Ethiopian Easter, aka Fasika, marking the end of the Lent season, is a major holiday in Ethiopia, eagerly awaited by young and old alike. The holiday vibes are already in full gear despite the gloom and doom being witnessed globally; viz., wars, famine, natural disasters, and inflation. The Addis Ababa Exhibition Center, a major venue to showcase important artistic and business events, is currently playing host to commercial activities befitting this religious festival.
The gates of the center are festooned with balloons, flowers and lights with a view to attracting passers-by to check out what is on offer within the premises. Loud speakers are also blaring out traditional tunes to which folks in line to get in have been seen dancing to them impulsively. .
With entrance fee set at 150 birr, shoppers enjoy the ease of finding everything in one place. Booths are filled with real-estate agents, clothing vendors, as well as purveyors of assorted merchandise screaming at the top of their lungs to get the attention of shoppers. It all gives a vibrant hue to the holidays.
The grounds of the center are teeming with shoppers even on weekdays, in case something is on offer at bargain price. Kebebush Adanew, a shopper who visited the exhibition center comes to the center every holiday in hopes of finding something she might like.
“I don’t think I have ever missed a single one; it is so engaging and I always find things I did not know I needed. Plus, if you happen to buy things in bulk, say cleaning supplies, you would likely end up paying bargain prices, which is a good deal if you ask me. I buy them in bulk and use them until the next holiday season,” she said.
Meanwhile, other shoppers come to the center to merely engage in window-shopping.
Merchants, on the other hand, try to lure customers to their booths not only to vend wares but also in hopes of promoting their businesses. Medhanit G/Meskel, a perfumes and other cosmetics vendor, said that sales may not be as steady as they were a couple of years back.
“People really have less to spend on things they don’t consider essential. It is a sad reality but the reality none the less. My products are non-essential to people who don’t consider self-care as a necessity so I understand why fewer people stop at my booth. But the ones that do come end up purchasing something because my products are affordable and eye-grabbing,” she said.
Other essential commodity vendors have better luck with shoppers. On a previous exhibition, Tena Cooking Oil was a preferred destination for many buyers, having provided affordable cooking oil. But now, buyers have been inured to rising cooking oil prices brought about by the dearth of the commodity on the market. Some locally-made cooking oil vendors have set up shop at the center, offering a 5-liter of niger-seed oil for 1,050 birr.
The holiday that signifies resurrection is usually an occasion for people to renovate their houses. Those who sell construction materials normally do brisk business. But in light of the current inflation, shoppers are less willing to do up their living quarters.
Vendors at the center have set up shop since the 1st of April, appealing to shoppers that stop. Medhanit, attending the exhibition for the third time, is hopeful that the last week of the event will bring in more buyers and a busier, vibrant scene, even though it isn’t as vibrant as it used to be.
Other bazaars have also opened around the city, albeit on a smaller scale. The Easter Bazanch, which is being held at Villa Verde Restaurant, and Yenegew Bazaar, which is open to visitors at Hayatt Regency Hotel, are just two among many that have cropped up across the city. They too are attracting shoppers of a different kind.
The occasion is assuming the vibes of a typical Easter week, with merchants displaying banners announcing bargains. Even though basic commodity prices keep on going up, shoppers still keep buying.
“Back in the days, I used to bring 2,000 birr to these events and leave with so much items in my hands. But now, if I were to carry cash for all the things I needed, it would be an inconvenience. Thankfully, most vendors use Telebirr Everything has gotten expensive beyond measure, I can’t imagine what it would be like by the time Ethiopian New Year’s exhibition rolls in,” concluded Kebebush.