Ethiopia: Addis Woubet (Beautiful Addis)

Addis Woubet

As a child I had the privilege of growing up in Ethiopia. I was raised in Addis Ababa, which my father often referred to as the jewel of Africa. Over thirty years later I have now returned to Addis to live and work . One of my roles is to provide support to Addis Woubet and to help this charity preserve the familiar architecture and heritage of my own childhood.

Addis Ababa is a thriving metropolis of some 6 million inhabitants and is renown for its diverse mosaic of cultures, religions and traditions. The countries rich and illustrious history has inspired settlers to come from India, Armenia, Greece and Italy and some buildings that remain date back to the time of Emperor Menelik II who founded the city in 1887. This harmoniously balanced mixture of people and heritage has created a vibrant melting pot that makes the city unique.

Addis Woubet is devoted solely to the preservation, conservation and sustainable management of the rich and historical architectural sites contained within the vital capital city of Ethiopia. Addis Woubet was formed in 2005 by Princess Mariam Asfa Wossen and is managed by local and international board members.

photo smallerAddis Ababa still offers both resident and visitor an inspiring sense of history and visually stimulating surroundings. However, sadly, much of the rich architectural history that we took for granted is at stake now. In the name of progress, architecture is constantly changing and is always visible in many forms and shapes. But it is often many years before the true appreciation of what was, has actually already gone and has sometimes been replaced with something more modern. Many architectural wonders have sadly already disappeared from Addis – some were never maintained and crumbled away due to neglect and/or lack of funds to upkeep and maintain during a period of civil unrest in Ethiopia from 1974 until 1991. Others were simply abandoned and left to crumble away and cheaper and more utilitarian buildings replaced them.

Addis Woubet has identified many historically significant buildings in Addis Ababa and has compiled an essential database of Historical Buildings in its determined effort to protect certain historical buildings that are slated for demolition. Ultimately Addis Woubet would like to preserve the Piassa district (one of the oldest parts of the city) and with funding it is possible for some of these old buildings to be restored and revitalized and integrated into modern society, serving the community and educating the young about its past as examples of the cities rich history. However, as Addis continues to rapidly expand, many of these old buildings are being demolished; erecting a new structure on the land is considered more cost effective but with the destruction of an old building, a valuable part of the history of Addis is also disappearing.

photo 1 smallerAddis Woubet is intent on restoring historical buildings to their former magnificence as much as possible and transforming them into modern urban centres highlighting the arts, history and culture for all Ethiopians and visitors to utilise. Although there are many buildings that require funding, current focus is on one specific historical building, which is in dire need of restoration. The Mohammedali House in the Arada (market) district of Addis is a fascinating structure. Built in 1921 for a major Moslem Indian businessman, Mohammad Ali was invited by Emperor Menelik II to come to Ethiopia and establish a salt market and general import and export-trading house. The main house is part of an entire compound of wonderful buildings with exquisite ornamental woodwork and metal work, reflecting traditional architectural elements of India, Harar and Armenia. The architect himself was Armenian. Sadly this unique and historic structure was abandoned in 1975 and suffered severely as a consequence. Upon receipt of vitally needed funding, this renovation project will ultimately become the physical headquarters for Addis Woubet and very importantly provide a concrete example to residents of Addis Ababa, clearly illustrating the value in saving and preserving these historic buildings. The structure should help establish a heightened local awareness of the immeasurable value that there is in preserving its own historic structures.

In order to protect the historical architectural history of Addis, Addis Woubet needs vital and immediate assistance in the way of funding and committed support. There are numerous ways you can help Addis Woubet with critical funding to save many buildings before it is too late. In addition to funding, Addis Woubet would also benefit from the donated services of skilled personnel with specific related experience in preserving and restoring old buildings. Perhaps you are a craftsman such as a stonemason for example and might consider donating your time and services for specific projects based on your particular expertise.

Addis Woubet works with and seeks new partnershis with International and National Organisations such as INTO to promote and preserve not only the architectural history of Addis but its natural history as well.

Please check the website or do email for further information on how to help and receive Addis Woubet information or become a member to support critical and ongoing work.


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