How different can two Moyales be?
A transformation occurs when you cross over from Moyale in Kenya to Moyale in Ethiopia. The Kenyan side is a sleepy border town inhabited by nomads.
The roads are dusty; there are few restaurants, very little traffic, and a sense of quiet.
Our tour guide A, had promised to show us around Moyale in Ethiopia.
On crossing the border, all of a sudden there are cars, tuktuks (known as bajaj), and motorcycles on the roads. Even at noon, bars are playing loud inviting music.
I look inside one bar; it is dark, the roof cutting off most of the light. The sale of alcohol freely during the day tells you this is a different country, and Kenyan restrictive alcohol laws are not universal.
The scenery is much the same as Moyale in Kenya — mountainous and green. There were moneychangers holding bundles of 100 birr notes, asking us if we wanted to change our money.
Our tour guide showed us to our hotel, where for 150 birr ($8) we got self-contained rooms with double beds. After our long journey, we had cold showers which felt warm in the heat.
Then we took a bajaj to a hotel down the street. All the cars here had either Kenyan or UN number plates. Feeling flush on our first day, we ordered beers for everyone and tried all the different brands they had — St Georges, Amber, and Castell.
We ate injera with both roasted and fried goat meat. Injera is the staple food of Ethiopia. It is sourdough-risen bread with a unique, slightly spongy texture made from teff flour. It is eaten communally, using the hands, and can be served at every meal.
While there, I had it for lunch, dinner, and breakfast and as an afternoon snack. It is usually served with goat meat, known as tibbs, which is prepared with chilli and spices so that there is no need to add salt to your food.
At this hotel, injera was served on two hot charcoal burners to keep the meat warm. The meat was then served onto the injera.
SMALL PRICE TO PAY FOR FOUR
The bill was about 200 birr ($10.5); compared with Kenya, this is a small price to pay for a meal for four.
After lunch, we walked around Moyale and booked a ticket to Dila for the following day.
There were no buses leaving to either Hawassa or Shashamane, two towns that we had been told had connections straight to Addis, and so we booked a ticket to Dila.
The language barrier was a problem, but A got us an Ethiopian mobile simcard. I met a Kenyan lady who was also on her way to Addis. She was booked on the same bus and spoke Amharic quite well, so there was someone to help us communicate.
We walked through the back streets of Moyale and found that the roads were sandy, so we took off our sandals and walked barefoot.
For dinner, we went to a restaurant near our hotel. There were palm leaves spread all over the floor. After our meal, the tour guide used two leaves to sweep off the food that had spilled onto his table.
The restaurant roof was a supported metal frame which vines had grown over. Almost all hotels in Ethiopia have outdoor seating available.
Ethiopian women are beautiful to my eyes. They have milky skin, and long hair that flows down their backs; they carry themselves with grace.
After our meal, we went to Taye bar which was opposite our hotel. Amber beer costs 15 birr ($0.8).
The club we were at began playing Amharic versions of popular pop songs; a song would start with a tune that I recognised.
The familiar strains and beats of Personally by P-square coming off the speaker, as well as the lyrics, and then it would change. The lyrics and the beat would become Amharic. They even played Gangnam Style by PSY in Amharic.
At the end of the night, we returned to our rooms to rest for the next day that would begin in just three hours.
This article was first published in the East African .