Bole Deldey is a very busy taxi stop, with a
constant milling of people and taxi traffic, where
one white minibus stands quietly and still to the
side. The minibus stands out being completely white
and stationary, in contrast to the bustling,
ever-moving blue and white buses that operate as
Humna Besso, which is operated out of the minibus,
has been offering customers an alternative to the
predominantly greasy street food being sold there,
for three months. Some vendors have sambusas,
biscuits, and sometimes doughnuts displayed in small
plastic baskets on tables. They also serve sweet,
hot tea out of flasks to the passengers in transit,
hurrying between taxis.
Standing right next to the other food vendors,
slightly out of the traffic and to the side of the
lot under the bridge, the white minibus’s windows
are covered in posters. At first, it appears to be
merely an advertisement but closer inspection
reveals that the minibus serves as a besso shop. The
posters, featuring pictures of a girl, now drinking
a besso shake(mix), now running though a field of
barley, is appropriately wholesome, resembling the
goodness implies by the barley shake served inside.
The inside of the minibus has been altered to better
resemble a restaurant: The black and red leather
seats, totalling five, have been rearranged so that
the “kitchen” is where the backseat use to be,
separated from the rest of the interior by a green
curtain; the seats in the row second from the back
have remained, and three seats, facing in, have been
placed where the front two rows of seats once were.
In the middle is a small wooden table to place one’s
sweetened ground barley drink on.
The thick barley shake is prepared with finely
ground barley, which is mixed with water and a small
amount of sugar.
“I do not know about how healthy it is, but I like
it too much and have it almost every day,” Daniel
Tassew, the owner of Humna Besso, told Fortune.
Daniel, who works as a medical laboratory
technician by day and manages the shop in his spare
time, drives the minibus home every night.
“My need was to work in a unique job,” he said of
his out of the ordinary venture, which is also very
The minibus cost around 68,000 Br to buy and stands
at the taxi stop all day, for free, without the wear
and tear of being driven up and down all day long.
While the other food vendors at the taxi stop under
the bridge sell mostly greasy, fatty, starchy food
stuffs, Daniel has identified the gap in the market
for a healthy, filling snack. The result is a
profitable business with the minimum of overhead
The door of Humna Besso, standing wide open,
attracts the beggars, who are many in the area due
to so many people passing through the area for the
biggest part of each day. Outside the minibus, the
taxis go by non-stop, yelling for “Mexico, Mexico!”
and picking passengers up. People hurry from the
taxi dropping them off, to the next one to take them
to their aimed destination, sometimes pausing to
give money to a beggar, sometimes rushing straight
People often have to push for a place at the door of
an approaching taxi in order to be the first to
enter and to secure a seat on the minibus, which is
sometimes very full in itself, especially during
rush-hour traffic when many people are in transit,
or when it is raining and people who would otherwise
walk, prefer to ride as well.
Situated at a busy taxi stop, many of Humna Besso's
regualr customers, like Abay H.Micheal (Center)and
Epresem Awoke (Right), are taxi drivers.
It is these people who are the target group that
Humna Besso aims to serve. Eyuael Solomon, 19, a
business management student, is one happy customer
who saw the sign in front of the minibus in passing
by one day on his way from his home in Sabit to Edna
Mall. He does not know of any other place serving it
(although there are some).
“Your mother would make it at home; it is a
traditional drink,” he said. “It is very good,
especially during times of fasting when people do
not eat for a whole day and then suddenly eat a lot,
which might upset their stomachs.”
Humna prepares 20 litres with a blender, prior to
arriving at the taxi stop in the mornings. This
usually finishes within half a day, according to
Meskerem Basazenew, 16, a high school student
working in Humna during her keremt vacation. She
prepares an additional nine litres manually in a
bucket, with a whisk, to ensure the ground barley
dissolves completely, and adds honey according to
the customer’s preference which adds a sweet flavour
to the wholesome barley goodness.
Eyuael has his drink to go (6 Br), which seems
smaller than the 500 ml of a glass (5.50 Br), in
addition to a straw, although one suspects the drink
to possibly be too thick for that. The besso shop is
open from 8:30am to 6:30pm, Monday to Saturday.
However, a Wednesday afternoon at 4:00pm, finds
Eyuael the only customer in the tiny shop, waiting
for his takeaway.
Mornings are their busiest times, said Meskerem. On
average, they serve about 60 customers a day.
“If I had used it as a taxi, I would make about 120
to 150 Br profit a day while, as this, the minimum
is 150 Br,” said Daniel. “On average, we make about
200 to 250 Br a day.”
It can be agreed that it is quite a big difference,
in addition to which the minibus remains in
excellent condition and while the minibus does not
compete with the taxis, the drivers frequent the
area, and have besso, all day long.