Ethiopia’s UNESCO Worlds Heritage Sites
Ethiopia is a country with one of the richest histories on the African, and a land of contrast and surprise. It is the land of Fabled Queen of Sheba and home of the Ark of the Covenant. In Ethiopia some 83 indigenous language are likely to be spoken with some 200 dialects. Due to this variety of Languages and dialects, the country becomes a rich cultural mosaic or Museum of various Nations and Nationalities.
Ethiopia is also characterized by abundance of tangible and intangible heritage. Out of the mammoth cultural and historical heritage, seven are inscribed in the world heritage list. One natural heritage ( Simien Mountains National Park) is also included in the list.
Properties inscribed on the World Heritage List:
The ancient city of Axum is located in Tigray National Regional State. It is about 1,025 kilometers North of Addis Ababa.
The giant stelae, the Axum Zion Church the ruin palaces tombs and many other archeological findings are all the symbols of the glorious Axumite Civilization signifying this ancient city as a center of Civilization, religion and Administrative.
The fallen obelisk with a height of 33 metres is the tallest obelisk carved out of a single stone. The 24 meter high obelisk is still standing and the other one with a height of 27 meters was cut in to three parts and taken to Rome in 1937 and returned back to Axum in 2005. They are all regarded as one of the finest examples of engineering from the height of the Axumite Empire.Due to its historical value, Axum and its archeological sites were included in the List of World Heritage Sites in 1980.
The Rock Hewn Churches of Lalibela were cut out of a living rock during the time of King Lalibela, who ruled Ethiopia from his capital Roha, now Lalibela. The churches are 11 in number, located in three groups. The first groups of Churches are, Bete Medhane Alem, Bete Mariam, Bete Meskel Bete Dengil, BeteGolgota, and Bete Michael. The second groups of churches are Bete Gebriel and Rufael, Bete Amanuel, Bete Markorios, connected by a long underground tunnel, Bete Abba Libanos. The last church is Bete Giorgis, a free standing church with architectural elegance and perfection.
The churches were curved in the 12th and 13th Centuries. It is believed that the carving of all the churches took some 24 years. Archaeologists say it would have taken the work of 40,000 work force to carve these churches, courtyards and caverns out of a living rock.
Described by most travel writers as the eighth Wonder, the churches were registered under the list of World Heritage Site in 1978.
Founded by Emperor Fasiledes, Gonder was the Capital city of Ethiopia in the 17th and 18th centuries.The Founder of Gonder, Emperor Fasiledes built his Palace in 1632. His successors built their castles within the Royal Enclosure. Fasil Ghebbi means the Premise of King Fasiledes in Amharic, the working language of Ethiopia.
The Castles of successive Emperors who ruled the country from Gonder are surrounded by a 900 metres long wall. As a true evidence of an architectural beauty deeply marked by the country’s ancient civilization, the Royal enclosure (Fasil Ghebbi) was registered by UNESCO as s World Heritage Site in 1980.
The Simien Mountains National Park
The Simien Mountains National Park is found in Amhara National Regional State North Gonder administrative Zone.
This National park is 140 kilometers North of Gonder, the 17th and 18th Centuries Capital of Ethiopia. The park is one of the first sites to be included in the list of World Heritage in 1978.
The park includes one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. With jagged mountain peaks, deep valleys and sharp precipices dropping some 1,500 m. The highest Peak is Ras Dashen, the highest mountain in Ethiopia and the fourth in Africa, with an altitude of 4,620 metres, It is also home to some extremely rare animals that are endemic to in Ethiopia such as the Gelada baboon, the Simien fox and the Walia ibex. There are also varieties of flora in the park found no where, but in Ethiopia.
The park was listed under endangered sites in 1996 as a result of the decline of the number of Walia Ibex due to human intervention in the park. But the number of these rare species is now in the rise.
The Lower Valley of Awash
The Lower Valley of Awash is found in Afar Regional State. This is a site of Paleo-anthropological research. Tremendous findings are registered in the area contributing a lot in the search for human origin and evolution.The most spectacular discovery of Lucy, Australopithecus Afarensis, a 3.2 million years old hominid in 1974, paved the way for more achievements in the study of human origin. The discoveries registered by the Middle Awash Research Project, an international, multi disciplinary scientific Study with the objective of establishing an accurate geological
information for elucidating human origins and evolution, has established the region as one of the world’s most important paleontological sites with the discovery of the most ancient hominids dating between the time period of 5.3 – 3.9 million years. The recent achievement with the discovery of Selam, a fossil that is the most complete and 150,000 years older than Lucy, is another testimony for the importance of the region for the study of human origin. The Lower Valley of Awash was included in the list of World heritage sites in 1980.
The Lower Valley of Omo
The Lower valley of Omo is found in South Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Regional State. The discovery of many human and animal fossils and stone tools in the valley has been of fundamental importance in the study of human evolution.
Omo is a river that is 760 kilometres long that streches from the high lands of West Shoa to Lake Turkana, one of the Great Rift Valley lakes. The entire Omo river basin is an important geologically and archaeologically. Several hominid fossils and archaeological localities have been excavated by French and American teams. The oldest ever found stone tools dates back to about 2.4 million years ago.
Because of its importance for the understanding of the human evolution the site was listed as a World Heritage Ste in 1980.The area is also home to people with diverse cultures and natural beauty with national parks and an amazing flora and fauna.
Tiya is located in South Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Regional State. It is found 90 kilometers South of Addis Ababa.The site contains 36 monuments, including 32 carved stelae covered with symbols. They are believed to be marks of the large prehistoric burial complex.This archeological site was listed as World Heritage Site in 1980.
Harar was a major commercial and centre of Islamic learning. It is a walled city. The wall was built during the ime of Emir Nur Ibn Mujahid successor of Ahmad Ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi also known as Ahmad Gragn (the Left Handed) who conquered the Christian highlands in the 16th century.
The wall was constructed to protect the city as its people from possible attacks. It is a 3.5 kilometer long wall with a height of nearly 4 meters. It has five gates and the wall is still intact and is a symbol of the town. The presence of 99 mosques made harar to be considered as the Fourth Holiest City in Islam next to Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. Harar is a symbol of tolerance and peaceful co-existence of peoples and religions.
In recognition of its cultural heritage, the Historic City of Harrar (Jugol) was registered by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2006.