Ethiopia is not only a land of multitudes where several people with different cultural values live in harmony. It is also a land blessed with abundant awe-inspiring historical, cultural, and natural endowments that have mesmerizing impacts on the visitors.
Ethiopia`s breathtaking landscape, cultural values and all the natural gifts that control its vast land is the reason behind for nature lovers to frequently visit the land and glorify the creator.
The Gedeo Cultural Landscape and the Bale Mountains National Park are among the bequests Ethiopia endowed with; and the assets preserved for several years.
Recently, seeing their multi-dimensional tourism and cultural values to the whole world, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on its 45th extended session of the World Heritage Committee held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has announced that Gedeo Cultural Landscape and Bale Mountains National Park are registered as world`s natural and cultural heritages.
And this news has brought joy to Ethiopians and all nature lovers all over the world.
Expressing her gratitude for the registration of the two tourist sites in the list of UNESCO, Ethiopian Tourism Minister Amb. Nasise Chali said the heritage comprises forest has been protected through generations. The coordinated effort of all stakeholders and the community in particular has made a key contribution in preserving the Gedeo Cultural Landscape and the Bale National Parks.
According to her, the Gedeo Cultural Landscape site is also known for its multi-layer cultivation which has been practiced for centuries by the Gedeo people who are also exemplary for their indigenous knowledge in conservation of the ecosystem and soil fertility.
Likewise, the green plants that are found in the Bale National Parks have their contribution in fighting climate change. In this regard, the Ethiopian government will keep the momentum of preserving and safeguarding the park.
The landscape has over 6,000 megalithic stelae with their attractive images for researchers, foreign and local visitors, Nasise said.
The Gedeo cultural landscape lies along the eastern edge of the Main Ethiopian Rift, on the steep escarpments of the Ethiopian highlands.
On his part Gedeo Zone Culture and Tourism Bureau Head Yoseph Maru (PhD) has conveyed his heartfelt gratitude to Ethiopians in general and the people of Gedeo in particular who had been toiled to preserve the Gedeo cultural landscape.
According to the Ministry of Tourism of Ethiopia, following the inscription of the Gedeo Cultural Landscape’ into UNESCO’s heritage site, the number of UNESCO-inscribed cultural and natural heritages in Ethiopia has reached 10, the 100th in Africa.
According to the Ministry of Tourism- Ethiopia, the Gedeo Cultural Landscape, located in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ State (SNNPS), is a significant cultural and historical site that showcases the rich heritage and traditions of the Gedeo people.
The Bale Mountains National Park is also the other heritage registered in the list of UNESCO world heritage sites.
According to sources, the park, covered area of 2,150 square kilometer and comprising five major vegetation zones, inscribed as UNESCO natural heritage for its exceptional natural beauty, rare and endangered plants and animal species.
The Bale Mountains National Park becomes the second Ethiopian natural heritage after Simien Mountains National Park to be enlisted as UNESCO world natural heritage.
The Gedeo people have a distinct culture and their own language called Gedeo, which belongs to the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Agriculture is the primary livelihood of the Gedeo people. They are known for their expertise in coffee farming and are renowned for producing high-quality coffee beans. Besides coffee, they also cultivate other crops such as maize, beans, and Enset (false banana).
The housing style of the Gedeo people is one of the value systems that reflect their identity and showcase their resourcefulness, cultural wisdom, and the ability to adapt and live in harmony with the climate and the environment. It is an important part of their cultural heritage and identity.
These houses are constructed using natural and locally available materials such as bamboo, thatched materials such as grass or straw and wood. Bamboo is commonly used for the framework of the houses; and bound together to form the walls and provide structural support.
The houses are typically circular in shape, with a conical thatched roof. The circular design helps with structural stability and efficient use of space.
These materials provide protection from the heat and cold, keeping the interior of the house comfortable.
The walls of the houses are often covered with a layer of mud plaster. This helps to reinforce the structure, provide additional insulation, and create a smooth surface. Gedeo houses typically have elevated floors made of compacted earth or wooden platforms. This helps to protect the interior from moisture during the rainy season and provides a clean and dry living space.
The interior of the houses is usually divided into different functional areas. There may be separate spaces for sleeping, cooking, and socializing. The layout varies depending on the family’s needs and preferences. Some Gedeo houses may have a small veranda or porch area in front of the entrance. This serves as an outdoor space for various activities and socializing.
The design of Gedeo traditional houses takes into account the climate and natural surroundings. The thatched roofs provide insulation and ventilation, while the use of local materials ensures sustainability and affordability.
The Gedeo people have rich cultural practices and traditions that are passed down through generations. They have vibrant music, dance, and storytelling traditions. Traditional ceremonies and rituals are also an integral part of their culture.
The Gedeo society is traditionally organized into clans and lineages, with a strong emphasis on kinship and family ties. Each clan has its own leader or chief.
The majority of Gedeo people follow a traditional belief system that involves the worship of natural elements, spirits, and ancestors. However, there is also a significant Christian population, with both Orthodox Christianity and Protestantism being practiced.
The Gedeo people have a unique cultural identity and contribute to the cultural diversity of Ethiopia. Their traditions, language, and agricultural practices are an important part of the country’s heritage.
Bale Mountains National Park which was also recently registered by UNESCO is one of the tourist attraction sites in Ethiopia. Bale Mountains National Park protected area located in Ethiopia is approximately 400 kilometers southeast of Addis Ababa.
The Bale Mountains National Park is situated in the Oromia National Regional State of Ethiopia. The park covers an area of approximately 2,150 square kilometers (830 square miles). The park is known for its diverse and spectacular landscape. It features high-altitude afromontane forests, moorlands, grasslands, and alpine habitats.
The Bale Mountains National Park is home to a rich variety of flora and fauna. It is particularly renowned for its high number of endemic species, including the Ethiopian wolf, mountain Nyala, and Bale monkey. The park is a paradise for birdwatchers, with over 300 bird species recorded. It is a great place to spot endemic birds such as the Abyssinian long claw, blue-winged goose, and wattled ibis. The Bale Mountains offer excellent opportunities for trekking and hiking. There are various trails and routes that allow visitors to explore the stunning landscapes and encounter wildlife along the way.
One of the highlights of the park is the Sanetti Plateau, which is the highest plateau in Africa. It is home to unique flora and fauna, including the Ethiopian wolf, which is the rarest canid species in the world. The Bale Mountains National Park is also of cultural significance. Visitors can learn about the local culture and traditions while exploring the park.
Overall, the Bale Mountains National Park offers a remarkable natural and cultural experience for visitors. It is a must-visit destination for nature lovers, wildlife enthusiasts, and those seeking adventure in Ethiopia.
BY LEULSEGED WORKU
The Ethiopian Herald September 21/2023