Adama, also known as Nazareth or Nazret, is a large city in central Ethiopia. From 2003 to 2006, it served as the capital of the Oromia region, before the capital was moved back to nearby Addis Ababa. It is a popular weekend destination for residents of Addis Ababa and hosts many governmental and non-governmental conferences.
Adama was renamed Nazret or Nazreth after Nazareth, the childhood hometown of Jesus, in the 1940s. It reverted to Adama in 2000, but is still also known as Nazareth.
Being at 1600 m altitude (750 meters lower than Addis Ababa) in the middle of the Rift valley, Adama is significantly warmer than Addis and other parts of Ethiopian highlands. It is also much drier due to the location between two mountain ranges, with many sunny days even in the middle of the rainy season. The resulting climate is quite pleasant, with daytime temperatures of 25 to 30 degrees Celsius and nights at around 15 degrees year round.
Adama lies approximately 100 km southeast of Addis Ababa, along the main highway that leads to Djibouti via Dire Dawa. If coming from Addis Ababa, it's probably better to ask the best way to go to Adama at the place where you stay, as the buses no longer depart from Le Gare in downtown (like some older guidebooks say), and the main southern/eastern terminal is inconveniently located in Kality suburb 10 km from the downtown (and still far from the southernmost LRT station of the same name) - more than half an hour and 15 birr (2019) by very crowded minivan from the city center, but "probably at least 300-350 birr" by taxi. When going from Adama, you're likely to be asked where are you going to in Addis - and some places offered, e.g. Megenagna, are both much closer to the city center and near the LRT station. The trip from the Kality bus terminal to Adama was 50 birr (2019), while the return trip to Megenagna was 60 birr.
The buses do not follow a strict timetable. Generally the driver waits for the entire bus to fill with passengers, though usually this means that buses leave at least once an hour (less in case of a minibus). Make sure the bus/minibus you're going to take is "Express" - which means it goes non-stop via the (nice) toll road connecting Addis Ababa and Adama. This way, 80 km trip between Addis outskirts and Adama will take just over an hour - but the traffic in Addis could easily double that.
On arrival to Adama, the minibus will likely stop a few times on the main road offloading some of the passengers, before turning to the right at the town center - choose the stop nearest to the place/area where you intend to stay, as the bus terminal is a few kilometers away from the center.
The Addis Ababa-Djibouti railroad runs through Adama.
Street names and addresses are not discernibly marked (if, indeed, they are used at all). The Addis Ababa-Dire Dawa Road is the main thoroughfare through the town, and is pretty walkable by African standards, at least in the city center. Blue-and-white taxis use fixed routes along major streets, and cost less than one birr per person, per ride. These will pick up and let off other passengers along the route. It is possible to hire a taxi for private use (called "contract") for a higher fare, which should be agreed upon in advance. A horse-drawn cart, or gari, is even cheaper than a public taxi, though by 2010 these had been largely supplanted by auto-rickshaws (called "Bajaj," after their manufacturer). Bajaj drivers do not particularly pester foreigners passing by (there are few, if any, white foreigners anyway), but some may try to ask on arrival for more than agreed before (like 100 birr to the bus station instead of 50 - inner-city rides definitely should be even cheaper), possibly claiming misunderstanding.
- Climb the beautiful surrounding mountains including Kechema.
The famous "tibs", or "kurt", raw or roasted beef in the city's famous restaurants specialized in serving roasted beef dishes.
Small restaurants on the main street are inexpensive (with most expensive meat dishes around 100-120 birr), but often there's neither English menu, nor someone speaking enough English to help a foreigner. Oromo language in menus, unlike Amharic, uses Latin script, but the names are quite different from what you could know from Addis - worth to do some research if you want to try some truly local (or Somalian) delicacies.
Several cheap (around 20 birr per mug) bars are available at and near the main road, where you'll see many visitors from Addis enjoying their beer on a weekend. A few nicer club-like bars are open till late, but other than that, there's not much of nightlife in town.
As it is Ethiopia, coffee is also cheap, good and easy to find.
Many inexpensive guesthouses are available in the side streets off the main road, quite a lot of them are signposted in English and/or may be found via Google Maps. You may have to walk around a bit if arriving on a weekend, as it's when many people from Addis Ababa come to Adama. The price asked for a clean room with hot shower and old TV in a nice (for a guesthouse) building was 250-300 birr (July 2019).
- 1 Caneth Rift Valley Hotel, along the Addis Ababa-Dire Dawa Road, ☏ , , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. In a modern, multi-level building, but is shows signs of wear (in the plumbing, specifically). The garden 'suite' rooms are newer and quieter. There is a restaurant and outdoor dining area as well as a small cafe, with a large courtyard in the middle (suitable for weddings, banquets, etc.) The hotel is located across from a filling station where the truck traffic can be noisy at times. As of 2019, a room with accommodations for two persons cost approximately US$30 to US$35 per night.
- 2 Safari Lodge Adama, a few blocks south of the Addis Ababa-Dire Dawa Road, ☏ , , ✉ email@example.com. A fairly new hotel, and good value by Western standards. The well-kept rooms are situated around a lush courtyard with a swimming pool and observation tower. As of 2004, a two-room suite with a double-bed cost approximately US$26.00 per night. A full dinner in the hotel restaurant cost US$3 to US$6 per person.
- Executive Adama Hotel, ☏ . Along the Addis Ababa-Dire Dawa Road. Large, modern hotel, built in 2009. It is located near the base of the cliff at the western edge of the city. As of 2010, the hotel had good service and a good restaurant, with ethernet (not wi-fi) connections in each room.
- 3 La Residence Hotel, Peacock Road, Adama. A lot of time and effort was invested into making this a smart traditionally styled hotel. It has faded somewhat since it was built. It is rarely busy, you could be alone there. Electricity and internet can be intermittent. However, it remains a comfortable place to stay. It is one of the few hotels that can be booked online.
Most telephone numbers in Adama use the city code 022 (or simply 22 from outside Ethiopia), though some numbers use 011 (which is the same city code as Addis Ababa).
Internet access is available at most hotels, as well as at various internet cafes. Cheaper guesthouses may or may not have Wi-Fi. As of 2019, internet access in Adama uses ADSL connections which provide a usable but not fast connection. 3G mobile internet is available through Ethiotel. Both types of connection can fail at times.
Adama is about 25 km north of the spa town Sodere. Minibuses will take passengers to the entrance of Sodere for a few birr. While there is a large hotel at Sodere, the resort is perhaps more well-suited for day trips, as accommodations are better in Adama.
Minibuses to the places further east (of which Harar is probably the most interesting for a traveller) are stopping to pick up the passengers at the main road occasionally - choose the correct (southern) side of the road, and look for someone shouting the desired town's name.
To go to Addis Ababa, it may be better to take a bajaj to the bus station, as minibuses passing the main road are often already full, and at the bus station it will be easy to choose the destination bus station in Addis, saving time and/or money on local transportation there.