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There are nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Ethiopia as of 2019. The first sites were listed in 1978. Only one natural site is included in the list and the other eight are all cultural sites. Ethiopia’s numerous cultural heritage sites make sense given the fact that Ethiopia contains most ancient anatomical evidence of humans on Earth. Here’s everything you need to know about the country’s nine UNESCO sites.
Ethiopia UNESCO Sites
- Aksum (1980)
- Fasil Ghebbi, Gondar Region (1979)
- Hara Jugol, the Fortified Historic Town (2006)
- Konso Cultural Landscape (2011)
- Lower Valley of the Awash (1980)
- Lower Valley of the Omo (1980)
- Rock Hewn Churches, Lalibela (1978)
- Simien National Park (1978)
- Tiya (1980)
The ancient city of Aksum is located close to the northern border of Ethiopia. The ruins of this ancient city were recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site due to its cultural importance. In fact, this city marked as the heart of ancient Ethiopia that also reflects the power of the kingdom at that time. There are several ruins in the ancient city that include royal tombs, ancient castle ruins, monolithic obelisks, and giant stelae.
Fasil Ghebbi, Gondar Region (1979)
This property included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Ethiopia consists of eight component sites. The main site is the Fasil Ghebbi palace compound. Meanwhile, the other seven sites are located within the city of Gondar. These sites include a monastery, church, thermal area, bath, and a palace. Gondar was established as the capital of Ethiopia by King Fasil during the 17th century. By the 18th century, the site was transformed from a camp into a fortified compound.
Hara Jugol, the Fortified Historic Town (2006)
This historic and fortified town is located amidst a plateau with deep gorges. The fortified town is also surrounded by savannah and deserts. The walls that surround this sacred city were built from the 13th century and completed by the 16th century. It is also believed to be the holiest city for Islam due to the rich collection of important Islam monuments notably including 82 mosques and 102 shrines. But above all, this town is culturally significant in Ethiopia as it showcases the fusion of Islamic and African traditions in a single town – both in terms of urban development, layout, and overall character of this town.
Konso Cultural Landscape (2011)
This is another cultural site on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Ethiopia. It is an arid property of stone-walled terraces and fortified settlements. This cultural tradition has been around for over 21 generations (over 400 years) in Ethiopia. It is an excellent example of how the settlements and the humans living in the region adapted to the dry and hostile environment in the Konso highlands. Within the site, you will also find wooden statues that were put up to honor key members of the community. In fact, they have innovated the use of stone steles that indicate the passing of important leaders of the community.
Lower Valley of the Awash (1980)
This site is not only important for Ethiopia but also for the entire African continent. This site holds the largest and most important collection of palaeontological sites. The oldest of the remains on the site date back to more than 4 million years ago. This site is a perfect example of human evolution since the conception of humankind history. The biggest discovery on the site took place in 1974 when 52 skeletal fragments allowed the reconstruction of the famous Lucy.
Lower Valley of the Omo (1980)
This prehistoric site at the lower valley of the Omo is famous all over the world. Several fossil remains were discovered on this site near Lake Turkana. The most notable fossil discovered here is the Homo gracilis. It was fundamental in the study of human history and evolution. Included in this site is Fejej and Konso paleontological research sites wherein there are sedimentary deposits found that researchers trace back to the plio-Pleistocene period.
Rock Hewn Churches, Lalibela (1978)
Dubbed as the ‘New Jerusalem’, this is one of the most breathtaking sites included in this list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in Ethiopia. Located in the Amhara Region, this site boasts of 11 monolithic cave churches that were built in the 13th century. The churches are located within a traditional village with circular-shaped dwellings. The city of Lalibela itself is considered important for the Christian community in Ethiopia since it is a place of pilgrimage and devotion.
Simien National Park (1978)
This national park comprises the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia. It is the only natural site in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Ethiopia. It is also among the first sites in Ethiopia to be recognized by UNESCO (inscribed in 1978). It was recognized for being the refuge for many endangered species living among the Simien Mountains including the Walia ibex and Ethiopian wolf. However, it was also included in the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger in 1996.
The Soddo region in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is home to over 160 archaeological sites. However, Tiya is considered as the most important of these sites. It has 36 monuments with 32 carved stelae marked with symbols. Many of these symbols were not known and researchers are trying to decipher what these symbols meant. Researchers and archaeologists believe that these monuments serve as an important example of the Ethiopian culture, of which many still have not discovered the origin of.