BY TEWODROS KASSA
Lalibela Rock-Hewn Churches are among the leading Ethiopian tourist destinations. It is an ancient human’s sophisticated foot print of architectural wisdom. Thousands and millions of people annually visit the area and suggest that everyone should visit Lalibela once in their lifetime.
The way the churches are carved from a single rock and the mystery of the churches proved that it is wondering man-made tourist destination on the earth.
Recently, a permanent exhibition depicting Lalibela Rock-Hewn churches construction art was opened in the town of Lalibela. The exhibition was organized under the theme: “Lalibela Built by Faith” and it is expected to have a great value in extending the stay of visitors in the historical town.
A “Sustainable Lalibela” project, which has been implemented with the financial support of the French Development Agency since March 2021 to preserve Ethiopian cultural heritage, is also underway in Lalibela Town.
The five-year “Sustainable Lalibela” project with the support of the French government has been executed by the maintenance of the historical heritage of Lalibela and the heritage development of the Town of Lalibela.
An exhibition, which explored the entire history of the Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela and heritages through photo and virtual technology, was displayed for 2 months in Addis Ababa starting from September 2022. At the time, senior government officials including Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) and others visited the exhibition.
Moreover, the country is undertaking enormous activities to develop, preserve, and promote such tourist attractions and support the national economy through generating a tangible income from the tourism sector.
Tourism State Minister Sileshi Girma told local media that enormous activities are being carried out to develop, preserve, and promote Ethiopia’s tourist attractions.
According to him, efforts are underway to harness the historical heritages of the country towards more local and international tourist attractions. Thus, the tourist destinations development and promotion works are being carried with a view to adding values and boost the competitive and inclusive social benefits of tourist destinations.
Hundreds of thousands of people visited Lalibela virtual reality exhibition which was opened at Entoto Park and a similar fair has been opened in Lalibela, he recalled.
Noting that special attention has been given to the development and protection of world heritage sites inscribed by UNESCO, Sileshi stated the protection of Lalibela and enhancing its tourist destination value is underway.
The work of developing, protecting, and promoting attractions sites of Ethiopia are being carried out on a large scale, Sileshi said, pointing out the “Dine For a Nation” project, the renovation of Gondar Fasil Ghebbi Castle and Jimma Abba Jifar Palace as examples.
In hotel and catering industries, training and capacity building activities are being carried out to improve the quality of service delivery to tourists, he said.
The Lalibela Sustainable Project is also under implementation by the support of the France Government, he said, adding the project is aimed at extending the stay of visitors by developing tour packages thereby making Lalibela a competitive tourist destination and provide benefits to the community.
On her part, Ethiopian Heritage Authority Deputy Director, Hiwot Hailu said that heritage has a unique role as a source of information and income as well as recorded history, to understand nature and the environment.
According to Hiwot, works are being carried out with stakeholders to keep heritages as historical evidence, protect them from damage, pass on to posterity and enhance their utilization for research and development and socio-economic benefits.
The implementation of the sustainable project of Lalibela, being carried out in 22 priority areas with the support of the French Development Agency (AFD) is also well underway, she added.
According to her, Lalibela permanent exhibition will create a great opportunity to promote Ethiopia and extend visitors’ stay and it will be opened in other areas.
Stressing that preserving and caring for heritage is the duty of citizenship, she said the restoration and maintenance of the Lalibela churches and the temporary shelter of the relics will be done cautiously.
Representing the Embassy of France in Ethiopia, Cultural Counselor, and Sophie Makame on her part said that the friendship and cooperation between Ethiopia and France that lasted for over a century has given priority in the field of historical diplomacy and in this regard, it is accomplishing tangible works.
She noted that the Lalibela Sustainable Project being underway, the renovation of the National Palace and National Museum are the initiatives of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and President of France, Emmanuel Macron.
As Lalibela is not only historical heritage, but it is also a resource which provides significant benefits to the community, she said, adding that efforts are being made to ensure the continuity of the heritage by combining capabilities of local and foreign experts.
Makame recalled that preserving and caring for Lalibela heritage and passing it on to the next generation; is a shared responsibility; and in this regard, France is contributing its share.
She further stated that the implementation of the sustainable project and the permanent exhibition of Lalibela will enhance historical understanding of Ethiopian and international visitors by retrieving historical and spiritual aspects and it will also be the basis for building a future database, fostering inclusive development for the local community.
“As Ethio-France Cooperation, it is our collective responsibility to preserve and protect Ethiopia’s ancient wonders and world heritages. And we have to discharge our responsibility accordingly, so that the next generation will get its heritages and history preserved. The wonders of Rock-Hewn churches of Lalibela are the wealth of the country and the world, apart from the town,” she stressed.
The opening ceremony of the permanent exhibition was attended by senior federal and regional government officials, including Tourism State Minister Sileshi Girma, representatives of the French Embassy and the French Development Agency.
THE ETHIOPIAN HERALD FRIDAY 9 JUNE 2023