Background of Addis Ababa

In 1886 during king Meneliek’s campaign to the southeastern part of Ethiopia, his wife Queen Taitu set camp on the plains of Finfinne and started to build a new settlement which she named Addis Ababa literally meaning “new flower” in Amharic. Addis Ababa is an indigenously grown African city, which developed spontaneously in its early years of formation. Its structure at the end of the 19th century was that of a multi centered settlement with the Ghebbi, the imperial palace compound, the Arada the main market place and the church compounds as the main landmarks. This type of settlement brought people of different classes and ethnic groups into closer proximity and created new ways of living.

Regional rulers and court dignitaries started to build their own residences on the large tracts of land given to them by the emperor. These large residences were surrounded by traditional settlements consisting of humble circular cottages of their followers and servants. With the influx of foreigners such as Armenians, Indians and Greeks to the capital, the nobility started using the skills that were made available in combination with traditional construction techniques. It is this mixture, of traditional forms and techniques with new ones coming from abroad that ended up producing what is popularly known as the ‘Addis Ababa style.’

Due to the dramatic changes in infrastructure and new construction taking place in Addis Ababa in the last two decades its urban and architectural heritage of the early 20th century is gradually disappearing.