by Matt Gibbs, ColorfulTimes: It remains an odd sight to see an old Volksvagen beetle motorcar trundling around Addis Ababa. “Odd,” simply because I associate them with the swinging sixties, a relic of my parents’ generation. “Remains,” because they have been in the country for some time and yet still seem out of place – contrary to the bearing of the proud Ethiopian.
You can’t help but notice them. They are less common than the pervasive blue and white Ladas, used for taxis. But they are far more striking in their old fashioned oranges, limes and beige – probably not repainted since back in the day.
And they hold a special place in the history of Ethiopia. A beetle was the very car that the former Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, was taken away in immediately following his dethronement. On the appointed day, he was arrested at his palace and whisked away in the back of yellow vee-dub, reportedly waving regally as the car – sans motorcade – made its way towards his prison where he would die less than a year later.
Since I learned that fact – and saw the photo to go with it – every time I see a beetle in Addis, I think of that diminutive monarch and wonder if the Dergue that overthrew him were being ironic in their choice of a Volksvagen: the “people’s car.” For, despite his rhetoric, his opulence and greed had shown he was anything but a man of the people… Read More