Merkato the Biggest Market of Africa


Merkato the adventurous open-air market situated on the capital city at Addis ketema district is the perfect stop for unique shopping day and sampling traditional spices. At Menalesh Tera, visitors have the chance to purchase exotic ingredients like sport cars spare parts, housing items and clothing’s at cheaper costs than the actual prices. Jovago Africa’s leading online hotel booking company takes you inside this stunning marketplace.

Merkato adopted from Italian word means giant market. The market covers several square kilometers employing countless people in 7,100 business entities. There are over 150 stores and four massive shopping centers with 75 stores. It was established as a marketplace during the Italian occupation of Ethiopia. It used to be known by the name Merkato Indigino (market of the indigenous). It was erected with the plan to have a market far from the center of the city, Arada Ghiorgis, now known as Piazza. Previously it used to be dominated by Arab tradesmen until local merchants took over the market back in the 1960s giving it entirely a local flavor.

It’s far from the modern shopping malls found in Addis Ababa. The air is scented with spiced fresh local boughs and exclusive ingredients. If you are a fan of adventure, Merkato is sure to have what you are looking for. As the largest wholesale market in Africa, it offers more than just a shopping experience allowing you to experience different cultures meeting traders who work around the clock.

The dilapidated and crowded shops in Merkato are the predominant image of the marketplace. The market is home to many salespersons, including blacksmiths, potters, carpenters and weavers. In Merkato, there is no limit on the items available. One can buy anything from used or new clothing, shoes, souvenirs, herbs, spices, cattle’s. Menalesh Tera is the specialty of the marketplace it’s known as the place where anyone can buy everything except a human being.

The market is always filled with shoppers, carrying bags full of items, seemingly oblivious to the crowd. The environment is abuzz with the sound of buyers and sellers negotiating prices. Music’s across the street, blaring various native themed music, adds to the adventure of the place. Donkeys and other livestock run around freely, ISUZU trucks load and unload countless bundles of supplies, and shoppers explore the streets looking for the best deals. It’s a place where people talk at the same time and understand each other.

The colorful market is organized based on section (tera) where similar products are found on the same area. The major teras in Merkato include, Saten Tera, Shera Tera, Mesob Tera, Worke Tera, Ched Tera, Menalesh Tera, Dubai Tera, Military Tera, Bomb Tera, Shata Tera, Mentaf Tera, Frash Tera and Sidamo Tera. From the exclusive Ethiopian garment to jewelries the market is full of items. It’s easier to find just about anything.  On the sidewalks coffee and samosa sellers provide cheaper roadside snacks treating sellers and buyers with fresh bites.

For sheer diversity, Merkato is hard to beat. In this historic shopping spot there are plenty of different caters to all tastes. Rows of stalls are themed, from sweet treats (cakes, chocolates and cookies) to crafts (leather, shoes, hand-woven scarves, slippers, silver, household items). Children are entranced by the Toy Street, full of playthings from around the world. Romantics opt for the jewelry market and gifts; crowd-avoiders choose the commercial building market where bright lights twinkle on each shop. There is also a peaceful spot to sit and relax at the roof restaurants for panoramic views of the exceptional market enjoying mouth-watering cuisines.

The time is ticking to transform the view of this historical marketplace into a rather modern setting, with most of the ancient shops rising onto commercial buildings. Take time to visit the place before it soon becomes a history.

By Eden Sahle


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