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UNESCO-led team mulls Lalibella renovation

UNESCO-led team mulls Lalibella renovation

  • Over USD 1.8 bln earned in six months

Culture and Tourism minister Hirut Woldemariam (PhD) announced Tuesday that a joint technical committee composed of representatives of UNESCO, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the International Center for the Study of Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) is to soon meet in Lalibella to ponder renovation work and preservation of the site’s rock-hewn churches.

Presenting a six-month performance report before the House of People’s Representatives (HPR), Hirut indicated that an agreement has been reached with the Office of the Prime Minister on measures to be taken to make the poor state of the historic site a national agenda with a view to raising public awareness as well as funds.

She also said that pre-renovation work has been undertaken over the past six months, including consultation with professionals, academicians as well as religious leaders. Results of consultations as well as research outputs have been submitted to UNESCO – the body that has the final word on renovation projects, she added.

Hirut told MPs that a joint technical committee drawn from UNESCO, ICOMOS and ICCROM would meet in Lalibella at the end of this month to assess the condition of the churches, adding that some USD 20 million is required for the renovation work.

Located some 645 km north of Addis Ababa, the 11 medieval monolithic churches are attributed to King Lalibella who set out in the 12th century to construct a “new Jerusalem” after Muslim conquests halted Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Lalibella flourished after the decline of the Axum Empire. The monolithic churches are among the marvels on UNESCO’s World Heritage List of 1978.

The historic obelisks of Axum were also included in the minister’s report as sites in need of restoration.

According to the minister, an agreement has been signed with the Italian government to finance the renovation of the obelisk that had been returned from Rome some 13 years ago.

Similarly, a cultural heritage inventory database management system has been piloted in selected administrative jurisdictions while nomination files have been prepared to get UNESCO accreditation for Dire Sheikh Hussein, Holka Sof Oumer and Melka Kuntre as historical sites as well as tangible and intangible heritages.

In related news, the minister disclosed that a new museum would be built in Adwa dedicated to the famous battle fought there.

Towards that end, a feasibility study has already been carried out in cooperation with the Ethiopian Science Academy while the town’s administration has pledged to allot a plot of land, she said. She also noted that various U.S. organizations are eager to support the project.

In her report, the minister also highlighted the performance of the tourism sector that she said was satisfactory in view of the recent political upheaval in some parts of the country.

According to her, over the past six months, some 485,806 foreigners have visited the country, and the country has bagged more than USD 1.82 billion in revenues from the sector.

She attributed the robust performance of the sector to collaborative efforts made by her ministry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Office of Government Communications Affairs as well as the general public. She also said the half-year revenue exceeded by 10.5 percent that of the same period’s of the previous year.