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HISTORY
THE GOOD PAST

The names of Ethiopia's ancient capital cities - Axum, Gondar and Lalibela - evoke wonder and curiosity. Tourists visit these sties along the Historic Route, a tour which includes the Axum obelisks from the 3rd and 4th centuries, the castles of Gondar, and the awe-inspiring churches of Lalibela, carved in solid rock 900 years ago.

During the turbulent medieval period of Ethiopia's history, reigning monarchs had no permanent capitals. Instead they built royal encampments, which served as focal points for administering their far-flung powers. This is known as the Era of the Moving Capitals.

Beginning in the mid-1400s, more permanent militarized camps began to develop. These cities were given inspirational names such as Debra Birhan, which means Mountain of Light, Addis Alem, meaning New World, and what became the permanent capital of modern Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, or the New Flower. This began a new chapter in Ethiopia's history of urbanization.

Addis Ababa was founded by the African King Menelik II in 1887. Legend has it that his wife Empress Tayitu fell in love with the hot springs and beautiful, lush surroundings. Since then, Addis' remarkable historical, political and economic transformation has resulted in its own unique character as a city, while at the same time reflecting a true African experience.

Around the end of the 19th century, the area around St. George Church began to take on the role as the primary economic and cultural center of the city. Originally called Arada, this district eventually became known as Piazza. Eearly foreign visitors were impressed by its vitality and diversity. One traveller called Piazza "the commercial pulse of Abyssinia."

During Menelik's reign, Piazza boomed, and a number of important public buildings such as banks and a post office and entertainment centers like hotels, restaurants and shops were built. The magnificent edifices contain a cross-section of architectural influences, reflecting their Ethiopian, Greek, Armenian and Indian designers. Through the mid-1900s, Piazza was the central meeting place fot he city dwellers of all social and economic levels. The development during this era left behind a rich concentration of culturally and historically significant buildings.

During the Italian occupation, a new master plan for Addis was instituted that relocated the main market place to Mercato, and moved major office and business functions to the National Theatre area. Although Piazza declined as the center for economic activity, its cultural significance endured, as it continued to be a popular meeting place and entertainment center. Anchored by cinemas and the historic Hager Fiker playhouse, trendy shops gave Piazza a brief renaissance after the occupation.

Unfortunately, during the political and economic upheavals in Ethiopia from the mid-70s through the 1980s, the economy in Addis deteriorated, and Piazza's vibrant past decayed to its present condition.

In recent years, Addis has blossomed again, becoming a city of international importance ther Emperor Menelik could never have imagined. It is the seat of the African Union, the headquarters of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and other UN and international organizations. Addis is home to the third largest diplomatic community in the workd, behind New York City and Geneva, Switzerland.

Today's residents and city leaders see a promising future. As a result, Addis is experiencing rapid urban development unparalleled in the city's history. The feverish pace of building is reflected in the dozens of high-rise buildings currently under construction throughout the city. Though impressive and exciting, this relentless march toward development now threatens the very historical assets this city was built upon - the good past - especially in historical Piazza district.

Telephone: 0911127123 | email: addiswoubet@gmail.com
Address: P.O.Box 204, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia