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UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Ethiopia2018-09-09T20:28:22+00:00

World Heritage Sites are sites that are considered to belong to all people of the world, regardless of the country where they are found. Ethiopian is the only African country to have nine UNESCO inscribed World Heritage sites.

Lalibela is designated as world Heritage site in 1978. After the decline of the Axumite state, a new Christian dynasty emerged in the 12th century. This Zagwe dynasty made its capital in Roha, some 400 of kilo meters south of Axum.

According to a legendary account, King Lalibela was born in Roha. His name means ‘the bee recognises its sovereignty’. God ordered him to build 10 monolithic churches, and gave him detailed instructions as to their construction and even their colours. When his brother Harbay abdicated, time had come for Lalibela to fulfill this command. Construction work began and is said to have been carried out with remarkable speed, which is scarcely surprising, for, according to legend, angels joined the labourers by day and in the night did double the amount of work which the men had done during the hours of daylight.

The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela are in fact no more than exceptionally fine examples of a long-established Ethiopian building tradition. Monolithic churches are to be found all over the north and the centre of the country. Some of the oldest of such churches are to be found in Tigray, where some are believed to date from around the sixth or seventh centuries.

The Simien Mountains National park was primarily created to conserve Walia Ibex and other endemic species. Its scenic value, probably the most rugged in Africa, also formed the backbone of the concept for conservation of the area. These unique wildlife and breath-taking views on a landscape has further led the park to the recognition as a World Natural Heritage Site in 1978 by UNESCO.

The Simen Mountains National Park is situated on the northwestern side of the Simen mountains massif in northern Ethiopia, Gonder, with an altitudinal range from 1900 to the highest peak of the African horn, Ras Dejen, at 4620m asl. It lies in the center of a triangle formed by Gonder, Lalibela and Axum- three major Historical Northern Routes. It is roughly about 900km from Addis Ababa. The head quarter is situated in debark, where entrance to the park is permitted.

The historic Gonderine town is very popular mainly because of the marvelous castles in the royal enclosure. There are six graceful castles in the palace compound built by the successive Gonderine Kings of the 17th and 18th centuries. The tradition was first set by Emperor Fassiledes and then followed by his successors. The castle were built from local stone, hard dark brown basalt and red volcanic lava held together with lime mortar within the fortified royal compound at aboubt 70,000 square meters. The 12 symbolic entrances (gates) of the palace compound have various names and represent the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ.

For a large number of years in ancient time, Axum had been served as a political and religious center of Ethiopia. It was the capital of the Axumite Kingdome and considered as the first well-known permanent capital in the history of the country. It has still a considerable symbolic role for the Ethiopian church and state. During its long history, Axum greatly contributed too many human developments. It has been a repository of tremendous archaeological and historical treasures including the steel, the rock-tombs, temples, the palaces, the stone thrones and others.

UNESCO registered the area of Awash Valley as a world heritage site mainly because of its immense paleo-anthropological and archaeological resources. In this regard, the Middle Awash, Hadar, Gona, Dikika, Busidima and Melka Kunture are worth mentioning.

The Awash Valley contains the oldest hominid remains that date back at least to 5million years. It also provides evidence of the genus Homo sapiens and Lithic (stone tool) technology. The major fossil remains of the area are described in the table below.

Tiya is a megalithic site located at about 80km south of Addis Ababa in Soddo area on the road to Butajira. The monuments are supposed to be remains of medieval Ethiopia culture apparently dated from the 12th to 14th centuries. However, the local people claimed that they were the grave marker of the soldiers of Ahmed Gragn, dating the site to the 16th century.

The Tiya monuments belong to one of stone 160 megalithic sites in the Soddo region. There are more than 45 standing monuments in Tiya. Few of them were removed from the site and can be seen in the main campus of Addis Ababa University 6kilo, erected near the Institute of Ethiopian Studies (IES). Most of Tiya monuments measure a height between a meter and 3 meter though the largest one is about five meters, including its section underground. The Tiya grave-markers are decorated with carvings of various representations. The meanings of the symbolic decorations are still open to speculation for various scholars. The major carved designs of the monuments are the swords, a kind of plants or carvings of leaves below the sword, carved circles, a carving like the letter ‘M’ on its side and the carving like the letter ‘X’ with slightly carved lines.

The areas of Omo Valley has internationally recognized as World Heritage site because of its outstanding paleo-anthropological and archaeological reserves. For instance, Omo, Fejej and Konso are among the prominent paleo-anthropological sites within and around the Omo valley.

Sites of the Omo Valley contain fossil remains dating back to between 4 million and 100,000 years ago.

Inscribed in 2006, Harar is a fortified historic town in south-eastern Ethiopia. It has been a major commercial center, linking African and Islamic trade routes.
It has been recognized by UNESCO as ‘an inland urban settlement with a distinct architectural character and social organization, which cannot be compared to any other town in East Africa.’

It is considered “the fourth holiest city of Islam” with 82 mosques and 102 shrines. The walls surrounding this sacred Muslim city were built between the 13th and 16th centuries. The walled city of Harar is characterized by a maze of narrow alleyways and forbidding facades

The Konso Cultural Landscape properties including the traditional stone wall towns (Paletea), ward system (kanta), Mora (cultural space), the generation pole (Olayta), the dry stone terracing practices (Kabata), the burial marker (Waka) and other living cultural practices are the reasons for the inscribiton of the Konso cultural landscape to be listed on UNESCO world heritage sites list.

Cultural properties constituting the Konso Cultural Landscape are:-
1. The traditional stone walled towns (Paletea) and their organization and associated cultural properties including the Kanta (Ward system), Mora(Cultural space), with its men house (Pafta), Generation marker tree (Olayta), erected stones (Daga-hela and Daga-diruma)
2. The dry stone terrace( kabata), used for water and soil conservation
3. The traditional maintained grooves (forests) which serve as a refuge for many endemic plants
4. The burial marker statuettes (Waka) made of wood and unique to Konso people
5. the ponds (Harda)
6. The active traditions of Konso (erecting stelae)