Even before the sun comes up, business is going down in Piazza. When the rest of Addis is sleeping and hyenas roam empty streets, the fruit and vegetable market in Piazza is buzzing with activity.
Unknown to most people, we got a glimpse into this world on a trip with our local produce store staff for their daily shopping.
After a prompt 4am departure, we arrive to a quiet Piazza – something we never even dreamt existed. The roads were quiet but negotiations were taking place through every doorway.
You can find almost any fruit or vegetable you can think of: avocados, limes, cauliflower, cucumbers, pineapple, bananas, oranges, bell peppers, tomatoes, spinach and kale. And everything is sold in massive quantities.
People are proud of their produce and it shows. Stacks of crates of tomatoes bear the markings “SG” which we are proudly told stand for the owner’s initials. Simply put (according to him) he has the best tomatoes in the city.
We diverted from the main road, descending treacherous steps and traversed muddy passageways noisy with the sounds of negotiations and occasional gasps as we (ferenjis) passed through. Our shoes slipped on unknown rotten fruits and vegetables that littered the ground, the surface beneath our feet too dark to see.
Street women collect good-looking onions and tomatoes that have fallen by the wayside: nothing here is wasted.
A mountain of onions 10 feet tall supports a sleepy salesman, curled up atop the mass. A kilo of onions here costs 3 Birr. That’s less than $0.15 USD.
It’s mostly men, with an occasional woman. Men and boys waddle through crowds with 100-kilo sacks resting on their shoulders or in baskets carried on their heads. Giant sacks of carrots whiz past your ears and graze your shoulders from behind. If you don’t watch where you’re going you’re certain to get hit.
Dawit and Gait (our local fruit and veggie guys) know everyone there and know which stalls sell the best stuff. We stop constantly as they hug friends and greet friendly shop owners.
And as the sun starts to rise, more people appear and Piazza assumes its busy, crowded ways and the precious purchases are carted in all directions through Addis.
Want to see the Piazza Market for yourself? Sign up for one of our market tour starting October 1st!
**The Hard-Core Market Tour is a 3 hour tour that starts as the sun comes up. The tour visits the fruit and vegetable market in Piazza, Ethiopia’s largest produce market; stops to recharge at the historic Tomoca coffee shop for an excellent macchiatto; and, finishes with a tour of clay earthenware and spices at Shola Market. We pick you up at your hotel at 5:30am for an adventurous morning through the crowded, smelly, lively and beautiful markets!**