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ETHIOPIA | Monday, 9 March 2009 | Views [765] | Comments [11]

So, most tourists who come to Ethiopia visit ancient churches, tour museums, and dine on traditional food.  Well, we've done all these things, but yesterday we also had a very unique experience: we were attacked by bees in the middle of Addis Ababa.  Literally, attacked by swarming, stinging bees in the middle of the city.  The story goes like this...

After doing the tourist sightseeing thing and visiting no less than 4 museums and 2 churches on Saturday, we decided to take Sunday off, wander a little around Addis, and eventually make our way to the one ATM in the city that we know works. We had walked less than 2 blocks from our hotel when Michelle started shouting expletives and smacking her head.  At first I looked at her with amusement, but then I felt stings on my body and saw little flying things all around us.  And I panicked.  I started running, away from my travel buddy, through a foreign city where I didn't know a soul.  But something about a white girl running for her life in Addis seems to attract people, and I was met with men encouraging me to run further away from the bees, little children running away from me, and a few nice people trying to swat the bees off of me.  One man in particular was extremely helpful and made me hold still while he gently tried to remove the bees.  Eventually I was bee free, nursing my wounds (about 10 stings in all), and coming back to my senses.  That's when I realized I had lost Michelle.  People were asking me if I was okay, and I kept saying "I lost my friend, she's somewhere over there by the bees."  I walked back and looked up the street where we had been attacked.  I didn't see Michelle anywhere, but I did see lots of Ethiopians running around swatting bees off of themselves, and other Ethiopians near me laughing at the people being attacked.  I waited for a while but still, no sign of her.  Eventually I was escorted back to the hotel by Endale and Yonas, two really nice guys who befriended me while I was waiting around looking for Michelle.  Endale told me that a rich man on that street kept bees for honey, and he had never seen the bees act like this and the police will probably arrest the man, after all, "You were separated from your friend, the police have to do something!" 

Luckily I found Michelle back at the hotel; she had been stung much worse than me (she's counted atleast 35 stings) and was in tears.  After running around being attacked for a while, a family had beckoned her into their home and made her dunk her head in a basin of water, then proceeded to remove the remaining bees and stingers from her body...kids, grandparents, the whole lot.  After getting Michelle in bed I went with Endale and Yonas to a pharmacy, picked up some antihistamine syrup, and Michelle and I nursed our battered bodies in our hotel room.

We met up with Endale and Yonas a few hours later, they told us that the fire brigade had come and sprayed all the bees with some chemical that killed them and then arrested the man who kept them.  However, they were certain that the man, since he was rich, would be out soon after bribing the police.  We took Endale and Yonas out for dinner at an amazing restaurant that most tourists could never find on their own, then crashed for the rest of the night.  We were supposed to catch a 3am minibus to Bahir Dar, but we decided to postpone our traveling for atleast a day while we recouperated. 

So that's the great bee attack story.  I have a little bit of a swollen nose, and Michelle's new name is Winky, because she was stung above and below her right eye and can hardly open it.  But we're both more or less fine, just taking it easy and hopefully we'll be up for going to Bahir Dar tonight.  Ah, Africa.

Tags: addis ababa, bees



Wow!! Glad you are OK. Adventure comes in many shapes and sizes.

  Uncle Larry Mar 9, 2009 9:33 PM


Egads--amazing story...and so glad you are both OK. It seems you roll well with any punches (or stings?) that are thrown your way! Hope you are both feeling much better by now! Love, Aunt Lynn

  Aunt Lynn Mar 10, 2009 12:37 AM


Pretty scary!!

  Andi Mar 10, 2009 1:45 PM


Grandpa Rider was allergic to bee venom. He kept a vial of something in the refirgerator to prevent going into shock. No one on my side of the family is allergic to bee stings, and I believe you have been stung before. The fact that you did not go into anaphylactic shock is a good thing since it is the subsequent times you get stung that causes the allergic reaction.
Hope Michelle is getting better. Look on the internet if you haven't already for information just in case.

  sylvia mom Mar 11, 2009 1:47 AM


Holy cow! That's a scary feeling, beeing attacked by bees! I've had experience with honey bees defending their hive and chasing me all over the place. You just can't run as fast as they can fly. Take care.

  zen house Mar 11, 2009 10:16 AM


Christ, that sucks! I'm glad you guys are ok (and for once I'm glad I'm not with you, cause I probably would have gone into anaphylaxis and died). Hope the antihistamines work, if not, you might need steriods. I'd wait till Mich is all better before leaving civilization in case she does need a doctor to get an Rx for that. And the vial that your grandpa kept in the fridge was probably epinephrine - don't think you'll need it, but just FYI.

  Karen Mar 11, 2009 10:41 AM


Whoa! I'd be dead! I'm so glad your both OK! Grandpa Rider (& I) carried what is called an epipen...easy injectable, loaded with epinephrine as Karen said. You get it by prescription. You probably don't need it, though, although it is correct that subsequent stings will lead to the allergy IF you have it, as I do! Who knows, maybe you will be immune from this experience like those rattlesnake handlers!
You're a remarkable woman!

  Aunt Bunny Mar 11, 2009 1:07 PM


Only family could put the adventure into such context. . ha!
I enjoyed the comments.
All I could think of (as I was reading your story & once I got the news that you were okay and Michele soon would be), was that you have had remarkable good fortune in meeting nice folks that want to help! Only one pickpocket so far, right? Ah.. your open, caring spirit. :-) You are going to have friends from two new continents! Wow!

  gail Mar 11, 2009 2:44 PM


Thanks for all the comments and concern, no anaphylaxis for either of us, Michelle did end up going to the hospital for a check up and the doctor said just keep using the antihistimine. I can barely see the sting marks on me anymore, and Michelle's swelling has gone way down. It's funny, before we left for Africa in September I was telling Michelle that she should get an epipen if there's any chance she's allergic to bees, etc.

Also, I'd like to note that I enjoy how this blog has become a kind of virtual Rider/Rublee/Motonaga family reunion, with the occasional age mate (Karen, how the hell's vet school?) and Haynes joining in. :)

Other age mates, I guess facebook is just the way, huh? Represent.

  sylvia_aiko Mar 12, 2009 11:37 PM


I'm so sad you were attacked, but it sounds like you are supporting each other just like we discussed. Miss you both!

  Amy Mar 13, 2009 10:18 AM


Oh my! Look after yourself!!

  Alistair Nelson Mar 16, 2009 2:07 PM

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