to Harare is called for boarding and almost all of the seats are emptied. I mentally thank the Zimbabweans for taking and then leaving all of the seats, and lie down across three seats. The feeling of horizontally stretching ones legs after sitting upright for 7 hours is pure bliss. This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for.
Within a millisecond of making myself comfortable, a drony voice announces that the Lusaka flight is boarding. At exactly the same moment, I see a cleaner leave the over-sized portaloo. Naturally, now is the moment I choose to use the bathroom. It’s actually not too bad. There are three cubicles and two sinks, with a good enough hand drier. There is also an unpleasant lingering smell.
I am the last one to board the flight.
Read Part 3 here