Theses Master's

Cultural Heritage Sites and Urban growth: The case of Neakutoleab, Lalibela

Kebede, Etsegenet

This study explores the inherent tensions that exist between urban growth and cultural heritage sites in the context of Lalibela, Ethiopia. Lalibela, located in the northern part of Ethiopia is renowned for its eleven rock-hewn churches that are World Heritage Sites. The site features, a 12th-century church construction technique with monolithic edifices connected in a system of trenches and passageways. The churches are believed to have been designed and constructed by King Lalibela who was endeavoring to build a second Jerusalem. Besides the heritage status of Lalibela, the site is considered holy by followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. As a result, each year, it attracts thousands of tourists and pilgrims alike. Lalibela is a primary tourism site in Ethiopia that fetches high revenues for the country, and since its inscription into the World Heritage List, the site has witnessed large urban growth. Backed by the pro-poor tourism policy of the state, which uses tourism as a strategy towards achieving developmental goals, and the urban policy which encourages sprawling towns, the tourism industry is fueling the urbanization of rural areas. This, in turn, is altering lifestyles and identities of districts. Among many of these districts is a small rural town called Neakutoleab, located south of Lalibela where a monastery of the same name exists. The monastery has religious, architectural, historical and natural significance whose attributes are threatened by the expanding town of Lalibela. Through the close up study of the relevance of this monastery, the sociocultural status of the community, and its lifestyle, the urban and tourism policies of the administration are evaluated. Furthermore, the tensions between developmental and heritage protection goals and necessary tradeoffs are discussed. Finally, mitigation strategies are recommended along with different parameters for plans that protect the heritage site while making appropriate accommodation for continued growth.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Raynolds, William
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
September 25, 2018