When tourism is recalled, it is all about protecting and preserving both tangible and intangible heritages. It is all about the uniqueness of a place regarding its cultural heritage. There are places, especially like Africa as a continent, that have their own heritages and attraction sites that tourists may go and visit.
In any corner, Ethiopia always has something to show to the world. Every direction of the country has its own heritages which is exceptional in its own ways. Some of them have become icons of the country, like Rock Hewn Churches of Lalibela and Axum. However, anyone can go in any direction just to witness a heritage.
To the east part of Ethiopia, many consider the region as trade routes of the country. People perceive that, the east regions of the country are the roads to meet the sea gate, the port. But the direction also has plenty to offer to tourism.
One of the biggest destinations in the east region is the Regional Government of Harari and the City Administration of Dire Dawa. Both in Harrari and Dire Dawa, there are tourist attraction sites that are equipped with both tangible and intangible cultural and historical heritages.
According to Harari Regional State Culture Heritage and Tourism Bureau, Harar is considered as ‘a living Museum’.
Tewolde Abdosh, Harar Cultural Heritage and Tourism Bureau Director, has disclosed the current tourism activities of the region. He said that, Harar is the city of peace and a hub of diversity that live together. The region has inscribed different heritages at United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), including the Jugol Wall with its five gates. However, the region’s tourism activity has become lessened in the past few years. The number of foreign tourists has become diminished. The declination is not only for foreign tourists but also for locals. Commendably, better achievements have been scored in the past six months Compared to the past years.
The director mentioned that, the region has started a new way to serve tourists. For the best experience, the region has prepared a ‘one stop service center’ for people who want to spend their time visiting those cultural heritages. Tewolde said, “We have completed the one-stop tourist center.” When tourists come to the region, they don’t have to pay for every site on their tour. What is done is when a tourist enters the town, especially near the wall; one can find the ‘one stop tourist center’. “As it is well known,” Tewolde added, “there are more than four museums within the wall. Besides, we are about to open a manuscript museum shortly, and there is the hyena feeding ceremony. For all these sites, tourists will pay at the ‘one stop center’ for all services they get on their tour.”
In relation to the global pandemic and the conflict in the northern part of Ethiopia, the tourism industry of the country has experienced the worst challenge. Harar also shared these obstacles. The director stressed that for such challenges, journalists play a key role by uncovering the reality. “We all know that the conflict has its own disadvantages, but Harar is rather peaceful. Those challenges related to security have been solved. At this time, the city is at peace. Any tourist can tour the city without any problems. For such problems, image building is vital,” he suggested.
Tewolde further noted that, the region focuses not only on foreign tourists but local tourism should also be promoted. To achieve this plan, they are aggressively working on schools. They are aware; especially students are enthusiastic to know their history and culture. The bureau is working closely with schools and supports them and organizes clubs for visiting nearby tourist sites. For instance, students in Haramaya go to Dire Dawa and visit cultural heritages. The other part will do the same.
Moreover, as to the director, they are working on preparing a document of terms that the five neighboring regions, Afar, Dire Dawa, Harar, Oromia, and Somali, work together in the tourism industry. They have gone far to finalize this initiation and start working. “We hope that these regions will sign the document and work together. When tourists travel to the east part of the country to visit tourist attraction sites, these regions as a team will prepare various packages. This helps tourists get well- organized services in every region,” the director remarked.
Likewise, the director has revealed the coming schedules. He said that in a short period of time, the holy month of Ramadan would start. After Ramadan, there is another cultural holiday called Shewalid. This holiday is a special place. For this ceremony, they have started preparing themselves.
The director further disclosed that, they have also started inviting both international and local tourists to join them on the Ramadan and Shewalid holidays. This program is backed by the regional government, so that the Regional Government of Harar has sent its invitation to all through its communication director. This kind of action depicts how far the regional government strives to promote itself and bring the tourism industry alive.
Those federal and regional movements to raise the tourism industry have their own impacts. For instance, the great homecoming movement of the one million Diasporas has impacted the industry positively. In particular, promoting local tourism has become their priority, Tewolde added.
Regarding promoting and maximizing the number of tourist attraction sites, as to Tewolde, various actions have been implemented. According to him, the Harari Regional Government has expanded its tourist attraction sites in the past years. A good example of this is that the regional government has tried to add an ancient village, some kilometers from the town, called Koromi Village into the existing attractions. Mostly, the Argoba society lives in the village. Therefore, the regional government believes that the village will be another tourist site. Besides, as explained earlier, the regional government has been organizing a manuscript museum within the wall. This museum mainly focuses on the Islamic scripts. Just like the Orthodox Church’s old Christian scripts, here in Harar, there are the oldest Islamic scripts dated back 1000 years.
In addition, they are on the way to open another museum dedicated to Islamic scripts. This one will show how these Islamic scripts were prepared and other features. Besides, it will incorporate Islamic scripts from every part of the country that has Islamic history, like Wollo, the director pinpointed.
All in all, the regional government of Harar has been achieving numerous records in the tourism sector. This ‘one stop tourist service center’ could be a good lesson for the rest of regional governments to uplift their number of tourists. As mentioned before, if regional governments work together for a common goal, the outcome will benefit region and the country as well.
BY DANIEL ALEMAYEHU
WEDNESDAY 9 MARCH 2022