Date: Tuesday, 25 September 2018
The countries of the Horn of Africa enjoy a rich architectural and naturalistic heritage, a potential economic resource that has not been exploited until now - especially from Eritrea - partly because of the conflict, the recent intercommunity violence in Ethiopia and the travel restrictions imposed by the authorities of Asmara.
In fact, in the area of tourism Addis Ababa is already far ahead. In 2016-17 more than 886 thousand tourists visited Ethiopia, with an influx of 3.32 billion dollars - more than Kenya and Tanzania put together - and 297 thousand jobs created, the sector contributes to 4.5 % of GDP Much of the tourist flow is concentrated on Addis Ababa - 'New Flower' in the Aramaic language - home to several institutions, including the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (Uneca).
On average each year 650,000 come to the discovery of the Ethiopian capital, its ancient well-preserved buildings and the National Museum which houses important archaeological finds as well as the famous Lucy (called Dinqinesh, "sei bellissima"), a female australopithecus from about 3.2 million years ago.
Outside the capital, the former Abyssinia can count on nine sites classified as UNESCO World Heritage Site, between 1978 and 2011. The monastic city of Lalibela, dubbed the "New Jerusalem", is famous for its 11 Medieval monolithic rock-cut churches, carved into the rock, while the ruins of the northern city of Axum are the physical memory of the mighty kingdom of the same name, where long after its political decline in the tenth century, Ethiopian emperors continued to be crowned.
Another highlight is the fortified city of Harar Jugol, presented as the fourth holy city of Islam, with altogether 82 mosques, three of which date back to the tenth century, 11 medieval churches, 102 sanctuaries and city walls built over three centuries . Here, housing construction and town planning has been influenced by both African and Islamic traditions, giving it a unique and unique style in the world.
In the list of destinations there is also the fortress-city of Fasil Ghebbi, residence of the Ethiopian emperor Fasilides and his successors between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: surrounded by a wall 900 meters long, it houses palaces, churches, monasteries and unique public and private buildings characterized by Hindu and Arab influences, later transformed by the baroque style brought to Gondar by Jesuit missionaries. Tiya instead is among the most important of the approximately 160 archaeological sites discovered so far in the Soddo region, south of Addis Ababa.
The valley of Auash testifies to the paleontological era on the African continent; the most extraordinary discovery, dating back to 1974, was that of 52 fragments of a skeleton that made it possible to reconstruct the famous Lucy. The low Valle del Omo, renowned throughout the world, offers a prehistoric site near Lake Turkana, where the discovery of numerous fossils has been of fundamental importance in the study of human evolution.
The cultural landscape of Konso, an arid area of 55 square kilometers of walled-in terraces and fortified settlements on highlands, recounts that in those places the living cultural tradition dates back to 400 years ago. Finally, the National Park of the Semien, natural heritage since 1978, with its mountain scenery among the most spectacular in the world, hosts some rare species, including the Gelada baboon, the Simien fox and the Walia ibex.
Ethiopia, with its 100 million inhabitants making it the second most populous country in Africa, has strong economic growth driven by agriculture (flowers, coffee) and industry, but now aims to strengthen the sector of tourism, up about 20% per annum. It does this by integrating the new technologies to achieve the goal set by the Ethiopian Tourism Society (Set), to conquer the fifth place among the tourist destinations of the African continent.
In its ascent, Ethiopia could drag with it the neighboring Eritrea, long closed in its bubble and not open to visitors. The former Italian colony, bordering Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti, can count on a strategic position in the Horn of Africa and over a thousand kilometers of coastline on the Red Sea. An outlet to the sea - with the ports of Massaua and Assab - which is missing from Ethiopia, dependent on Djibouti, which can also tempt investors and tourists. Now the peace and the consequent reopening of the air connections between Addis Ababa and Asmara, blocked for more than 20 years, could benefit the launch of the tourism sector.
One of the tourist destinations not to be missed is the capital Asmara, nicknamed Little Rome, listed in the list of UNESCO sites only since 2017. Its urban heritage built in the colonial era - between 1890 and 1947 - is very well preserved, with buildings emblematic of the Italian modernist movement of the 1930s. A recognition that will put the capital of Eritrea in the tourist circuits, combining his visit to a trip to nearby Ethiopia. In Addis Ababa, tour operators are already working to organize stays in nearby Eritrea. Meanwhile, in Asmara, people are hoping for a flow of visitors to restart the economy and finally open up to the rest of the world.
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