Can Addis Ababa stop its architectural gems being hidden under high-rises?


Only rubble remains of the former home of Dejazmatch Asfaw Kebede, a member of Emperor Haile Selassie’s government. Built in the early 1900s, and inspired by Indian as well as Ethiopian architecture, the building was demolished in early January without the knowledge of Addis Ababa’s conservation agency, the Culture and Tourism Bureau.

Demolition and reconstruction are now the most common sights along Addis Ababa’s unrecognisably altered skeleton skyline. The collateral damage is the city’s heritage.

While tourist organisations boast that Ethiopia is the cradle of humanity, the capital is being stripped of its past. Heritage defines a city and shapes it socially, historically and culturally. It is impossible to imagine Athens without the Parthenon, Cairo without the pyramids, Rome without the Colosseum. While Ethiopia’s national heritage of dramatic, ancient sites is valued and mostly protected, conserving urban heritage appears to be at best an afterthought, and at worst an inconvenience.

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