Foreigners residing in Addis Ababa usually have no choice but to fit into the status quo. Irrespective of their social makeup and which continent they are from, they blend fast and move on with the existing spectra. This is mainly due to an absence of room to socialize. Especially Africans have less options since more venues emulate western cities than African values. Finding their original staple food and drink, authentic gestures, art, and language in Addis means ending homesickness. House of Fulani, is the pan-African make-believe unveiled in the heart of Addis Ababa, to serve the growing African community in the capital. Kiya Ali, paid a visit.
Homesickness is one of the common challenges many face when away from home. For some, the diversity and vibe found in Addis Ababa is not enough to forget their trails. People suffering from this condition are priorly occupied by thoughts of home, family, entertainment venues, their home country’s staple food, and many more fabrics of human life from their home country. To relieve such distress, they frequently visit spots with similar vibes in Addis. Samuel Goddy, quenches his thirst for home through his taste buds.
Samuel is a Nigerian Trainer working at the United Nations. He has been frequently visiting Ethiopia since 2018. In doing so, one of the challenges he deals with is the difficulty accessing affordably priced food that makes him feel at home. “When I came to Ethiopia, I had to stay at hotels and the price for lodging and food is very expensive. Also, it was not easy to get Nigerian food, even though I looked for it desperately,” he said. But fortunately, this struggle is now getting better. “Currently, I can access Nigerian food at an affordable price thanks to House of Fulani, where authentic African cuisine is prepared,” Samuel states.
House of Fulani Art Restaurant and Café, has just opened around the UNECA in Kazanchis, founded by an Ethiopian and Gambian entrepreneur with the objective of preparing various African traditional foods. Opened three months ago with a start-up capital of ETB1 million, it employs eight waiters and a chef specialized in African traditional dishes.
Tizeta Nidaw, Owner of the restaurant, had visited Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria, The Gambia, and Uganda before founding House of Fulani, enchanted by their staple and traditional foods. “When I go to other countries, I’m confused as to what to order as I’m unaware of most of the foods listed on menus. Sometimes I wish I could find Ethiopian food or had the chance to experience some common African foods in Ethiopia so as to be better prepared for times like this. But I still enjoy most foods that I order randomly. This experience inspired me to open a restaurant serving African cuisines in the capital of the African Union, Addis Ababa. Also, it will help many people experience African dishes while in Ethiopia.”
The main target is to make Africans feel at home when they encounter familiar food in Addis, the third-largest host of diplomatic establishments after New York and Geneva, with its significant number of residing African brothers and sisters.
Yet, there are challenges that affect the business of specialized food destinations catering to foreigners. “The rental cost of the restaurant, ETB80,000 monthly, is very expensive,” Tizeta noted. In addition, finding a chef that could cook African food is rare in Ethiopia. “The local training centers do not give enough attention for African foods,” she says. As a result, she is providing training for her employees. The training will help the chefs to not only do their jobs properly, but will also give them a competitive edge for possible employment at international hotels.
House of Fulani has a special menu for its customers. For example, the famous jollof rice, preferred in many West African countries, is made with tomatoes, onions, scotch bonnets, and chili peppers. “There are various combinations of the jollof rice recipe, but those five ingredients are usually constant,” Tizeta said. It is a party dish brought out for celebrations, as well as being the signature regional dish. The much-loved recipe, with its variants, is much loved by many West African communities in The Gambia, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Togo, and Mali. “If I had to pick just one of my favorite foods from House of Fulani’s entire menu, it would probably be jollof rice,” remarks Samuel.
The price for white chicken jollof rice is ETB180, while the white mutton variant is ETB120, and ETB200 with fish, all excluding 15Pct VAT and 10Pct service charge. Other cultural foods such as dormodah, olele, shawama, and the house’s meat pie are priced between ETB80 and ETB250. Just like West Africa, East African nations—Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania—also have their own national cuisines and share a variety of dishes across the region like ugali, cassava, tilapia, and chapati.
There are also Ethiopian foods at this African restaurant. “We are ordering shiro and fasting firfir as we are fasting today,” Samrawit Yibeltal, an Ethiopian customer who usually visits the restaurant with her friends, said. “We are also tasting some of the delicious other African countries’ staple foods,” she added.
Diners are taken away by the soft music from all over Africa, as waiters serve African cuisines and deserts, with African gestures.
The name of the art restaurant is derived from the Fulani people. In short, the Fulani Empire began as Berbers migrated down from North Africa and mixed with the people of West Africa, around 700-1,000 AD. Over a thousand-year period, they spread out over most of West Africa, the Sahel region, and into some areas of Central Africa. Some groups of Fulani have been found in the western edges of Ethiopia. The Fulani are the largest nomadic ethnic group, travelling to wherever there is green grass to feed their cattle. They are a very beautiful people, fashioned with fascinating traditional clothes and dishes, and very proud of their heritage.
House of Fulani also has an art gallery in which it picks one African country each month to showcase specific art works, artifacts, and food. There are also African favorites from different regions available daily.
To aid with digestion, fruits sourced from African countries are made into traditional drinks, both good for your taste buds and health. Among the local African juices, wonjoh, ditah, baobab, and daharr are available at the House of Fulani with prices ranging from ETB45 to ETB80. As this restaurant is intended to showcase the African continent’s culinary experience, like that of the Fulani, it focusses on foods prepared from fresh African produce, cooked in the ways of the old and tasty. “In the future, there will be an art gallery from all over Africa on display. Diners are welcome to buy some of the art pieces as a gift for themselves or their loved ones. But we haven’t started selling art works and jewelry as there are some administrative procedures that should be fulfilled,” Tizeta elaborates.
The restaurant also provides delivery service for customers within a mile radius, and is planning for online payments and delivery to further distances.
Availing the ecosystem and service quality for foreign communities, immensely contributes to attracting tourists, apart from marketing domestic values, according to the Journal of Tourism and Hospitality research findings conducted by Ayana Fiseha and Solomon Mequanent.
Tadele Jemal, Communications Director at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism agrees. “One of the benefits of having specialized restaurants that serve local as well as foreign foods is that it encourages tourists to stay longer in the country. If tourists can access convenient and familiar food and service, they are more likely to extend their trip, leading them to explore the natural, historical, and cultural heritages unique to Ethiopia. The private sector should capitalize on attracting foreigners who are numerous in Addis Ababa. Foreign residents can also feel at home, and spend more,” Tadele remarks.
The service sector, one of the segments of the Ethiopian economy, accounts for as much as 40Pct of the country’s GDP. Yet, the annual growth rate of close to 10Pct in the past ten years did not just come accidentally. It is a result of the expanding number of hotels and restaurants, mainly in Addis Ababa. But the majority were built with a focus on the urban market and European and American dishes. There are also some Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Korean, and Japanese—to name a few—restaurants. However, most of the restaurants found in Addis Ababa, the seat of the African Union, have failed to reflect the cultural diversity of Africa. They have been unable to portray the cultures and cuisines of Africa. So, House of Fulani will play a significant role in the sector as it serves African foods and displays her cultures via the art works and jewelry of various African countries.
Global and continental mobility to Addis was growing for business, enjoyment, conferences, exhibitions, and migration, until the global pandemic halted mobility. Countries with better tourism infrastructures are forecasted to benefit the most from tourism in the aftermath of COVID-19, which will be determined by access to vaccines. The operationalization of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), is also expected to Africanize Addis’ tastes.
“House of Fulani Art Restaurant and Café in Addis Ababa is the first to be opened and will be followed by one in Nairobi, Kenya. Our long-term dream is to have at least one House of Fulani restaurant in each region in Africa,” expects and envisions Tizeta. EBR
9th Year • Jan 16 – Feb 15 2021 • No. 94