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Yemrehana Krestos

Yemrehana Krestos

The church of Yemrehanna Kristos is one of Ethiopia's best-preserved late Axumite churches, and is named for a twelfth-century Zagwe priest-king and saint. The church is located inside a large natural cavern on a hill in northern Ethiopia, set in a spectacular landscape of juniper trees, predating the famous nearby rock-hewn churches of Lalibela by almost a century. The walls of the building were constructed with alternating layers of recessed timber beams and projecting plastered stone, with windows covered by carved cruciform lattices. The interior is divided by masonry pillars and arches into a nave and two side aisles, with a domed sanctuary on the east end. All interior wood surfaces, including the paneled ceilings, are elaborately decorated with carved geometric designs and polychrome.

Priests and hermits still live at Yemrehanna Kristos, and the church is a place of pilgrimage. Over the centuries, many pilgrims came to Ymrehanna Kristos to die, and their remains lie behind the structure. Currently the location is remote, but a new road will soon lead to Yemrehanna Kristos from the popular destination of Lalibela, increasing visitation numbers and creating a management challenge. In addition, a modern wall constructed across the opening of the cave for security reasons in the 1980s detracts from the site's integrity and visitation potential. The building is well-preserved, but recent evidence of some structural failure compels a timely assessment. An effort to address these issues should involve all stakeholders, including the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Ethiopia's Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage.

Yemrehanna Kirstos is a built–up church under a huge basaltic cave located at about 42 kms northeast of Lalibela, on a mountain ridge with an altitude of 2681 meters, set in a spectacular landscape of juniper trees, predating the famous nearby rock-hewn churches of Lalibela by almost a century. The walls of the building were constructed with alternating layers of recessed timber beams and projecting plastered stone, with windows covered by carved cruciform lattices. The interior is divided by masonry pillars and arches into a nave and two side aisles, with a domed sanctuary on the east end. All interior wood surfaces, including the paneled ceilings, are elaborately decorated with carved geometric designs and polychrome.
According to the World Monuments Fund’s latest report released last week, the church is among the diverse cultural heritage sites threatened by neglect, overdevelopment or social, political and economic change, preservation group announced last week.
The New York-based group has issued its watch list every two years since the mid-1990s to call attention to important landmarks threatened around the world in an effort to promote awareness and action. The list is assembled by a panel of experts in archaeology, architecture, art history and preservation.
Yemerehanna was at risk due to “new road,” increasing visitation numbers and creating a management challenge, the group said. It also singled out a modern wall that is constructed across the opening of the cave for security reasons in the 1980s detracts from the site’s integrity and visitation potential.
“The building is well-preserved, but recent evidence of some structural failure compels a timely assessment,” the group said. An effort to address these issues should involve all stakeholders, including the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Ethiopia’s Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage, it concluded.

Yeha Temple

Yeha Temple

The oldest standing structure in Ethiopia is located in Yeha: the temple of Yeha. This is a tower built in the Sabaean style, and dated through comparison with ancient structures in South Arabia to around 5th BC. Although no radiocarbon dating testing has been performed on samples from site, this date for the Great Tower is supported by local inscriptions. David Phillipson attributes its "excellent preservation" to two factors, "the care with which its original builders ensured a level foundation, firmly placed on the uneven bedrock; and to its rededication -- perhaps as early as the sixth century AD -- for use as a Christian church. Two other archeological sites at Yeha include Grat Beal Gebri, a ruined complex distinguished by a portico 10 meters wide and two sets of square pillars, and a graveyard containing several rock-hewn shaft tombs first investigated in the early 1960s. One authority has speculated that one of these tombs contained a royal burial, while another believes the ancient residential area was likely one kilometer to the east of the modern village

Yeha is also the location of an Ethiopian Orthodox monastery, founded according to tradition by Abba Aftse, one of the Nine Saints. In his account of Ethiopia, Francisco Álvares mentions visiting this town in 1520 (which he called "Abbafaçem"), and provides a description of the ancient tower, the monastery, and the local church.This church was either the rededicated Great Temple, or a now destroyed building which the Deutsche Aksum-Expedition described in the early 20th century. (The current structure, which exhibits Aksumite architectural features, was built between 1948 and 1949.)

Tiya Stelae

Tiya Stelae

The stelae from the Soddo region, with their enigmatic configuration, are highly representative of an expression of the Ethiopian megalithic period.

Soddo lies to the south of Addis Ababa, beyond the Aouache river. It is remarkable because of the numerous archaeological sites of the megalithic period, comprising hundreds of sculptured stelae, that have been discovered there. The carved monoliths vary in size from 1 m to 5 m. Their forms fall into several distinct categories: figurative composition; anthropomorphic; hemispherical or conical; simple monoliths. In the northern area are to be found stelae with depictions of swords, associated with enigmatic symbols and schematic human figures.

Among the most important of the roughly 160 archaeological sites discovered so far in the Soddo region is Tiya, lying 38 km south of the river, which is also one of the most representative. Roughly aligned over an axis of 45 m there is a group of 33 stelae, with another group of three stelae a short distance from them. Of the 36 stelae at Tiya, 32 are sculpted with vaguely representational configurations (including the sword designs), which are for the most part difficult to decipher. One depicts the outline of a human figure in low relief.

They are the remains of an ancient Ethiopian culture the age of which has not yet been precisely determined. However, they have been interpreted as having a funerary significance, as there are tombs scattered around the stelae.

 

Tigray Rock Chruches

Tigray Rock Chruches

Tigrai, Ethiopia’s northern most region, has more than 130 rock-hewn churches.  
The rock churches are found in Gheralta, Tsaeda Imba, Atsbidera, Haramat, Ganta afeshum, and in many other places scattered unevenly over an area of 180 x 140 kms. Ivy pearce, one of the noted academic authorities in the field, writes, “the Tigre rock-hewn churches are more interesting to visit on account of the fact that one can see antiquity in people, things, places and ceremonies unchanged for over a thousand years.” She also ranked them as “the greatest of the historical- cultural heritages of the Ethipian people.” 

Gheralta, northwest of Mekelle, the capital of Tigrai, is the home of a quarter of the rock churches, some famous for their stone workmanship, ancient paintings and old manuscripts, and others known for their magnificent view and difficult ascent. Such great churches as Abune Yemata (Guh), Mariam Korkor, Debretsion (Abune Abraham), Yohannes Maequddi, Abune Gebre Mikael and Selassie Degum are in the very heart of Gheralta, making it the home of rock churches of Tigrai. 

The scenery of Gheralta is spectacular. The view of the graceful Mount Gheralta and the far-reaching Hawzien plain is a rare combination of extraordinary beauty. 

Georg Gerster, the Swiss photographer, in his book churches in Rock writes, “Gheralta with its ‘western film’ scenery of mountains, seems to be a kind of Ethiopian Arizona An Arizona, however, without motels or desperadoes. But nevertheless an eldorado with the choice intellectual pleasure of constantly stimulation and satisfying the passion for discovers" 


Gheralta can now be approached either from the town of Wukro, 47 kms north of Mekelle along the highway or from Senkata, 83kms along the same road. The important points in the area (Abraha Atsbaha, Degum, Megab and Hawzien) are now all connected by a new road and inaccessibility seems a fast forgotten thing of the past. 

Sheik Hussein

Sheik Hussein

Dire Sheik Hussein is located in the South Eastern part of Ethiopia. It is a 10th century Islamic centre of pilgrimage for people coming from different corners of the country, and Islamic communities of the Horn and the Middle East countries, twice a year. Dirre Sheik Hussein is a site of magnificent groups of buildings, monumental tombs and courts representing early medieval period of Islamic architecture and buildings of significant engineering qualities.

The holy site was founded by the Islamic Saint known as Sheik Nur Hussein. He was one of the Nine Islamic venerated saints who entered Ethiopia (from South Arabia) along the eastern route via the walled city of Harar, which was recently inscribed as the World Heritage site of Ethiopia. Within the compounds and courts of Dine Sheik Hussien there are huge and magnificent mosques, shrines, residential buildings, artificial water ponds and other cultural spaces of Islamic religious processions and diverse ritual practices.

The site is a large rural religious walled settlement still serving the living culture of the past that continuously occupied the Islamic community of this part of the region for nearly 1000 years. It has annual festive events of religious celebrations and cultural practices of thanks giving and blessing. Dirre Sheik Hussein is also considered as a sacred site with a large area of spiritually protected forest landscape. The maintained strong spiritual association and the powerful ritual meaning that are attached to the site have contributed a lot to the preservation of the surrounding environment. The whole setting is evidence of the process of the establishment of this permanent rural enclave religious settlement and the adaptation/introduction of the Islamic cultures to this remote hinterland of the Horn of Africa. Dine Sheik Hussein is a place where people exercise a mixture of Islamic religion and African traditional belief, known as Muda 

in this part of Africa. Thus; the cultural property possesses outstanding universal value as a testimony of a unique cultural tradition representing the way in which human beings coexisted with nature over a long period of time in this specific geo cultural region of our planet.

 

Lalibela

Lalibela

Lalibela is a town in northern Ethiopia that is famous for its monolithic rock-cut churches. Lalibela is one of Ethiopia's holiest cities, second only to Aksum, and is a center of pilgrimage for much of the country. Unlike Aksum, the population of Lalibela is almost completely Ethiopian Orthodox Christian. The layout and names of the major buildings in Lalibela are widely accepted, especially by the local clergy, to be a symbolic representation of Jerusalem. This has led some experts to date the current form of its churches to the years following the capture of Jerusalem in 1187 by the Muslim soldier Saladin.

Lalibela is located in the Semien Wollo Zone of the Amhara ethnic division (or kilil) at roughly 2,500 meters above sea level. It is the main town in Lasta woreda, which was formerly part of Bugna woreda.

History

During the reign of Saint Gebre Mesqel Lalibela (a member of the Zagwe Dynasty, who ruled Ethiopia in the late 12th century and early 13th century) the current town of Lalibela was known as Roha. The saintly king was given this name due to a swarm of bees said to have surrounded him at his birth, which his mother took as a sign of his future reign as Emperor of Ethiopia. The names of several places in the modern town and the general layout of the rock-cut churches themselves are said to mimic names and patterns observed by Lalibela during the time he spent in Jerusalem and the Holy Land as a youth.

Lalibela is said to have seen Jerusalem and then attempted to build a new Jerusalem as his capital in response to the capture of old Jerusalem by Muslims in 1187. As such, many features have Biblical names – even the town's river is known as the River Jordan. It remained the capital of Ethiopia from the late 12th century and into the 13th century.

The first European to see these churches was the Portuguese explorer Pêro da Covilhã (1460–1526). Portuguese priest Francisco Álvares (1465–1540), who accompanied the Portuguese Ambassador on his visit to Lebna Dengel in the 1520s. His description of these structures concludes:

Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela

The 11 medieval monolithic cave churches of this 13th-century 'New Jerusalem' are situated in a mountainous region in the heart of Ethiopia near a traditional village with circular-shaped dwellings. Lalibela is a high place of Ethiopian Christianity, still today a place of pilmigrage and devotion.

 The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela are 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 6th or 7th centuries. King Lalibela is believed to have commissioned these structures with the purpose of creating a holy and symbolic place which considerably influenced Ethiopian religious beliefs.

The 11 medieval monolithic cave churches of this 13th-century 'New Jerusalem' are situated in a mountainous region in the heart of Ethiopia near a traditional village with circular-shaped dwellings. Lalibela is a high place of Ethiopian Christianity, still today a place of pilgrimage and devotion.

Lalibela is a small town at an altitude of almost 2,800 m in the Ethiopian highlands. It is surrounded by a rocky, dry area. Here in the 13th century devout Christians began hewing out the red volcanic rock to create 13 churches. Four of them were finished as completely free-standing structures, attached to their mother rock only at their bases. The remaining nine range from semi-detached to ones whose facades are the only features that have been 'liberated' from the rock.

The Jerusalem theme is important. The rock churches, although connected to one another by maze-like tunnels, are physically separated by a small river which the Ethiopians named the Jordan. Churches on one side of the Jordan represent the earthly Jerusalem; whereas those on the other side represent the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of jewels and golden sidewalks alluded to in the Bible.

It was King Lalibela who commissioned the structures, but scholars disagree as to his motivation. According to a legendary account, King Lalibela was born in Roha. His name means 'the bee recognizes 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, the time had come for Lalibela to fulfil 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 at night did double the amount of work which the men had done during the hours of daylight.

Like more episodes in the long history of this country, there are many legends about this king. One is that Lalibela was poisoned by his brother and fell into a three-day coma in which he was taken to Heaven and given a vision of rock-hewn cities. Another legend says that he went into exile to Jerusalem and vowed that when he returned he would create a New Jerusalem. Others attribute the building of the churches to Templars from Europe.

The names of the churches evoke hints of Hebrew, a language related to the Hamo-Semitic dialect still used in Ethiopian church liturgies: Beta Medhane Alem (House of the Saviour of the World), Beta Qedus Mikael (House of St Michael) and Beta Amanuel (House of Emmanuel) are all reminiscent of the Hebrew beth (house). In one of the churches there is a pillar covered with cotton. A monk had a dream in which he saw Christ kissing it; according to the monks, the past, the present and the future are carved into it. The churches are connected to each other by small passages and tunnels.

 

Lake Tana and its Island Monasteries

Lake Tana and its Island Monasteries

Lake Tana -an older variant is Tsana, Ge'ez ጻና Ṣānā; sometimes called "Dembiya" after the region to the north of the lake) is the source of the Blue Nile and is the largest lake in Ethiopia. Located in Amhara Region in the north-western Ethiopian Highlands, the lake is approximately 84 kilometers long and 66 kilometers wide, with a maximum depth of 15 meters, and an elevation of 1,788 meters. Lake Tana is fed by the Lesser Abay, Reb and Gumara rivers; and its surface area ranges from 3,000 to 3,500 km,² depending on season and rainfall. The lake level has been regulated since the construction of the control weir where the lake discharges into the Blue Nile. This controls the flow to the Blue Nile Falls (Tis Abbai) and hydro-power station

 

The lake has a number of islands, whose numbers vary depending on the level of the lake; it has fallen about 6 feet (1.8 m) in the last 400 years. According to Manoel de Almeida (a Portuguese missionary in the early 17th century), there were 21 islands, seven to eight of which had monasteries on them "formerly large, but now much diminished." When James Bruce visited the area in the later 18th century, he noted that the locals counted 45 inhabited islands, but stated he believed that "the number may be about eleven."A 20th-century geographer named 37 islands, of which he believed 19 have or had monasteries or churches on them.

Remains of ancient Ethiopian emperors and treasures of the Ethiopian Church are kept in the isolated island monasteries (including Kebran Gabriel, Ura Kidane Mehret, Narga Selassie, Daga Estifanos, Medhane Alem of Rema, Kota Maryam and Mertola Maryam). On the island of Tana Qirqos is a rock shown to Paul B. Henze, on which he was told the Virgin Mary had rested on her journey back from Egypt; he was also told that Frumentius, who introduced Christianity to Ethiopia, is "allegedly buried on Tana Cherqos." The body of Yekuno Amlak is interred in the monastery of St. Stephen on Daga Island; other Emperors whose tombs are on Daga include Dawit I, Zara Yaqob, Za Dengel and Fasilides. Other important islands in Lake Tana include Dek, Mitraha, Gelila Zakarias, Halimun, and Briguida.

The monasteries are believed to have been built over earlier religious sites. They include the fourteenth-century Debre Maryam, and the eighteenth-century Narga Selassie, Tana Qirqos (said to have housed the Ark of the Covenant before it was moved to Axum), and Ura Kidane Mehret, known for its regalia. A ferry service links Bahir Dar with Gorgora via Dek Island and various lakeshore villages.

Lake Tana - Churches and Monasteries 

The Lake Tana area was important in the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in view of its role in maintaining the Christian faith against contemporary pressures, and the rise of the Solomonic Dynasty which patronized the building of churches and monasteries. Many of the earliest manuscripts and precious examples of ecclesiastical art as well as royal objects were safely stored in their treasuries. At the same time, new religious arts were developed and displayed in the churches. The oldest of these forty or so churches have their origins in the fourteenth century. They reflect the native building tradition in their round shape, materials and building techniques. Each one consists of three parts: the inner sanctuary, the inner ambulatory and the outer ambulatory. The outside walls of the sanctuary are usually covered with magnificent paintings. Seven of the most accessible and representative of these churches, still serving their original function, have been selected for the international campaign: Kebran Gabriel, Ura Kidane Mehret, Narga Selassie, Daga Estifanos, Medhane Alem of Rema, Kota Maryam and Mertola Maryam.

 

Harar: The History of Ethiopia's Muslim City

Harar: The History of Ethiopia's Muslim City


The city of Harar is the only important Muslim city in the interior of Ethiopia, situated at about 526km from Addis Ababa, and lying some 1850m above sea level in hilly but fertile countryside. Its origins are obscure. Muslim shaykhs appear to have been known in the region before and during the time of the Ethiopian Emperor Amda Tseyon (1314-44), but the town is first actually mentioned in the chronicle of the emperor's victories over the Muslim kingdom of Adal in the east. According to an Arabic record, there were seven Muslim kingdoms in the region, all under the authority of the Ethiopians, Harar being in Dawaro. It was later included in the Sultanate of Adal, also called the Kingdom of Zeila.

Harar became the chief Muslim base in Ethiopia, and was to remain Ethiopia's great permanent centre for Islam. When the kingdom of Adal became the main Muslim state in the Ethiopian region, Harar came into its territory. Adal fought constantly with Ethiopia, and soon fanatical amirs or imams - at least from the Christian point of view - took over control in Harar region. Sultan Muhammad (1488-1518) of Adal attempted to remain at peace with Ethiopia. The Portuguese friar Francisco Alvares, who was in Ethiopia with a Portuguese embassy in the 1520s, recorded that he was unable to do so because Mahfuz, amir of Harar, caused trouble by his constant raids. For a while, sultan and negus maintained an uneasy peace, which continued when Lebna Dengel (1508-40) succeeded to the Ethiopian throne, with the Empress Eleni as regent. Nevertheless, prophetically, Eleni sent to Portugal for assistance. A mission was sent with an ambassador to Manuel I of Portugal. This resulted in the arrival in Ethiopia in 1520 of a Portuguese embassy under Dom Rodrigo da Lima.

Mahfuz had become by this time governor of Zayla, de facto ruler of Adal. There were renewed raids on Ethiopian territory. Emperor Lebna Dengel met an invasion attempt, killing Mahfuz and destroying one of the sultan's castles; at the same time Lope Suarez surprised Zayla from the sea and sacked it. Despite this very material demonstration of how useful Portugal could be, Lebna Dengel did not enter into alliance. He permitted the Portuguese embassy to leave in 1526, thus signing the death warrant of his kingdom.

For a new leader arose unexpectedly in the Adali sultanate, Mahfuz' son-in-law Imam Ahmad b. Ibrahim al-Ghazi (1506-43), called Grañ, 'the left-handed'. The centre of his influence was Harar, where he built up his own powerful party, crushing the conservative resistance of the more cautious merchants. This extraordinary man was able to cut through the feeble struggles that animated the sultans' court, slaying Sultan Abu Bakr - who had transferred the sultanate to Harar in 1520 - and installing his brother Umar Din, a pliable puppet. Imam Ahmad directed policy towards an all-out struggle with Ethiopia. The die was cast in 1527, when payment of tribute to Abyssinia was refused.

Nur's successors attempted to treat with the Oromo, so they would come to the markets. Internally, the city suffered from political instability, with coups and countercoups. Sultan Muhammad b. Nasir made the major mistake of joining the rebellion of Yetshaq, ruler of the northeastern provinces, and in 1577 went to war with Ethiopia. But Ethiopia was by now governed by Emperor Sartsa Dengel, a military commander of some stature. On the river Webi, Muhammad was captured (he was later executed) and the best of his army annihilated. This defeat marked the end of Harari military power.

Meanwhile the Oromo had seized the remaining Harari territory, and the sultanate itself was transferred to Aussa in 1577. Aussa too succumbed in 1672 to Oromo and Somali raids. Harar still survived. It had managed to wrest its independence from Aussa in 1647 under Ali b. Daud, and thus remained an independent city state until the late 19th century. It even produced its own coinage - unattractive pieces marked in Arabic with the sultans' names and titles, and the words 'Dharabat fi Harar' (struck in Harar) - in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The city of Harar is the only important Muslim city in the interior of Ethiopia, situated at about 526km from Addis Ababa, and lying some 1850m above sea level in hilly but fertile countryside. Its origins are obscure. Muslim shaykhs appear to have been known in the region before and during the time of the Ethiopian Emperor Amda Tseyon (1314-44), but the town is first actually mentioned in the chronicle of the emperor's victories over the Muslim kingdom of Adal in the east. According to an Arabic record, there were seven Muslim kingdoms in the region, all under the authority of the Ethiopians, Harar being in Dawaro. It was later included in the Sultanate of Adal, also called the Kingdom of Zeila. Harar became the chief Muslim base in Ethiopia, and was to remain Ethiopia's great permanent centre for Islam. When the kingdom of Adal became the main Muslim state in the Ethiopian region, Harar came into its territory. Adal fought constantly with Ethiopia, and soon fanatical amirs or imams - at least from the Christian point of view - took over control in Harar region. Sultan Muhammad (1488-1518) of Adal attempted to remain at peace with Ethiopia. The Portuguese friar Francisco Alvares, who was in Ethiopia with a Portuguese embassy in the 1520s, recorded that he was unable to do so because Mahfuz, amir of Harar, caused trouble by his constant raids. For a while, sultan and negus maintained an uneasy peace, which continued when Lebna Dengel (1508-40) succeeded to the Ethiopian throne, with the Empress Eleni as regent. Nevertheless, prophetically, Eleni sent to Portugal for assistance. A mission was sent with an ambassador to Manuel I of Portugal. This resulted in the arrival in Ethiopia in 1520 of a Portuguese embassy under Dom Rodrigo da Lima. Mahfuz had become by this time governor of Zayla, de facto ruler of Adal. There were renewed raids on Ethiopian territory. Emperor Lebna Dengel met an invasion attempt, killing Mahfuz and destroying one of the sultan's castles; at the same time Lope Suarez surprised Zayla from the sea and sacked it. Despite this very material demonstration of how useful Portugal could be, Lebna Dengel did not enter into alliance. He permitted the Portuguese embassy to leave in 1526, thus signing the death warrant of his kingdom. For a new leader arose unexpectedly in the Adali sultanate, Mahfuz' son-in-law Imam Ahmad b. Ibrahim al-Ghazi (1506-43), called Grañ, 'the left-handed'. The centre of his influence was Harar, where he built up his own powerful party, crushing the conservative resistance of the more cautious merchants. This extraordinary man was able to cut through the feeble struggles that animated the sultans' court, slaying Sultan Abu Bakr - who had transferred the sultanate to Harar in 1520 - and installing his brother Umar Din, a pliable puppet. Imam Ahmad directed policy towards an all-out struggle with Ethiopia. The die was cast in 1527, when payment of tribute to Abyssinia was refused. Nur's successors attempted to treat with the Oromo, so they would come to the markets. Internally, the city suffered from political instability, with coups and countercoups. Sultan Muhammad b. Nasir made the major mistake of joining the rebellion of Yetshaq, ruler of the northeastern provinces, and in 1577 went to war with Ethiopia. But Ethiopia was by now governed by Emperor Sartsa Dengel, a military commander of some stature. On the river Webi, Muhammad was captured (he was later executed) and the best of his army annihilated. This defeat marked the end of Harari military power. Meanwhile the Oromo had seized the remaining Harari territory, and the sultanate itself was transferred to Aussa in 1577. Aussa too succumbed in 1672 to Oromo and Somali raids. Harar still survived. It had managed to wrest its independence from Aussa in 1647 under Ali b. Daud, and thus remained an independent city state until the late 19th century. It even produced its own coinage - unattractive pieces marked in Arabic with the sultans' names and titles, and the words 'Dharabat fi Harar' (struck in Harar) - in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Harar had one more adventure to undergo before it became an integral part of Ethiopia; the Egyptian occupation. When amir Muhammad b. Ali usurped the throne, the people appealed to Khedive Ismail of Egypt, who was very willing to spread his imperium in the south. Ra'uf Pasha, who had already taken Zayla, and Berbera in 1870, occupied Harar in 1874, remaining as Egyptian governor. Vigorous campaigns were mounted against the Oromo, who were defeated and islamised much more strongly than before. As a brief social comment at this time, it may be mentioned that an Egyptian officer of the occupation noted that the Hararis treated women much better than did most Muslims. The women of Harar in fact controlled their husbands. All but the amir had but one wife. Menelik, king of Shewa, conquered the province of Harar. In 1884-5 Egyptians left, and Abdallah b. Muhammad was set on the throne of Harar city by the pasha and the British Consul. In 1886, after the new sultan's soldiers had massacred an Italian expedition, Menelik defeated Abdallah's forces, annexing the city in early 1887. He appointed his cousin ras Makonnen as governor. Aussa too was annexed in 1896. When ras Makonnen died 1906, his son ras Tafari succeeded to the governorate. His palace, a large building in a semi-ruinous state, still dominates the town not far from 'Rimbaud's house' In 1913 the young Lij Iyasu became emperor. He often stayed in Harar,. He was reputed to be about to convert to Islam, and to have had his ancestory researched to prove descent from the Prophet Muhammad. For this, and for potential trespasses against certain Ethiopian and European interests in this time of war, he was deposed in 1917, in favour of Empress Zawditu, Menelik's daughter. Ras Tafari became regent of Ethiopia, and later emperor under the title Haile Sellassie I. To signalise the importance of the city to his family, and doubtless also as a gesture towards the Hararis in his efforts to keep his empire intact, this Harari emperor in due course gave one of his sons the title Duke of Harar. Harar today is the chief place in the eastern Ethiopian province named after it Hararge, the country of Harar.

Historical Reference 

The History of Ethiopia's Muslim City Historical Reference The walls surrounding this sacred Muslim city were built between the 13th and 16th centuries. Harar Jugol, said to be the fourth holiest city of Islam, numbers 82 mosques, three of which date from the 10th century, and 102 shrines. The most common houses in Harar Jugol are traditional townhouses consisting of three rooms on the ground floor and service areas in the courtyard. Another type of house, called the Indian House, built by Indian merchants who came to Harar after 1887, is a simple rectangular two-storied building with a veranda overlooking either street or courtyard. A third type of building was born of the combination of elements from the other two. The Harari people are known for the quality of their handicrafts, including weaving, basket making and book-binding, but the houses with their exceptional interior design constitute the most spectacular part of Harar's cultural heritage This architectural form is typical, specific and original, different from the domestic layout usually known in Muslim countries. It is also unique in Ethiopia. Harar was established in its present urban form in the 16th century as an Islamic town characterized by a maze of narrow alleyways and forbidding facades. From 1520 to 1568 it was the capital of the Harari Kingdom. From the late 16th century to the 19th century, Harar was noted as a centre of trade and Islamic learning. In the 17th century it became an independent emirate. It was then occupied by Egypt for ten years and became part of Ethiopia in 1887. The impact of African and Islamic traditions on the development of the town's specific building types and urban layout make for the particular character and even uniqueness of Harar.

 

Gondar

Gondar

 The World Heritage site is an outstanding testimony of the modern Ethiopian civilization on the northern plateau of Tana. The characteristics of the style of the Gondar period appeared at the beginning of the 17th century in the capital city and have subsequently marked Ethiopian architecture in a long-lasting manner.

Flanked by twin mountain streams at an altitude of more than 2,300 m, Gondar was founded by Emperor Fasilidas who, tiring of the pattern of migration that had characterized the lifestyle of so many of his forefathers, moved his capital here in 1636, a role that it filled until 1864. It is famous for its many medieval castles and the design and decoration of its churches. No one knows exactly why Fasilidas chose to establish his headquarters there. Some legends say an archangel prophesied that an Ethiopian capital would be built at a place with a name that began with the letter G. The legend led to a whole series of 16th- and 17th-century towns: Guzara, Gorgora, and finally Gondar. Another legend claims that the city was built in a place chosen by God, who pointed it out to Fasilidas who had followed a buffalo there when hunting.

The main castle, which stands today in a grassy compound surrounded by later fortresses, was built in the late 1630s and early 1640s on the orders of Fasilidas. With its huge towers and looming battlemented walls, it resembles a piece of medieval Europe transposed to Ethiopia. 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 which is the Enqulal Gemb (Egg Castle), so named on account of its egg-shaped domed roof.

Beyond the confines of the city to the north-west by the Qaha River there is another fine building sometimes associated by Fasilidas, a bathing palace. The building is a two-storeyed 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 reached by a stone bridge, part of which could be raised for defence. The Emperor, who was greatly interested in architecture was also responsible for seven churches and a number of bridges.

Iyasu the Great, a grandson of Fasilidas, was particularly active. His castle was described at the time as finer than the House of Solomon. Its inner walls were decorated with ivory, mirrors and paintings of palm trees and its ceiling was covered with gold-leaf and precious stones. Iyasu's most lasting achievement was the Church of Debra Berhan Selassie (Light of the Trinity), which stands surrounded by a high wall on raised ground to the north-west of the city and continues in regular use. A plain, thatched, rectangular structure on the outside, the interior of Debra Berhan Selassie is marvellously painted with scenes from religious history. The north wall is dominated by a depiction of the Trinity above the Crucifixion; the theme of the south wall is St Mary and that of the east wall the life of Jesus. The west wall shows major saints, with St George in red and gold on a prancing white horse.

Not long after completing this remarkable and impressive work, Iyasu went into deep depression when his favourite concubine died. He abandoned affairs of state and his son, Tekla Haimanot, declared himself Emperor and killed his father. Tekla Haimanot was in his turn murdered; his successor was also forcibly deposed and the next monarch was poisoned. The brutalities came to an end with Emperor Bakaffa, who left two fine castles, one attributed directly to him and the other to his consort, the Empress Mentewab.

Bakaffa's successor, Iyasu II, is regarded by most historians as the last of the Gondar Emperors to rule with full authority. During his reign, work began on a whole range of new buildings outside the main palace compound. The monarch also developed the hills north-west of the city centre known as Kweskwam (after the home of the Virgin Mary).

Debre Damo

Debre Damo

Debre Damo monastery is situated on an isolated mountain in northern part of Tigray. It is unique compared with most Ethiopian monasteries. Debre Damo was built, in the sixth century AD, with curved wood panels, painted ceilings and walls dedicated to the legend of Saint (Abune) Aregawi. The history of Debre Damo is centred on the "Nine Saints" who came to Ethiopia from Syria to spread Christianity in the Tigray region. One of them was Saint Aregawi who settled on the mountain of Debre Damo. The other eight saints settled around Tigray countryside and all have their own church named after them.

Debre Damo is magnificent in terms of its location and extensive collection of priceless manuscripts that have remained intact until today. It has become a prominent monastic and educational centre for the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Many books have been written there and distributed to churches throughout Ethiopia.

Debre Damo is only accessible by climbing up by a rope, which is made of "plaited leather", lowered from the cliffs, which visitors tie around their waist and are then pulled up by a monk at the top of the cliffs. It is only accessible to men and male animals. Women and even female animals are forbidden to set a foot into the monastery, and must remain under the cliffs and pray from there.

The feast of Saint (Abune) Aregawi is celebrated on October 14 Ethiopian calendar (October 24 Gregorian calendar) which culminates in a pilgrimage to Debre Damo from all over the country.

Axum

Axum

The ruins of the ancient city of Aksum are located close to Ethiopia's northern border. They mark the location of the heart of ancient Ethiopia, when the Kingdom of Aksum was the most powerful state between the Eastern Roman Empire and Persia. The massive ruins, dating from between the 1st and 13th centuries, include monolithic obelisks, giant stelae, royal tombs and the ruins of ancient castles. Long after its political decline in the 10th century, Ethiopian emperors continued to be crowned in Aksum.

Beginning around the 2nd millennium BCE and continuing until the 4th century CE there was immigration into the Ethiopian region. The immigrants came mostly from a region of western Yemen associated with the Sabean culture. Conditions in their homelands were most probably so harsh that the only means of escape was by a direct route across the Red Sea into Eritrea. By the 4th century, Aksum was already at its peak in land sovereignty, which included most of southern Yemen.

The city of Aksum emerged several centuries before the birth of Christ, as the capital of a state that traded with ancient Greece, Egypt and Asia. With its fleets 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. Aksum, whose name first appears in the 1st century AD in the Periplus of the Eritrean Sea, is considered to be the heart of ancient Ethiopia. Indeed, the kingdom which held sway over this area at this time took its name from the city. The ruins of the site spread over a large area and are composed of tall, obelisk-like stelae of imposing height, an enormous table of stone, vestiges of columns and royal tombs inscribed with Aksumite legends and traditions. In the western sector of the city there are also the ruins of three castles from the 1st century AD.

The earliest records and legends suggest that it was from Aksum that Makeda, the fabled Queen of Sheba, journeyed to visit King Solomon in Jerusalem. 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, where he spent several years before returning to his own country with the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark, according to Ethiopian belief, has remained in Aksum ever since (in an annex to the Church of St Mary of Zion).

 In addition to the old St Mary of Zion church, there are many other remains in Aksum dating back to pre- and early Christian times. Among these, a series of inscriptions on stone tablets have proved to be of immense importance to historians of the ancient world. They include a trilingual text in Greek, Sabaean (the language of South Arabia) and Ge'ez (classical Ethiopian), ordered by King Ezana in the 4th century AD, along with the 3,000-year-old stelae and obelisks. The standing obelisk rises to a height of over 23 m and is exquisitely carved to represent a nine-storey building in the fashion of the 'tower-houses' of southern Arabia.

Aksum inherited a culture highly influenced by southern Arabia. The Aksumites' language, Ge'ez, was a modified version of the southern Arabian rudiments, with admixtures of Greek and perhaps Cushitic tongues already present in the region. Their architectural art was inherited from southern Arabian art; some Aksumite artwork contained combinations of Middle Eastern deities.

From its capital on the Tigray Plateau, Aksum was in command of the ivory trade with Sudan. It also dominated the trade route leading south and the port of Adulis on the Gulf of Zola. Its success depended on resourceful techniques, the production of coins, steady migrations of Graeco-Roman merchants and ships landing at the port of Adulis. In exchange for Aksum's goods, traders offered many kinds of cloth, jewellery and metals, especially steel for weapons.

At its peak, Aksum controlled territories as far as southern Egypt, east to the Gulf of Aden, south to the Omo River, and west to the Cushite Kingdom of Meroë. The South Arabian kingdom of the Himyarites was also under the control of Aksum. Unlike the nobility, the people used salt and iron bars as money and barter remained their main source of commerce.

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