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"..on September 11th, those fortunate enough to enter the Sheraton gates were in for a tremendous surprise. Never has Addis seen such extravagance, style and lavish expenditure for a single event."

The Ritz Carlton-Poppo Laré Celebrates Ethiopian New Year with High Class Luster and Gluttony

The newly opened Ritz Carlton-Poppo Laré opened its doors for the first time on Ethiopian New Year to such prolific and uncontestable opulence, that its compound has been declared "Holy Ground" by Condé Nast Traveler Magazine. (Millionaire Magazine's reporter was so impressed by the staggering magnificence that he has asked for political asylum in the Presidential Suite.)

Erected in only 6 weeks, the Ritz Carlton (fondly referred to "Lelagnaw ye Egzihay'r bet" by locals) is sprawled on 700 acres, and has asked for secession from the rest of Addis Abeba now that the 190,000 former inhabitants had been relocated to dwellings constructed by the world-renowned artiste Christo. Christo, of course, being the large-structure wrapper and artiste extraordinaire whose renowned plastic wrapping of the Reichstag , as well as his astounding work covering islands in Florida has garnered him world fame. The Ritz Carlton commissioned him to exactly replicate the adorable plastic hovels the ex-dwellers had left behind.

When the hand-wrought, golden-plated gates were finally opened to welcome in the New Year, thousands who could not afford the 10,000 Birr per plate fee were allowed to watch from the hills in the next county. "We want everyone to enjoy this momentous occasion," explained His Vicarship Monseigneur de Roddenberry, General Manager of the Ritz. And in a great show of sportsmanship and egalitarianism, the Ritz provided each one of the people amassed on the hills a pair of state of the art night vision binoculars so they would not miss a single moment of the festivities.

Top chefs from New York, London, Johannesburg and Paris catered the gourmet feast, which included an intricate Foie Gras station and a seemingly endless stream of Beluga Caviar, served on hand-shaved ice along with chilled Stolichnaya Cristall vodka. For those whose palate was a little on the lower brow circle, the Ritz Carlton, in the spirit of multi culturalism, erected a tukul in one corner of the Ballroom (Ethio Land), where guests could descend on Ethiopian food with gusto. A myriad of "ij astaTabis" greeted visitors to Ethio Land, a kirar player serenaded the buffet with love songs, while nubile lovelies and svelte youngsters demonstrated the intricacies of the exotic iskista to the uninitiated.

The chefs explained that the Ritz does not believe in serving simple "same old, same old" Ethiopian delicacies, but has opted for what it calls "Ritz's Nouveau Ethio Gourmet Cuisine". (Name copyrighted.) The hens, for example, for the Doro weT were ranch raised, organic grain-fed, imported fowl from a cooperative farm in Oregon. The lettuce was hydroponically grown in an experimental sealed Biosphere-like greenhouse recently erected in Ziway, and the tomatoes were from a uniquely adapted stretch of loamy soil in the Fergana Valley of northern Uzbekistan. Red chilies were hand picked by gloved women, delicately rinsed in Evian, and individually dried on unbleached gauze under the unfiltered sun of northern Greenland, before being milled into the delicious condiment "Berbere" by the specialists from Grey Poupon in Dijon, France.

"It's TaT yemisaqoretim," commented one delirious reveler, until he realized that he was literally crunching on sautéed doro Tatoch, marinated in reduced red wine sauce and topped with blanched chives.

The Tattinger champagne flowed effortlessly throughout the night, with some guests even rinsing out their hands with it. "Good champagne," one guest commented, "should be absorbed through all of our pores." He was not available to elaborate further as he passed out unexpectedly on the dance floor.

The inebriated crowd was loud and boisterous throughout the night, dancing and laughing, with folks from neighborhoods as far away as Gerj and Qéra finding themselves the unsuspecting beneficiaries of the booming sounds from the mega-watt speakers erected at 200 meter intervals around the vast grounds of the Ritz. The invitees spent hours dancing, laughing, and admiring each other's designer outfits and growing fleet of Mercedes', with the proudest being those who had acquired the latest must-have, the Benz four-by-four. One guest who admitted that he only had 4 imported cars, nary a Benz or Lexus 4x4, and no summer home in the south near Abiyata, was quickly escorted out of the Grand Ballroom through the back door. "We are very conscious of the harmonious environment cherished by our guests at the Ritz-Poppo Laré," explained Head of Maximum Security, Brigadier General Kitaw. "I mean, no summer home?? In these ages?? That is beTam ye-miseqeTiT..."

In keeping with "first class all the way" motif, the audience was astounded by the announcement that none other than the King of Pop, Mr. Michael Jackson himself was going to be the featured entertainer of the evening. He then went on to razzle the crowd with such timeless hits such as "Beat It" ,"Bad" and the ever-memorable "Don't Stop 'Till You Get Enough".

"I am so happy to be here in Estonia," he said in between performances. "We are all children of Israel. By the way, where are the children?" Mr. Jackson later apologized for confusing Estonia with Ethiopia, but, in a statement issued through his publicist, said that since the two countries were "so geographically close together" he was sure that "the Ethiopianers will forgive my faux pas." As this issue went to press, no Ethiopianers could be found for comment.

When the clock struck twelve, fireworks the likes of which have never been seen before lit up the Addis sky. So ellaborate and majestic was the display that it caused the temprature in Addis to rise by 20 degrees. The quick-on-their-feet management at the Ritz noticed that the ladies were glowing with films of perspiration on their newly Swedish deep-pore steamed faces, and promptly lowered the temprature in the ballroom to about 50 degrees. When the ladies then complained about the chilliness factor, ("Enday! Be-berd enna be-draft ligeloon new!"), Ritz Carlton top managers handed out mink and sable coats, and apologized profusely to the slighted guests. "Now that's the kind of service this country has needed all along," purred one guest, who would only identify herself as Kiku from Bolé.

The fireworks were conducted by the same company responsible for the John Gotti Annual Family Fourth of July celebrations, and wowed Addis Abebans to no end. Neighboring houses had to content themselves with using the falling embers of the fireworks to hastily cook their evening meals even as fire fighters valiantly tried to contain the fires that seemed to devour their houses.

A slight confusion as to exactly what year it was on the Ethiopian calendar did not deter intoxicated partygoers from their highly animated CHifferra. The excitement was electrifying in the Grand Ballroom, soon to be re-named the Toyota Landcrusier Ballroom. The cocktails flowed, the vodka and champagne drinks now replaced by the clink of ice in the never-ending glasses of Johnny Walker Blue.

The night was not without its reflective moment. The happily intoxicated crowd slowed down its tempo when Tilahun Gessesse and Mr. Jackson started to sing "We are the World", while holding the hands of two children who had been hastily awakened from their grate near Filoha before being tenderly paraded through the crowd.  Although a bit slurred, the crowd managed to keep up with the song, and hummed nostalgically and sympathetically offered heartfelt "m'ts" when it did not know the words to some verses. At one point, the singers were barely audible over the overwhelmed crowd's heartwrenching series of kenfer memTeTs.

Guests took a moment to hold each other's hands and sway back and forth in unison. A hush fell over the mesmerised crowd as a moment of silence was dedicated to peace and harmony, and in memory of the street children of Addis. A few people lit and held up the gold engraved cigar lighters offered by the hosts as a memento of this magical evening.

The moment of silence was broken with the unveiling of an Italian made 20-foot statue of the owners of the Ritz Poppo Laré, who made a moving speech about how they had always wanted to bring happiness and joy to the deserving people of Ethiopia. The gathering gasped as the Executive Chef arrived with the Pièce de Résistance - a gigantic cake around which 2000 well-trained doves flew in a dazzling ballet-like formation while young, toga-clad women with sparklers in their hands came in humming Auld Lang Syne (in Amharic known as "Awei lilileyay").With that, more fireworks commenced signaling the official arrival of joy and happiness in Ethiopia.

The Ritz has the details of its ferenjie Millennium celebration under tight wraps, but promises that THAT event will make the New Year's extravaganza look like a qolo enna buna gathering. SELEDA entertainment reporters will bring you a detailed account of decadent evening.

Happy New Year to all, and here's to puttin' on the Ritz...Poppo Laré/Beverly Terrarrawoch style!