The Bete Maryam Mausoleum is located just south of Menelik’s palace and offers what could be an enchantingly eerie experience for travellers (were it not for security personnel at every turn). If you're lucky, after the priest has rolled up the carpet and pried open the large metal door in the floor, you will descend into the thick air of the creepy crypt. There you find four elaborate marble tombs of Empress Taitu, Emperor Menelik, Empress Zewditu and Princess Tsehai Haile Selassie.
At least that’s how a visit should go. The reality is that – thanks to the prime minister’s residence being next door – the whole complex is guarded by an inordinate number of very surly and unhelpful soldiers, who, if our last visit was anything to go by, try to make visiting the church as problematic as they possibly can.
On Wednesdays and Fridays the mausoleum closes for prayers between 12.30pm and around 2pm.