Historical evidences have proven that Ethiopia is a country with a history that goes 3000 years back. Like many other aspect of Ethiopia, the history of the country is unique and intriguing. Thus being an ancient country has enabled Ethiopian to accumulate an enormous amount of cultural relics. More over the country is also endowed with a variety of natural resources. Accordingly, Ethiopia stands top in Africa to register 9 world heritage sites under UNESCO.
Simien National Park (added to the list in 1978):
Comprising one of the principal mountain massifs of Africa, the Simien Mountains are made up of several plateaus, separated by broad river valleys. A number of peaks rise above 4000m, including Ras Dashen. It has been registered by UNESCO in 1978.
The dramatic landscape of the Simien Mountains is the result of massive seismic activity in the area about 40 million years ago. Molten lava poured out of the Earth’s core reaching a thickness of 3000m. Subsequent erosion over the millennia has left behind the jagged landscape of the Simien Mountains: the gorges, chasms and precipices. The famous pinnacles – the sharp spires that rise abruptly from the surrounding land – are volcanic necks: the solidified lava and last remnant of ancient volcanoes. The mountains are home to three of Ethiopia’s larger endemic mammals: the walia ibex, the more common gelada baboons, and the very rarely seen Ethiopian wolvess. Simien National Park has been inscribed on the World Heritage List in Danger since 1996.
It was registered by UNESCO in 1978.
Lalibela: A true wonder of the world not “built” but “hewn” and intricately curved from Virgin rock, are unable to believe that the rock churches are entirely made by man. They attribute their creation to one of the last Kings of the Zagwe Dynasty, king Lalibela, in the 12th Century. Lalibela is internationally renowned for its 11 rock-hewn churches which are sometimes called the eight wonders of the World.
The town of Roha, now known as Lalibela, is the site of eleven remarkable rock churches which rank with the major wonders of the world. They are different from most ordinary churches as they have been cut in one piece out of the solid rock and are frequently connected by tunnels. Many historians believe that all or at least some of these churches were built by King Lalibela. Some legends claim that the workers were helped by angels who did three times as much in the night as they did in the day. It is probable that some of this work dates from before the time of Lalibela (1190-1225).Coming to Lalibela you will find an atmosphere of mystery approaching the village in a vehicle drive from the airport you may just catch a glimpse of a group of churches.Walking through the village you will see the quite, even austere, mountainous landscape of the region of Lasta, where the peasants labor to cultivate their patches of stony fields with the traditional hook-plough. Strolling along across a gently undulating meadow, you will suddenly discover in a pit below you a mighty rock-carefully chiseled and shaped- the first rock church! None of these monuments of Christian faith presents itself to the visitors on top of a mountain as a glorious symbol of Christ’s victory, to be seen from far away by the masses of pilgrims on their road to the “Holy City”; they rather hide themselves in the rock, surrounded by their deep trenches, only to be discovered by the visitor when standing very close on top of the rock and looking downwards.The town of Roha-Lalibela lies between the first and the second group of churches, one on each side of the river Jordan, and one other church set apart from the rest.There are twelve churches and chapels, including various shrines. Four churches are monolithic in the strict sense; the rest remainders are excavated churches in different degrees of separation from the rock. The walls of the trenches and courtyards contain cavities and chambers sometimes filled with mummies of pious monks and pilgrims.
The First Group of Churches
The churches of the first main group lie in their rock cradles one behind the other north of the river Jordan. The original approach might well have been from the river Jordan upto the churches Glogota-Debre Sina (Mika’el) in the west. The whole complex, seen in an east-westerly directions, may be divided in to three smaller groups; Bet Medhane Alem(House of the Redeemer of the World) in the east, the Bet Maryam(the house of Mary), Bet Maskal (the house of the cross), Bet Danaghel(the house of the Virgins or Martyrs) group in the center, and the twin church Bet Golgota(The house of Golgotha)- Bet Debre Sina (Mika’el) with the Selassie Chapel and the tomb of Adamin the west. While each sub-group has a courtyard of its own, the whole complex is surrounded by a deep outer trench.
The second group of churches
Approaching the town of roha-Lalibela from the south, you will see, south of the river Jordan, a bastion of red tuff severed from the rock plateau in the north, east and south by a broad tral trench (partly filed up with earth today) cuts this area into two parts, leaving at its end a cone-shaped hill. An old entrance led from this central trench to the sanctuaries mainly by way of narrow subterranean passages. Only later on were the churches connected with the outer trench by small, roughly cut trenches in the courtyard. The original function of this complex of churches has not yet been clarified. Two of them were certainly planned as such, Bet Emanuel and Bet Abba Libanos. They have a proper church plan and oriented to the east. Were the other two, as authorities claim, part of the residence of the Zagwe, once displaying the splendor of a royal court where embassies from neighboring kingdoms were received? If so, since the fall of the Zagwe, those too have become churches.
This second group comprises, from east to west, the churches and sanctuaries of Bet Emanuel (The house of Emanuel), Bet Mercurios (The house of Mercurios), Bet Abba Libanos (The house of Abba Libanos), the Chapel of Bet Lehem (The chapel of Bethlehem) and Bet Gabriel-Rufa’el (The house of Gabriel & Raphael or the house of the Archangels).
Bet Giorgis(The house of St George)
The monolithic Bet Giorgis- dedicated to the national saint of Ethiopia- is isolated from the other two groups of churches. It is located in the southwest of the village on a sloping rock terrace. In its deep pit with perpendicular walls it can only be reached through a tunnel which is entered from some distance away through a trench.
Other Churches to be reached from Lalibela
While in Lalibela you may wish to make tours to some of the other churches in the vicinity. Access to these churches often requires long walks and stiff climbs or rides by mule. We would suggest a four-day tour to the churches of the Bilbala district, including the beautiful built-up cave church Yemrehanna Krestos, the tiny rock church Arbatu Entzessa, Bilbla Giorgis and in particular Bilbal Cherqos. The last church of this tour would be Sarsana Mika’el. A visit to Genata Maryam might be planned together with an excursion to Mekina Medhane Alem.
NB: please look our Sites of Interest page for the details of the Other Churches to be reached from Lalibela.
The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela are exceptionally fine examples of a long-established Ethiopian building tradition.
Fasil Ghebbi, Gondar Region registered in 1979, is the remains of a fortress-city that was the residence of the Ethiopian emperor Fasilides and his successors.
The founder of Gondar was Emperor Fasiladas who, tiring of the pattern of migration that had characterized the lifestyle of so many of his forefathers, moved his capital here in 1636 AD. By the late 1640s he had built a great castle here, which stands today in a grassy compound surrounded by other fortresses of later construction. Fine castles, churches and other buildings were later built by Emperor Yohannes I (1667-162), Iyasu I (1682-1706), Dawit III (1716-1721), and Iyasu II (1730-1755).
In addition to this castle, Fasiladas is said to have been responsible for the building of a number of other structures. Perhaps the oldest of these is the Enqulal Gemb, or Egg Castle, so named on account of its egg-shaped domed roof. Other buildings include the royal archive and the stable.
Beyond the confines of the city to the north-west by the Qaha River there is another fine building sometimes associated by Fasiladas – a bathing palace. The building is a two-storey battlemented structure situated within and on one side of a rectangular pool of water which was supplied by a canal from the nearby river. The bathing pavilion itself stands on pier arches, and contains several rooms which are reached by a stone bridge, part of which could be raised for defense.
Besides such secular buildings, Fasiladas is reputed to have erected no fewer than seven churches, as well as seven bridges.
Registered in 1980 the city of Aksum came in to existence around 300 B.C. it took its name from its capital Aksum, and occupied a stretch of northern Ethiopia, with Adulis as its principal port. As the capital of a state that traded with ancient Greece, Egypt and Asia. With its navies sailing as far afield as Ceylon, Aksum later became the most important power between the Roman Empire and Persia and for a while, controlled parts of South Arabia.
They also used coins of gold, silver and copper, which were first produced by the kings of Aksum around 250 A.D.
Aksum, the extensive ruins of which can still be seen, was an important city. Its buildings included impressive stone palaces and temples. Its ruler put up the famous obelisks, or stelae, which were beautifully cut of single pieces of stone. They left stone inscriptions, written in Ge’ez (classic Ethiopian), Sabean (language of South Arabia) and Greek, describing the military campaigns of the time.
They suggest that it was from Aksum that Makeda, the fabled Queen of Sheba, journeyed to visit King Solomon in Jerusalem. Legend has it that a son was born to the Queen from her union with Solomon. This son, Menelik I, grew up in Ethiopia but travelled to Jerusalem as a young man. There he spent several years before coming back to his own country with the fabled Ark of the Covenant. The Ark, according to Ethiopian belief, has remained in Aksum ever since.
By digging on the sites of Aksumite towns and cities and by examining the old inscriptions it has been possible to unearth a wealth of information about this great civilization of ancient times and to gain a fair understanding of the way of life of its people. Many of the treasures unearthed are to be seen in the National Museum and in the museum at Aksum.
The site is located between Addis Ababa and Butajira about 88 kilometers south of Addis. It is about 50 km from the archeological site of Melka Kunture. The prehistoric site of Tiya houses another collection of some 30 intricately carved stelae and is probably an ancient burial ground. The stelae are not soaring monoliths as in Axum, but they contain depictions of swords and various enigmatic symbols not found in other regions. According to UNESCO, these are the remains of an ancient Ethiopian culture whose age has not yet been precisely determined. The erection of megalithic monuments such as these is a very ancient tradition in Ethiopia.
Lower Omo Valley (1980)
The Lower Valley of the Omo River is a prehistoric site where many hominid fossils have been found. They are of fundamental importance in the study of human evolution. It has been registered in 1980.
Several hominid fossils and archaeological localities, dating to the Pliocene and Pleistocene, have been excavated by French and American teams. Fossils belonging to the genera Australopithecine and Homo have been found at several archaeological sites, as well as tools made from quartzite, the oldest of which date back to about 2.4 million years ago.
Lower Awash Valley (1980)
Registered in 1980, the valley of the Awash River is one of the most important paleontological sites on the African continent. It is here that in 1974 the skeleton fragments of ‘Lucy’ were found, who is estimated to have lived 3.2 million years ago
Walled City of Harar- Jugol (2006)
On the Eastern part of the country, perched at the end of a spur projecting from the Central plateau, lays the old walled city of Harar redolent of the Middle Eastern world. Five massive gates in the walls of the city center stand testimony to the need for strong defense, against past intruders. This city was founded 1,000 years ago, around the 10th or 11th century AD when it began to establish itself as an important center of the Islamic faith on the African continent and built cultural, religious and commercial links with other parts of the Muslim world.
Harar is a fortified historic town in southeastern 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 was registered in 2006.’
It is considered “the fourth holiest city of Islam” with 82 mosques and 102 shrines. The Islamic is town characterized by a maze of narrow alleyways and forbidding facades.
The Konso people are famous by their terraced agricultural landscapes, remarkable feats of human engineering and social organization. Which enabling for the conservation of soil and water as well as the cultivation of food. Indigenous terraced landscapes are all the more valuable because they have been produced by the people themselves and maintained for several hundred years, evidencing a valuable degree of sustainability. Konso cultural landscape registered the 9th world heritage site of Ethiopia in 2011 world heritage session in Bahrain.
They have also a community system in their village where people live close together as other African village and densely populated area in the country. There is also a wooden statue called Waka that erected on the burial for the konso warrior which has a cultural and traditional value in Konso people and also the Generational pole erected in communal place in the village called Mora.
When a hero or important man has died, waga figure are carved in his honor. They are placed in and around the fields, and not necessarily where the man has been buried. The deceased is usually represented in the center of the waga group and flanked by his wife. On the outside stand any enemies he may have killed, carved in an abstract and phallic fashion. Fierce animals he has slain, such as leopard, lion or a crocodile, will also be depicted and placed at his feet. In front of the central figure, representing the deceased is his shield on his forehead a phallic symbol is carved.