My email access disappeared for a while, so this post is a bit after the fact — but not as badly as it seems.

The usual ban on driving flocks of sheep through the city streets of Addis Ababa is suspended before a few holidays each year, including the New Year on September 11, 2002 on the Julian calendar [referred to as the Ethiopia Calendar (EC) in Ethiopia and is 7 years earlier than our Gregorian Calendar]. Clusters of 20 to 50 sheep are everywhere, making traffic even worse than usual. Impromptu sheep markets have sprung up everywhere. The big feast day will be Saturday because the first day of the year is on a Friday – a normal Ethiopian Church fast day (no animal products of any kind, including dairy and eggs). Last minute buyers on Thursday have to pick from runty sheep but they can bargain for lower prices because sellers don’t want to take the sheep back to the countryside.

This week’s Fortune, a weekly newspaper, has an article that reminded me of the Second Millennium celebration two years ago – a very big deal in a country so conscious of its long history. Ethiopia’s richest man — Sheikh Mohammed Al Amoudi, born in a small town in Wollo Province to a Yemeni-Saudi father and an Ethiopian mother — is also Africa’s richest man, in the top 50 globally, according to Forbes Magazine. He is officially a Saudi citizen now, because that’s where his family ties led to his great wealth. The Sheikh, as he is often called by Ethiopians, is Ethiopia’s biggest investor and, after the government, its biggest employer.

Like rich men everywhere, the Sheikh hangs out with celebrities. In honor of the Millennium bash, he brought Beyonce to Addis for a concert at a reported cost of $1.75 million. Beyonce took the country by storm. A generation ago an American woman caused a riot by organizing a charity fashion show at Haile Selassie I University that included a coed in a miniskirt. Times have changed. Beyonce flaunted her sexy self on stage as usual and was a huge hit. The elderly President Girma Wolde Giorgis received her and was visibly bowled over by her magnetism — as a video on YouTube made evident. She was even presented to the Archbishop – utterly unthinkable not long ago. Grainy videos of Beyonce’s triumph on stage and all around town were on YouTube immediately after the events. Beyonce pronounced herself thrilled and moved by her Ethiopia experience.

But apparently not enough for a return engagement. Fortune reported that it had been definitively cancelled after weeks of negotiations. Her management refused to allow the entire concert to be shown on local TV. The Sheikh said he would not finance the event unless it was broadcast to all Ethiopians on TV, including on the huge outdoor screen in Meskal Square, which several hundred thousand could watch. Her management would only let a few songs be broadcast.
Was Beyonce a party to this or was it just a few shortsighted greedy business jerks throwing their weight around?