Black Eyed Peas At Ethiopia's 3rd Millennium Bash Thursday, 13.09.2007, 06:46pm (GMT)
As Ethiopia prepares to celebrate the third millennium, the most popular joke in the capital goes like this: How do you say "millennium" in Amharic?
The pun of an answer -- "menem yellum," which means "there is nothing" -- sums up how many people here feel about the festivities to mark the third millennium, which begins after midnight Tuesday according to Ethiopia's Coptic calendar.
With the schedule of events changing and security concerns in the capital, many Ethiopians say the celebrations -- which include a concert with tickets that cost what an average Ethiopian earns in two months at nearly $170 -- are beyond their reach.
The Black Eyed Peas, an American hip-hop act, will perform Tuesday night at a new, $20 million temporary exhibition hall built by Ethiopia's richest man, and the Hilton hotel will host a $100-and-up gala.
"The millennium, it's nothing for me," said Mulugeta Demssie, 23, a taxi driver, who said he thought the concert should be free, or at least cheaper.
"Because I don't have money, I can't enjoy it."
Ethiopia follows a calendar set up by Roman emperor Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. that is about seven years behind the more common Gregorian calendar. About half Ethiopia's population is Orthodox Christian.
Organizers at the Millennium Secretariat point out that some celebrations will be free, notably several cultural events at a stadium in Addis Ababa and at a field just northeast of the city center. The concert will be broadcast live on television and on a big screen.
As to the high-priced tickets for the main millennium event?
"We have costs to cover. Those who are not able to pay ... will be able to watch it from the comfort of their home or in a festive environment," Mulugeta said.
Many Ethiopians say they are planning to celebrate at home with their families.
Tigist Assefa, 29, a saleswoman, said she would don traditional dress and prepare a traditional meal for her affordable fete at home.
"The cost of living is very annoying these days," she said.