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World Heritage Sites in Ethiopia

Updated on February 9, 2015

Ethiopia's World Heritage Sites

There are many fantastic places in the world, a lot of them in Ethiopia. Out of all these places, nine are found on the UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites. Three are pending a decision. These cultural and natural heritage sites are truly unique. Have a look!

My heritage has been my grounding, and it has brought me peace.

Maureen O'Hara

What Is A World Heritage Site?

There are many places in the world that are unique. A lot of these are on the UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites. These places need to be protected for future generations. What makes these places exceptional is their universal appeal. As UNESCO themselves say: "World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located."

UNESCO World Heritage Centre

world heritage site aksum
world heritage site aksum

AKSUM

The city of Aksum was for a long time the center of the political scene in Ethiopia. This is where the emperors ruled. There are many ancient ruins, some of them dating back as far as the first century A.D. Here one can see monolithic obelisks, giant stelae, royal tombs and the ruins of ancient castles. Still today Aksum is an important place of worship for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.


The History of Gondar - Axum

History of the City of Gondar
History of the City of Gondar

This is a very interesting book for those who love history. It shows how Gondar was once a very important part of the country. The influence of other peoples and religions is clearly shown in the development and architecture. The book also analyzes the transition from traditional ways of ruling and judging, to the modern ones.

 
world heritage fasil ghebbi
world heritage fasil ghebbi

FASIL GHEBBI

GONDAR

This city was the seat of the emperor during the 16th and 17th century. It is surrounded by a 900 meters long wall and has a number of interesting buildings to visit. One can clearly see the influence of other people, most notably the Nubian, Arabic and Baroque styles. There are different palaces (like the one on the picture), a banqueting hall, stables and churches. It's a unique way of being part of history.


Our heritage and ideals, our code and standards - the things we live by and teach our children - are preserved or diminished by how freely we exchange ideas and feelings.

Walt Disney

world heritage site lower omo valley
world heritage site lower omo valley

LOWER VALLEY OF THE OMO

World Heritage Site

The Omo river in the southern parts of Ethiopia has long been the place for different cultures. In fact, many fossils have been found here from pre-historic times. Scientists think this has been the crossroad for different people through the ages. Although most of the historical parts of the valley are in the remote places, developments for petroleum and water energy are now threatening this site.

The Omo valley is also home to many cultures today. Here you can read more about the interesting Hamer people.


Tribes in Africa - Omo Valley

Ethiopia: Peoples of the Omo Valley
Ethiopia: Peoples of the Omo Valley

There are many interesting people living in the Omo valley. The photographer, Hans Silvester, spent a lot of time with these people. He got really close to them, and the result is this stunning two-volume work. Fantastic photographs of the people, their surroundings as well as their body art. A must have.

 
world heritage site lalibela
world heritage site lalibela

ROCK HEWN CHURCHES IN LALIBELA

This is really a fascinating architectural site. Lalibela is more or less only inhabited by Ethiopian Orthodox people. There are 11 churches, hewn out from the rock. These monolithic cave churches are thought to have been built during the 12th and 13th century during the reign of Emperor Lalibela. It's an important place for pilgrimage, second only to Aksum. In fact, the layout of the city is a symbolic representation of Jerusalem.

Buy picture of Church of Bet Giyorgis at Allposters.com

Lalibela Churches

Lalibela: Christian Art of Ethiopia, The Monolithic Churches and Their Treasures
Lalibela: Christian Art of Ethiopia, The Monolithic Churches and Their Treasures

Lalibela is truly a fascinating place. Long hidden from the world, it is now more or less available. The authors of this book have a profound knowledge of the Ethiopian language and culture, which makes this book a true master piece. It is important to understand the influence of the church on the Ethiopian culture, because it has had a very great impact.

 
world heritage site tiya
world heritage site tiya

TIYA

In the Soddo region, not so far south of Addis Ababa, there are about 160 sites where archeologists have found these interesting monuments and stelae. There are a total of 36 monuments, including 32 stelae. The stelae are carved with symbols, many of them sword looking. Scientists don't really know much about the people who have erected these stones or what the inscriptions mean. It seems to have been a historical burial place.


world heritage site simien mountains
world heritage site simien mountains

SIMIEN NATIONAL PARK

Natural Heritage Site

Located in the northern part of Ethiopia, east of Gondar, the Semien mountains are a wild and beautiful place. Here you can see tall mountains and deep valleys, sometimes precipices dropping 1 500 m. A number of rare and indigenous animals can be found in these mountains, like the Gelada baboon Walia Ibex and Simien fox. There is a National Park where one can lodge and hike.


World Heritage Sites List - Read About All the Sites

World Heritage Sites: A Complete Guide to 936 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
World Heritage Sites: A Complete Guide to 936 UNESCO World Heritage Sites

UNESCO has been working hard since 1959 to safeguard important cultural or natural sites all over the world. This edition was updated in 2012 and gives a description of all the 936 sites. A library of fantastic places that we all wish to visit!

 
world heritage site konso
world heritage site konso

KONSO CULTURAL LANDSCAPE

Unesco World Heritage Sites

On the stony slopes of the Konso Highlands, these stone walled terraces and fortified settlements have been in use for hundreds of years. In the area one can also see the wooden statues that the people traditionally carved in honor of the dead, for their funeral. There are even stones carved in a very special way to mark the passing of generations of leaders.


Do you think World Heritage Sites are important?

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world heritage site harar jugol
world heritage site harar jugol

HARAR JUGOL

World Heritage Site

This is a fortified historic town in the north east part of Ethiopia. It's an old Muslim city, built between the 13th and 16th centuries. It has 82 mosques and 102 shrines and is said to be the fourth holiest city of Islam. Many feel, though, that it's the townhouses that are really the most important part of the cultural heritage. They have a special interior design which is unique.


"My father used to say that stories are part of the most precious heritage of mankind."

Tahir Shah, In Arabian Nights

LOWER VALLEY OF THE AWASH

This is the home of very important palaeontological sites, where several remains and fossils have been found. The most famous one is probably the skeleton called Lucy, which was discovered in 1974. It is on display in the museum in Addis Ababa.

Picture of the Awash River, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Ethiopia World Heritage Sites

show route and directions
A markerAksum -
Aksum
get directions

B markerLalibela -
Lalibela
get directions

C markerKonso -
Konso
get directions

Do You Think World Heritage Sites Are Important? - Have you been to anyone?

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    • profile image

      cmadden 4 years ago

      We can only hope most folks behave in saner fashion than did the Taliban in Afghanistan.

    • profile image

      Aunt-Mollie 4 years ago

      I am grateful that these sites are being preserved in the midst of the chaotic political situation in Ethiopia.

    • lankanwriter profile image

      lankanwriter 4 years ago

      I love reading about world heritage sites. My goal is to cover at least 20 world heritage sites in my lifetime. Who knows, I might be able to visit Ethiopian ones as well.

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 4 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      they are all real treasures. the world heritage sites should be preserved and hand over to our future generations to understand our wonderful heritage.