Young and Hungry

A Night Out in Little Ethiopia

In this week's print edition of Washington City Paper, Rend Smith examines the life of Ali Ahmed Mohammed, the man "who, by crime or by accident or by personal recklessness, lost his life" outside of the DC9 rock club on 9th Street NW in October. The death has shaken D.C.'s nightlife community and Ethiopians who have carved out a neighborhood of their own in recent years:

At around 9:30 on a Saturday night in Little Ethiopia, the restaurant of the same name is full. Waitresses in color-trimmed white dresses float about delivering extra dishes of injera to scoop up the spicy food. Most of the faces clustered around messobs—knee-high straw tables—are young and white. A few Ethiopians sit around a bamboo bar where the offerings include Johnny Walker Black Label, Green Label, and Red Label.

An hour later, everything is different. The tourists have cleared out. A table of young Ethiopian-American males jovially orders rounds of Heineken instead of food. The place surges with music: Three traditional musicians vibrate on a recessed stage, one of them wailing on a trio of tiger-skinned drums. As the number of outsiders decreases, the room gets more and more relaxed, with customers getting up to dance with the performers, and a few bouts of call and response between audience and band.

Meanwhile, the drinks keep flowing.

“You go to the restaurant for just one thing, to have a good time,” says Grebremaryam Gebremechin, 46. Though he personally doesn’t like to spend late nights restaurant-hopping, he knows plenty of other Ethiopians who do. “Coffee, that dish is my favorite,” he says. But he doesn’t pass judgment on those who like to drink. “Friday and Saturday, they like to have fun.”

Read the full story here.

Photo of Ali Ahmed Mohammed courtesy his family

...