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Ethiopia is a country with a rich history and a proud people. Religion and age old traditions are given the utmost respect. One can see young children opting to take a trip to church rather than the playground. But despite this rigorous adherence to tradition and conservatism, the world's oldest profession has also taken root and found its place within Ethiopia's society.
In popular culture, the earliest example of the sex trade in Ethiopia can be witnessed in the film titled "Shaft in Africa". In the movie, the main character named Shaft; an African American private investigator makes his way to Ethiopia and encounters the attention of a sultry night worker. Places in Ethiopia, such as Dejach Wube Sefer around Piassa were well known for their active nightlife and sex workers.
The area's popularity induced many visitors to their doorsteps with high ranking officials and foreign dignitaries being among the throngs. Even during the era of the Derg, in which the communist government had every Ethiopian closely monitored, the ladies of the night still managed to discreetly conduct their affairs, despite the fear of imprisonment hanging over their shoulders.
With the fall of the Derg, a laissez-faire approach was brought forth by the incumbent government and the streets, bars, clubs, and hotels were all fair game. Areas with an affluent population such as Bole road and Bole Medhanialem Atlas were literally flooded with street walkers hoping to cash in on this new found freedom. Clubs such as Concord, Piassa's Black Lion, and Sheraton's Gas Light had gained international fame for the beauty of the courtesans on display almost every night.
Foreigners looking to indulge themselves were often led by the inevitable middlemen in the form of taxi drivers and hotel concierges to these places. On the other end of the spectrum, those hoping to pay less chose to go to places such as Serategna Sefer in Piassa, which was the hotbed of lower classed prostitution in Ethiopia. Today, we can see a huge shift in the way the sex trade is conducted in Ethiopia. Not entirely gone, but the former bar workers and street walkers are now opting for the comfort of massage parlors and spas.