Addis Ababa was founded by Emperor Menelik II, who relocated his capital from Ankober to the Entoto Hills in the early 1880s. Following the unusually cold and wet rainy season of 1886, the royal entourage set up temporary camp at the lower-lying Filwoha Hot Springs, largely at the urge of Queen Taitu, who loved its steamy natural baths and christened the site Addis Ababa (New Flower). By the mid-1890s, the new imperial palace at Addis Ababa comprised a 3km² compound enclosing 50 buildings and housing 8,000 people, while the Saturday market near present-day St George’s Cathedral drew up to 50,000 people. In 1900, lack of firewood in the immediate vicinity of Addis Ababa prompted Menelik II to consider relocating his capital to Addis Alem (New World), a plan that was scrapped when it was discovered that the Entoto Hills provided ideal conditions for the fast-growing eucalyptus tree, an import from Australia. The capital’s development was bolstered by the arrival of the Djibouti railway in 1917 and an associated influx of Armenian and French traders, as well as by the drive for modernization, following the coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1930.
Addis Ababa was chosen as the base for the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in 1958, and five years later it was made headquarters of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), now the African Union. The city’s population has grown from around 100,000 at the time of Menelik II’s death in 1913 to almost four million today.