- Tigray Tourism; Some 72,000 foreign tourists visited Tigray in 9 months
- Garners US $100 mln (2.9 bln. Birr)
Ethiopia abounds in many historical, natural and manmade heritages and treasures. Tigray State, in the northern part of the country, boasts many of these treasures. The state owns a wide range of heuristic and inaccessible heritages. Top on the list are found the ancient heritages of Axum, churches and monasteries hewed out of rocks, dazzling landscape and the Al Nejashi Tomb, among the abundance.
The Ethiopian Press Agency (EPA) Journalists’ crew had paid visit to some of the tourism sites. It had observed the overall activities of tourism in the State. In the meantime, this reporter had exclusively interviewed the Head of Tigray Culture and Tourism Bureau Birkti Gebremedhin and some other tourism officials in Wukro Museum and Al Nejashi heritage centers to probe into how the tourism resources in the state are faring and what activities are being done to further increase their economic value for the state and national development at large.
Tigray has in bulk number of tourist attractions and own lots of lively and stunning monuments.
There are 52 Woredas in the state (excluding the 2019 state restructuring which gave birth to significant number of Woredas in the state). Among these, 23 Woredas have opened culture and tourism bureaus to look after and study these heritages. The bureau has also branches in the Woredas. It is doing so with the intention to have suitable arrangements to undertake tourism development activities. There have been many improvements as there is a great deal of leadership, the Bureau Head said.
Culture and Tourism are sectors that can make a big economic difference in the state, Birkti added. There are many historical places. Some of them are inscribed as world heritages. Several monuments, tombs, ancient towns, topographic scenes and ancient time inscriptions and tools are found among the allurements.
The state is also home to such as entrails, antiques and Al Nejashi Mosque, the first mosque in the history of Ethiopia. The latter has historical legacy for Muslims and Christians to show a spirit of cohesion and love.
The fact that Christians have received the Muslims with outstretched hands is manifested by Al Nejashi Mosque. It is the first of its kind in the African continent, as attested by many historians.
On top of the manmade touristic attractions in the state, there are a variety of mountains that are attractive to tourists. Not just only mountains, but more than 120 churches are found ensconced on the hill tops.
Given the diverse range of lifestyles and traditions, Tigray has an enormous potential for creating a lot of jobs for the growing number of young people.
The number of people visiting the state is making an upward swing. The state can bring meaningful changes in the sector and in augmenting tourism revenue. The State government, if fully committed to such ends, must give due attention to change and to conserving heritages.
In 2017/18, some 51,000 foreign tourists visited the state. In the first nine months of this fiscal year, 72,000 foreign tourists have visited the historical sites and historical heritages in Tigray and the income generated accounted for US $100 million or 2.9 billion Birr, according to the Bureau Head.
The most popular tourism spot in the State is Axum, followed by the mountains of Gheralta at Hawzen. Axum obelisks are among world heritages. It is still a huge tourist destination for many international tourists as it has introduced ancient civilization of the ancient Ethiopia to the world.
There are several rock hewn churches in Gheralta. Out of the 120 churches and monasteries in the state, many of them are located in Gheralta, Atsbi, Saesie Tsaeda Imba, Ganata Afeshum and Adwa. These churches have been introduced by the nine saints sent from Syria in ancient times. There are four well-functioned lodges in Gheralta areas. One is called Gheralta Lodge owned by Italian businessman.
The two other lodges are also owned by foreign investors. There are others, in Axum. There are also many privately owned hotels.
The State has also over 3,000 mobile heritages. These include; parchments of the Bible, manuscripts of the nine saints, crosses, hand-outs, etc. There are many spells and greetings styles. Some of the cultural heritages are also untouched by the rest of the state.
Tigray has four universities. The universities have opened various departments of history, heritages conservation and tourism development & management. They work around culture and tourism. There are researchers and departments around this area. They conduct researches. The State Bureau also has its own staff at the Woreda level. They produce findings and report what type of heritage is localized every year in this regard. “It will be carefully monitored to preserve the culture of ancient times.”
The first coins used by Ethiopia during the kingdom of Axum are found kept in the state. An ancient city (Mai- Adrasha) that was lost buried, was unearthed last year. It has become an archaeological site. “We also have many excavations to further expand the tourism site in Tigray. There are archaeologists undertaking researches in such places. Foreign experts are also studying in these areas. They work together with national universities, Birkti further stated.
Just a few months earlier, an individual had published a tourism book with detailed information. Therefore, the Tourism Bureau had given support and participated in the inaugural ceremony. He has provided advice and support for its tourism specialists about the touristic sites.
Domestic tourism is at embryonic stage in Ethiopia as well as in Tigray. There has not been much change in culture and tourism said Birkti. “We look forward to upturning the situation. We have the potential. However, tourism here is still a toddler. Citizens’ understanding and practice to visit its own historical sites or tourist attractions are given low emphasis. This is all a problem for Ethiopians. We do not have the motivation to visit and to admire our own history,” she added.
Using the mass media, clubs, and school mini media programs, the Bureau is working to change the situation. Though it is not well consolidated, the State assumes that the weakness is for all of us.
Investors are not seen paying much attention. There is a lot to be done about Axum or other historical sites, while they are still alive. So, people involved in the culture and tourism sector are endeavoring to change the reality. Culture is getting polluted by the rapid growth of globalization. It is expected that experts will be leading the way in order to get things back to track and awaken citizens to the realization that we could retrieve own heritages.
The Ethiopian Herald Sunday Edition 18 August 2019
BY HAFTU GEBREZGABIHER