Ethiopia is a landlocked country located in East Africa. It has a mountainous landscape that is split by the Great Rift Valley. Ethiopia is a country rich with ancient history, and has nine locations that are considered United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage sites. It is tied with Morocco for the most sites within a country in Africa.
Ethiopia's UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Simien Mountains National Park
The Simien National Park is located in the North Gondar Zone, which is part of the Amhara Region of Ethiopia. The Simien National Park was established in 1969 and is currently one of twenty national parks located in the country. The Simien National Park was established as one of the first UNESCO World Heritage sites in the country in 1978. The tallest mountain in Ethiopia, Ras Dashan, can be found in the park, where it stands at 14,930 feet. The park is noted for its amazing landscapes that have jagged peaks, deep valleys and sharp cliffs, in part due to millions of years of erosion. The park is also where the endemic Gelada baboon (Theropithecus gelada) is found and is home to more than 50 different species of bird. The park is on the previously mentioned List of World Heritage in Danger due to the serious population declines in some its characteristic native species. With its endangered and endemic species, as well as other species in the park, it is a globally important area for the conservation of biodiversity.
The ancient city of Aksum is located in the Mehakelegnaw Zone that is part of the Tigray Province in the northern part of the country, close to its border with Eritrea. The ruins of the city of Askum were once the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Aksum (c. 100 - 940 AD), the center of ancient Ethiopia and a key trading center city during its height. The ruins of this once massive city date to anywhere between the 1st and 13th century A.D. At its height, the city was the most powerful and wealthy nation between the Byzantine Empire and Persian Empire and helped to be the center of trade between Europe, Africa and the Middle East, as it controlled the ivory trade and the Red Sea passage. The city has a variety of ancient structures, from the ruins of old castles and royal tombs to giant stelae and monolithic obelisks. The city also hold Saint Mary of Zion Church, originally built in the 4th century during the reign of the kingdom's first Christian king and rebuilt in the 17th century.
Konso Cultural Landscapes
The Konso Cultural Landscapes site is part of the Konso special woreda in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region. This site covered an area of 21.23 square miles and is made up of walled terraces and fortified settlements. The site portrays the culture, values and engineering of the Konso people going back more than 400 years and shows how they adapted to the dry and hostile environment of the area. The terraces are the dominate feature in the landscape along the hills, as they not only help keep soil from eroding, but also collect water, creating fields for agriculture. These terraced walls can be up to 16 ft tall. The fortified settlements are built upon high plains or hills for defensive purposes and are surrounded by anywhere between one to six dry stones walls, depending on the town. Inside the town there are cultural spaces, called moras, where the center of life takes place for the Konso people and marking stones called daga-hela, which are built through a ritual process. Besides the terraces and settlements, the site features stone steles that mark the passing of leaders of the generations, as well as anthropomorphic wooden statues, that mark respected members of the community or heroic events of the past.
Preserving Ethiopia's UNESCO World Heritage Sites
The Simien National Park was set up in an area inhabited by humans and at the time it was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site, about 80% of the park was used by humans in some capacity. This fact has caused many threats to the park's integrity and the critical habitats of its endangered and endemic animals, which includes threats from cultivation and erosion of soil, frequent fires and domestic livestock. However, extensions to the national park have been proposed to include several new areas that interlink and have no human activity. The park is protected under national legislation and has a presence of staff and management to help track of the species and local communities in the area. In Axum, underground structures within the site are still covered by modern homes and flooding has become a problem effecting some of the monuments at the site. Most of the authenticity of the site is intact, but it is still vulnerable due to the lack of conservation, documentation and planning controls at the site. The site is currently managed by the regional government, the Federal Administration and the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH) and is protected by the country's 1958 National Antiquities Authority. The Konso Cultural Landscape's largest threat is how dispersed the fortified settlements are from each other. The site still has most of its original design. The property is protected by federal, regional and traditional laws and the Konso Cultural Landscape Management Office is located on site to manage funding, supervision and conservation.