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Thursday November 5, 1992

Subject: BOOK COLUMN

Today's posting will be about the opening of the first Ethiopian owned hotel/restaurant.

HOTEL (Page 328)

At the opening ceremony of Intoto Mariam church, all the Balabats and top officials through out Ethiopia were invited. Since there were no enough houses to accommodate the guests in Intoto, Ete'ge Tayetu pledged the residents below the hill to give a hand to make it successful. For those who are willing to entertain the guests: shiro, berbere, purified butter, and teff flour was given by the Ete'ge. The ceremony was accomplished smoothly. However, there was still a problem of accommodating regular visitors to Intoto Mariam.

Emperor Menelik, in the mean time, is checking on some rumors. " In foreign countries, there exists a house called hotel where people sleep and eat paying for the service." So, the Emperor gave a directive to construct a hotel which started in the month of August 1898(Eth. calendar). As Tsehafi Te'zaz Gebre Selassie explained it, " it is called hotel ". The duties and responsibilities were given to Ete'ge acting as a sole administrator. In Nov. 25, 1990 ( Eth. C.), with the presence of diplomatic dignitaries, Emperor Menelik opened the hotel officially. Initially, Monsieur Frederick Hal became the director; later Ato Zelleka Agardew replaced Monsieur Hal.

According to the saying, Ete'ge Tayetu's "e'j yemiaskoretim w'et" did not attract any kind of customer. Leave alone to eat in a hotel, it was not even customary to hang out in the Greeks tea room which forced all the preparation for the hotel to be consumed by the employees themselves. The Emperor who was worried by the lack of business invited all the entourage and said, " Tayetu has opened a restaurant and it is my treat." Menelik paid 30 birr after the feast.

As usual, there were no customers the next day, the day after, and the day after that. Again, Menelik emphasized on the fact that " there is nothing wrong with eating in a restaurant," and treated his officials for lunch. The next day after this event, business is down again. There is no one going there no matter what. Another day, after Menelik judiciary proceeding "chilot" told his officials, " listen my friends." "In the foreign countries, if one treats you for lunch, the next time you meet, you take the initiative to repay back by doing the same thing." If one does not repay back, it is considered as shame " newir ne'w". Before he finished what he was saying, the officials hurried to reply back " we were not sure about your reaction. If it is welcomed on your part, we will be glad to take turns to repay you; this way, everyone got used to the idea." Business boomed. The people who arrange lunch meetings increased so much that the hotel acquired the name " Ete'ge Hotel." To this day, it retains this name. Today, the symbolic shield and spear that we find in different hotels as decorations started with Menelik's Ete'ge Hotel.

Ke'akbirot gar,

Wondimachehu,

Theodros