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Fire guts Ethiopian hotel made famous by Evelyn Waugh's 1938 satirical novel "Scoop"
A man works amongst the wreckage after a fire ripped through the Itegue Taitu Hotel in Addis Ababa on January 12, 2015. The historic hotel, the oldest in Addis Ababa, was built in the early 1900s and became famous as the setting for British author Evelyn Waugh's 1938 satirical novel "Scoop". AFP PHOTO / Zacharias Abubeker.

ADDIS ABABA (AFP).- Fire has badly damaged a historic hotel in Ethiopia's capital made famous as the setting for Evelyn Waugh's 1938 satirical novel "Scoop".

A fierce blaze late Saturday swept through the Itegue Taitu Hotel in Addis Ababa, built in the early 1900s and one of the oldest buildings in the city.

"Within a few minutes the whole place was alight and smoke was coming out the eaves," said British tourist Clem Clemson, speaking Sunday, as fire brigades poured water on the still smoking remains of the hotel.

"It took about 10 minutes for the fire brigade to turn up, but it was really gone by that time."

Scoop, by British writer Waugh, told the story of hapless foreign correspondent William Boot, mistakenly sent to cover the invasion of the country.

The story was based partly on Waugh's experiences reporting for Britain's Daily Mail on Italy's invasion of Abyssinia -- now Ethiopia -- in 1935.

British journalist and politician, the late W.F. Deedes, who also covered the invasion as a 22-year-old reporter and stayed like Waugh at the hotel, was widely believed to be a partial inspiration for Boot.

Famous jazz bar
Writing in London's Daily Telegraph after a return visit to the hotel in 2003, Deedes described the Taitu as where "the reporters drank, plotted, quarrelled and borrowed each other's toothbrushes", a site "on which Evelyn Waugh drew some of his comic scenes in Scoop".

Much of the interior and fittings had remained unchanged for decades, with Deedes saying that to his "delight" he had "found the hotel unchanged" from 1935.

"The dozen or so bedrooms behind double doors where reporters and photographers slept three or four to a room are exactly as they were and approached by a wide, dark staircase," Deedes recalled, adding that at the entrance stood the same piano "round which we occasionally sang bawdy songs."

However, in recent years, the hotel's Jazzamba Lounge had gained an international reputation as part of the revival of the 1960s and early 1970s Ethiopian jazz scene.

During Saturday's fire large parts of the tin roof collapsed, and much of the building was left gutted. 

"If it were in our part of the world it would be bulldozed and then rebuilt," Clemson said. "It's a real shame because it had lots of character."

Officials quoted in Ethiopian media said they hoped the hotel would be rebuilt. It is sited in the capital's central Piazza district, one of the busiest areas in one of the fastest growing cities in Africa.

© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse

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