In 1886 the city, then known as Finfinnie, was chosen by Menelik II as the capital of his kingdom of Shoa and was renamed Addis Ababa. In 1889 it was made the capital of Ethiopia. In 1936 (during the Italo-Ethiopian War), Italy captured Addis Ababa and made it the capital of Italian East Africa. The city was recaptured by the Allies in 1941 and returned to Ethiopian rule. After World War II, the city experienced rapid growth.
The African Union (AU; the successor of the Organization of African Unity) and the UN Economic Commission on Africa are headquartered in Addis Ababa, which also hosts numerous international conferences. The Univ. of Addis Ababa, whose Institute of Ethiopian Studies runs an ethnological and traditional arts museum, and Addis Ababa National Theatre are in Addis Ababa. The AU center, the imperial palace, the parliament building, and the Coptic and Roman Catholic cathedrals are notable buildings.
Addis Ababa (sometimes spelled Addis Abeba, the spelling used by the official Ethiopian Mapping Authority; Amharic, Adis Abäba "new flower," ) is the capital city of Ethiopia and the African Union and its predecessor, the OAU. It is also the largest city in Ethiopia. With a population of 3,627,934 as of 2007, Addis Ababa is the world's largest city in a landlocked country. As a chartered city (ras gez astedader), Addis Ababa has the status of both a city and a state. It is often called the capital of Africa or the "African Capital" due to its historical, diplomatic and political significance for the continent. The city is populated by people from different regions of Ethiopia. The country has as many as 80 nationalities speaking 80 languages and religious communities including Christian, Muslim, and Jewish. Addis Ababa is a grassland biome. The city is located at . From its lowest point, around Bole International Airport, at above sea level in the southern periphery, the city rises to over in the Entoto Mountains to the north.
The site was chosen by Empress Taytu Betul and the city was founded in 1886 by her husband, Emperor Menelik II, and now has a population of around four million, and an eight per cent annual growth rate.
Addis Ababa was founded by the Ethiopian emperor Menelik II. The name of the city (ኣዲስ ኣበባ) was taken from parts of the city called hora Finfinnee ("hot springs") in Oromo. Another Oromo name of the city is Sheger. Menelik, as initially a King of the Shewa province, had found Mount Entoto a useful base for military operations in the south of his realm, and in 1879 visited the reputed ruins of a medieval town, and an unfinished rock church that showed proof of an Ethiopian presence in the area prior to the campaigns of Ahmad Gragn. His interest in the area grew when his wife Taytu began work on a church on Entoto, and Menelik endowed a second church in the area. However the immediate area did not encourage the founding of a town due to the lack of firewood and water, so settlement actually began in the valley south of the mountain in 1886. Initially, Taytu built a house for herself near the "Filwoha" hot mineral springs, where she and members of the Showan Royal Court liked to take mineral baths. Other nobility and their staffs and households settled the vicinity, and Menelik expanded his wife's house to become the Imperial Palace which remains the seat of government in Addis Ababa today. The name changed to Addis Ababa and became Ethiopia's capital when Menelik II became Emperor of Ethiopia. The town grew by leaps and bounds. One of Emperor Menelik's contributions that is still visible today is the planting of numerous eucalyptus trees along the city streets.
On 5 May 1936, Italian troops occupied Addis Ababa during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, making it the capital of Italian East Africa from 1936 to 1941 after killing about a million Ethiopians with mustard gas. After the Italian army in Ethiopia was defeated by the British army and the Ethiopian patriots) during the East African Campaign, Emperor Haile Selassie returned to Addis Ababa on 5 May 1941—five years to the very day after he had departed—and immediately began the work of re-establishing his capital.
Emperor Haile Selassie helped form the Organization of African Unity in 1963, and invited the new organization to keep its headquarters in the city. The OAU was dissolved in 2002 and replaced by the African Union (AU), also headquartered in Addis Ababa. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa also has its headquarters in Addis Ababa. Addis Ababa was also the site of the Council of the Oriental Orthodox Churches in 1965.
Ethiopia has often been called the origin of human kind due to various hominid fossil discoveries like the Australopithecine Lucy. North eastern Africa, and the Afar region in particular was the central focus of these claims until recent DNA evidence suggested origins in south central Ethiopian regions like present-day Addis Ababa (Finfine). After analyzing the DNA of almost 1,000 people around the world, geneticists and other scientists claimed humans spread from what is now Addis Ababa 100,000 years ago. The research indicated that genetic diversity declines steadily the farther one's ancestors traveled from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which is roughly the site of the exit turnstile for the "out-of-Africa" migration.
Based on figures from the Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia (CSA) published in 2008, Addis Ababa has an estimated total population of 3,147,000, consisting of 1,511,000 men and 1,636,000 women. The CSA estimated that presently there are no rural parts to the city, so 100% of the inhabitants are considered urban dwellers; Addis Ababa contains 23.8% of all urban dwellers in Ethiopia. With an estimated area of , this chartered city has an estimated density of .
These estimates are based on the 1994 census, in which the population of Addis Ababa was reported to be 2.3 million of which 28,149 lived in the rural parts of the city. 51.6% were females, while 48.4% were male.
Almost all the Ethiopian ethnic groups are represented in Addis Ababa due to its position as capital of the country. The major ethnic groups represented are the Amhara (48.3%), Oromo (19.2%), Gurage (17.5%), and Tigray (7.6%), while others constitute 7.4% of the population.
82% of the population are Orthodox Christians, 12.7% Muslims, 3.9% Protestants, 0.8% Catholics, while the remaining 0.6% are followers of other religions (e.g. Hindus, Jews, Bahá'ís, Agnostics, etc.).
Many poor Ethiopians from the rural areas come to Addis Ababa as beggars and fill some of the streets. Recently, the number of beggars declined after a government and NGO attempt to move some of them and provide education and jobs. It is a relatively clean and safe city, with the most common crimes being pick pocketing, scams and minor burglary. The city has recently been in a construction boom with tall buildings rising in many places. Also, various luxury services have become available and the construction of shopping malls has recently increased. Some people have labeled the city, "the spa capital of Africa.
Though most of the CUD refused to join the parliament, factions of CUD and all the rest of opposition parties joined parliament in 2005. The government has appointed a provisional city government with Berhanu Deresa the acting Mayor.
Addis Ababa is the headquarters of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the African Union. The fossilized skeleton, and a plaster replica of the early hominid Lucy (known in Ethiopia as Dinkinesh) is preserved at the Ethiopian National Museum in Addis Ababa.
The city is home to the Ethiopian National Library, the Ethiopian Ethnological Museum (and former palace), the Addis Ababa Museum, the Ethiopian Natural History Museum, the Ethiopian Railway Museum and the National Postal Museum.
Notable buildings include St George's Cathedral (founded in 1896 and also home to a museum), Holy Trinity Cathedral (once the largest Ethiopian Orthodox Cathedral and the location of Sylvia Pankhurst's tomb) as well as the burial place of Emperor Haile Selassie and the Imperial family, and those who fought the Italians during the war. There is also Menelik's old Imperial palace which remains the official seat of government, and the National Palace formerly known as the Jubilee Palace (built to mark Emperor Haile Selassie's Silver Jubilee in 1955) which is the residence of the President of Ethiopia. The Hager Fikir Theatre, the oldest theatre in Ethiopia, is located at the Piazza district. Africa Hall is located across Menelik II avenue from this Palace and is where the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa is headquartered as well as most UN offices in Ethiopia. It is also the site of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) which eventually became the African Union. Near Holy Trinity Cathedral is the Parliament building, built during the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie, with its clock tower. It continues to serve as the seat of Parliament today. Across from the Parliament is the Shengo Hall, built by the Derg regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam as its new parliament hall. The Shengo Hall was the world's largest pre-fabricated building, which was constructed in Finland before being assembled in Addis Ababa. It is used for large meetings and conventions. Near Bole International Airport is the new Medhane Alem (Savior of the World) Cathedral, which is the second largest in Africa. In the Merkato district, which happens to be the largest open market in Africa, is the impressive Anwar Mosque, the biggest mosque in Ethiopia. Few meters to the southwest of the Anwar Mosque is the Raguel Church, portraying centuries-old magnificent religious harmony and tolerance between Christians and Muslims in Ethiopia. The Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family is also in the Merkato district.
Other features of the city include the large Merkato market, the Jan Meda Race Ground racecourse, Bihere Tsige Recreation Centre and a railway line to Djibouti. Sport facilities include Addis Ababa and Nyala Stadiums. The 2008 African Championships in Athletics were held in Addis Ababa. The Entoto Mountains start among the northern suburbs. Suburbs of the city include Shiro Meda and Entoto in the north, Urael and Bole (home to Bole International Airport) in the east, Nifas Silk in the south-east, Mekanisa in the south, and Keraniyo and Kolfe in the west.
The city hosts since the We Are the Future center, a child care center that provides children with a higher standard of living. The center is managed under the direction of the mayor’s office, and the international NGO Glocal Forum serves as the fundraiser and program planner and coordinator for the WAF child center in each city. Each WAF city is linked to several peer cities and public and private partners to create a unique international coalition. Launched in 2004, the program is the result of a strategic partnership between the Glocal Forum, the Quincy Jones Listen Up Foundation and Mr. Hani Masri, with the support of the World Bank, UN agencies and major companies.
The city is served by Bole International Airport, where a new terminal opened in 2003. The old Lideta Airport in the western "Old Airport" district is used mostly by small craft and military planes and helicopters. Addis Ababa also has a railway connection with Djibouti City, with a picturesque French style railway station.