UNESCO in Collaboration with Diplomatic Community and Ministry of Tourism Coordinate a Visit to Lalibela

The diplomatic community residing in Addis Ababa visited the Rock-Hewn churches of Lalibela, which is among the first twelve World Heritage sites inscribed by UNESCO in 1978. UNESCO Addis Ababa Liaison Office organizes the event in collaboration with the Embassy of the U.S. and the Ministry of Tourism, while international Media were also present and broadcast the event on 07th and 08th of May 2022.

The 11 medieval monolithic cave churches and the traditional two-storey houses (tukul) of the 13th century are a living heritage, which still today is a place of pilgrimage and devotion for the Orthodox Christian believers. The spiritual ceremonies, the hymens chanted by priests are very colourful, while there are also the variety of religious objects, most of them dated back to the same period.

Among the diplomatic community were H.E. Amb. Tracey Ann Jacobson, U.S. Charge d’Áffair to Ethiopia; H.E. Amb. David Satterfield, U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa; H.E. Michael Upton, New Zealand Ambassodor to Ethiopia; H.E. Stuart Campbell, Deputy Head of Mission Australian Embassy in Ethiopia; Dr Catherine Sozi, UN Resident Coordinator and UN Humanitarian Coordinator; Dr Yumiko Yokozeki, DIR and Rep. of UNESCO, Addis Ababa Office; while also from government authorities H.E. Kidist Araya, Member of the Parliament, H.E. Sileshi Girma, State Minister of Tourism and H.E. Ass. Prof Abebaw Ayalew, Director General, Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritages (ARCCH) were present on the occasion.

The mission was successful in communicating message to the international community to visit the World Heritage site of Lalibela, which is highly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the conflict. For the local communities in Lalibela, tourism activities are the main source of livelihood, which necessitates its recovery very crucial.

It was also effective in visiting a project implemented by the World Monuments Fund in three phases through the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund. The project supported the implementation of the Conservation and consolidation Action plan done by UNESCO from 2009 to 2016, with financial support from the Government of Norway.

Finally, it helped in creating an opportunity to exchange views with the representatives of Church authorities, local communities, hotel owners, guides association on the impact of the conflict and possible areas of cooperation to support the community and the protection of the site.