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The Importance of Ger’alta in Ethiopia

Ger‘alta is a principally mountainous zone located in a sandstone escarpment in south-central Tigray. It is in the district of Hawzen, which is presumed to date back to the South-Arabian migration to Ethiopia in 8th to 7th BCE. Pottery, inscriptions and hagiographic traditions dating back to the Aksumite period depict Ger‘alta as one of the most important regions of ancient civilisation in the Horn of Africa. Cartographically, it appears in the 15th century as a component of the Ǝndärta province that occupied eastern and southeastern Tigray. Ger’alta’s mountains give it one of the most captivating terrains in the northern Ethiopian highlands. Many of these mountains host ancient rock-hewn churches and monasteries, making the area a spiritual haven for pilgrims. These structures are recognised as world heritage sites. Despite having low levels of tourism development, the area was among Tigray’s most popular travel destinations. Heritage sites are sources of historical pride, indigenous knowledge, and cultural and religious identity. They are also a source of income through tourism. Losing this heritage may lead to identity and psychological crises. It could lead to rage and trauma, cultural shocks and social collapse. The economic benefits from tourism could also be lost.