Sidist Kilo Now and A Decade Ago

The term “Seba Dereja” means “Seventy Steps”, to render its literal translation from its Amharic origin. The place is familiar to many residents of Addis Ababa and more so to those living near the city’s centre, who must cross a bridge, known as Ras Makonnen bridge, to go to Arat Kilo. The location of the “Seventy Steps” is simply a stone’s throw from that bridge and up the hill leading to “Sidist Kilo”.

Though they are said to be “Seventy”, the steps are actually “seventy-two”. Mounting 72 steps at a running speed used to be a challenging preoccupation for youngsters in olden days. Nowadays, these steps strain the stamina of old people beyond limit and those for whom doctors might have recommended some physical exercise to keep their bodies fit try the steps daily or at regular intervals.

In addition, the steps are a short-cut from downhill to uphill especially for those who want to save time before the early hours of the morning to reach their offices early.

A little way off Ras Makonnen Bridge towards “Arat Kilo”, there is a series of gentler steps numbering approximately 100 and grouped into five. Since there is a breathing space between each group, they are not as arduous as the “Seventy Steps”. These steps lead to Nazareth School and they form part of the short-cut to “Sidist Kilo”.

It is not easy to estimate the distance between “Piazza”, the centre of the city, and “Sidist Kilo” along these two routes. It is no more than three or four kilometers. Counting one’s steps might give a conservative estimate and the number could be up to about 300. Along the way, one finds the headquarters of the Association for the visually handicapped. Motorists need to be advised to drive slowly.

There are two schools, namely the Nazareth School and the Dejazmatch Belay Zeleke No. 2 Primary School and students who act as traffic policemen help the smooth flow of cars and pedestrians. A library is also found along the way. Not much is known about this library and the size of its readership is difficult to guess.

Near “Sidist Kilo”, there is, of course, the Yekatit 12 Hospital which occupies a good part of the area. On the right side, there used to be offices belonging to the Federal Supreme Prosecutor’s Office and the Justice and Legal Research Institute.

Near Ras Makonnen Bridge, in- between the seventy and one hundred steps, there is a wall once prone to fall down every rainy season. Today, it has been rebuilt, perhaps never to experience the same fate. A plaque describes the structure as a “retaining wall” built by the Arada Sub-city of Addis Ababa Administration, dated September 2004, and designed by Architect Tilahun Bekele

“Sidist Kilo” has changed rapidly. Climbing the “70-Steps” is the shortest way to Sidist Kilo from Ras Makonnen Bridge, and a few metres walk onto the asphalted street could bring into view St. Mary’s church from a distance. Similarly, a double-lane road descending towards a square not far from the Fifth Gate of the AAU Campus brings into full view a newly-built Mosque, thereby transforming the scene across a small valley intercepted by the Bridge.

Walking east along the street towards the church, one comes across the back of the National Museum. The Museum’s new building complex is one of the attractive landmarks of this rapidly changing city.

The Ethiopian Herald June 23/2019


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