My Ethiopian Experience Part 3: Wooing/ Sex Business in Addis*

One thing we must have understood from the previous parts of my Ethiopian experience is probably the fact that Ethiopians are very conservative and culturally-conscious in nature… maybe judging from their eating and other habits as earlier discussed.

But one very interesting experience I have had in Ethiopia is the wooing habits of the men, which is maybe not particular to Ethiopian men.

Well, just like in almost every other big city, it is common to have men of all social levels throwing comments at a lady, to either appreciate her beauty or get her attention.

Using the streets of Addis, I get comments like ‘hey, beautiful African woman’ or simply, ‘hey African lady’. Sometimes I smile in response, other times I ignore in irritation; especially after I came to discover that most of them call me African cos they think I am different from them; ignorance or complex? We shall talk about this in another chapter.

Many are the times I received “Love messages” from strange numbers in Addis, and when I try asking questions, I get responses like ‘I was the one who helped you with your bank transaction today, so I got your number from the form you filled’

or

‘I helped with your documents today at the immigration office’ … etc.

Maybe this does not only happen in Ethiopia, but the difference here is that the Ethiopian guy would immediately start professing how madly in love he is with you and can’t do without you…

Haba! First day?, I would ask, while thinking about especially my Cameroonian men; (A topic for yet another chapter… hahaha)

Ok, so this is an example of what I am talking about.

I left church one beautiful Sunday afternoon, the weather was quite good, so instead of calling the driver to take me back home like I usually do, I decided to use public transport, that way, I’d enjoy the weather and city while walking to the taxi station.

So I engaged on my walk (which turned out not to be as fun as I thought given that I was on heels and the taxi point was farther than I had anticipated)

Suddenly, there was this nice looking and elegantly dressed guy calling out for my attention… hello, hello, please excuse me!

So I stopped to hear him out and all he wanted was to know me, where I was going and possibly give me a lift.

 He insisted on giving me a lift, this time pointing at the car he had parked nearby, and I was like ‘Ohhh, that’s really nice of you but I’d rather use public transport”.

So he asked to accompany to the taxi stop which I accepted.

We finally got to where I was to get a taxi, and surprisingly, my new friend got into the taxi with me… this alone got me really uncomfortable and my change of countenance and attitude was visible for everyone in the taxi to see. Unfortunately for me, I had, in the course of our walk and chat given him my Tel number.

We get to Arat kilo where I was to alight, and the “gentleman” alighted too.  Then not bring able to hold myself anymore, I asked him, where are you going ? Are u actually following me?

And he said, “I was hoping we could have lunch together… “

To cut the long story short, it took me quite an effort and public help to make this guy not follow me to my home… more interestingly, he had already started calling me ‘baby’ and preaching undying love for me.

Once again I was like, on a first day? Wonders indeed!

At some point I got really disturbed by the embarrassing approaches that I had to complain to my Ethiopian neighbour and friend, Kuki, and she said while laughing, ‘Ohh! that’s how Ethiopian guys are my dear’. If an Ethiopian guy approaches you and u give room for a discussion, he assumes you guys are dating already.

Then I realized it wasn’t about me. I know it is generally hard to find the new generation African men going through the wooing process of yester-years, a process that usually took several months to get a lady commit to a relationship… yes most African men now expect you to ‘understand and respond’ but more interesting is when a man expects this to happen few hours after you meet him.

How the Ethiopian ladies respond to this is something I am still to find out. But what I can readily tell you is that Ethiopian female sex-workers are very decent, yet very aggressive. Hahaha.

It took me several months in Addis to realise that the decently dressed women I saw around the Bole area in the evenings were actually ‘prostitutes’.

So this day one of my Professors honoured me with a lift back home from an exhausting seminar. At some point we got caught up in traffic (as is characteristic of Addis), then these 2 ladies rushed to the car and are like ‘you want business?’.

I was completely amazed when Prof explained to me the kinda business they were out for.

Then I was like, ‘doesn’t it even matter to them that you are in the car with a lady?”

That’s a question I didnt get an answer to… and leave you to try answering. But just so you know, the Ethiopian government is currently reviewing a bill to ban the activities of commercial sex workers and beggers from the streets of Addis.

I hope to join you soon again, with more on this bill and other Ethiopian experiences in subsequent parts.

 Cheers!

Imma Mkong

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