Diplomatic Bazaar

By Nathan Seyoum, January 01 2020

The prestigious spirit of the Sheraton Addis, Luxury Collection Hotel was confounding. There is a whole lot more space beyond the actual grounds of the hotel itself On the 7th of December, in the early morning chill, there was a long queue of people waiting for “the event” to commence and most were anxious to get in and see what the fuss was all about. So, what was the fuss all about?

Overlooking the hotel was a sprawl of people and white tents. After the security checks, I made way to the vast yard. I was handed free chips and a passport from the get-go, a fake passport obviously that is meant to serve as a kind of ticket for collecting stamps from the different countries you purchased items from. I traveled as I stood there!

I scoured the yard trying to find a semblance of its magnitude passing through countries like Cameroon, France, Iran, Norway, Pakistan and so many more. The freshest smoked salmon from Norway, the Great British Cook-Off from England, Cuban Cigars and Brazilian music, Ghanaian jewelry and clothing. People were going crazy. Chocolates from Switzerland and the Netherlands, Cheese from France, Carpets from Egypt, and Dolls from China treated my eye and my brain. It was tantalizing.

I got what the fuss was all about. This was the diplomatic bazaar, the biggest cultural fest in town.

The Diplomatic Bazaar is an annual fest which is hosted by the Diplomatic Spouses Group Ethiopia. It has been around for about 30 years! Their main partner? Heineken lager– they have been doing so for the past few years. More than 60 countries were represented and around 30 sponsors were in attendance of the event which was expected to be visited by thousands of people. The aim of the event is all for charity. All proceeds will go to organizations like Project Matrix and others that plan to invest the money for various projects within the country to help the vulnerable and the poor.

Amidst the chaos, a tent struck my gaze from afar. All green inside and sitting at an elevated embankment – like a sort of lighthouse or a beacon guiding the other tents. This was Heineken and it was bustling with life.

Upon my entrance I felt the energy, beautiful bars serving fresh beer, plush pillows to lay down and enjoy the day, even a Christmas tree made our of Heineken bottles! People loved that. However, at the very center stood Wawi fashion showcasing their merchandise and collaboration with Heineken – it garnered my attention.

So, about Wawi. Wawi is a fashion and designing company created by siblings, Feven and Rahwa GebreMeskel, in 2018. The word Wawi is a Geez word which translates to “needle on a belt.” They specialize in what is called “fast fashion.” These are trendy clothes like t-shirts, bags and others which can be worn day today. “Rahwa has been working with Heineken for a while now. When she started Wawi, Heineken was very supportive offering advice and mentoring us all the way. They really do promote young creativity. As the Diplomatic Bazaar was coming up, we proposed to collaborate with them, and they were really open to the idea of working with us,” explains Feven.

While we were witnessing two young artists paint the Heineken-themed Addis Ababa landscape, Feven handed me a green shopping bag.

“We also proposed what we call the up-cycle project where we use waste products and by-products and recycle them for reuse in different ways. As part of this, we made shopping bags from the banners they had used and discarded,” she says, with a proud smile. Wawi also showcased doodle art on a big canvas which encapsulated the Addis Ababa. “All in all, it was a big deal for us to work with Heineken,” concludes Feven.

Back at the event, the people from Heineken looked busy. Indeed, for a beer for having the same great taste in many different countries- 192 to be exact- they are used to having shared experiences of different people in different parts of the world. As the night drew near, there was still a myriad of people flocking through the gates of Sheraton. And for an event that sells experiences, what an experience this was!!

Photo by:  Nebiyou Sultan