The Anglo-Ethiopian Society

Lecture - Wednesday 16th September 2009

The Ferenji Cemetery in Gulele, Addis Ababa. A piece of social history

Given by - Ambassador Professor Rudolf Agstner

Reviewed by - Anne Parsons


Part of the ferenji Cemetery at Gulele, Addis Ababa
Part of the ferenji Cemetery at Gulele, Addis Ababa.
Photo - © Rudolf Agstner

During the period he was in Ethiopia as Austrian Ambassador, Rudolf Agstner spent much of his leisure time investigating the international cemeteries at Gulele, tucked away at the outskirts of Addis Ababa. He contributed an article about these cemeteries to the Winter 2008 issue of News File and in September 2009 the Society was delighted to welcome him to London to update his research findings and show photographs of the memorials to some of the famous (and a few infamous) persons buried there.

Professor Agstner reminded us that the gravestones tell the story of the Armenian, Greek, Italian and other smaller communities (such as the Germans, Czechs, Russians, French, Americans, and Austrians) in Addis Ababa during the 20th century. The Cimitero Militare Italiano and the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, situated side by side, are testimony to the history of Ethiopia between 1935 and 1941. It was fascinating to see the great variety of styles of the monuments in the cemeteries. Few foreign visitors today know of their existence and the small Jewish cemetery is even less well known than the Christian ones; and judging by the photographs we were shown the Jewish graves are in the worst state of preservation. Another small cemetery is located - off limits - in the British Embassy Compound.

Rudolf Agstner has recently published his research. Although he states in the introduction that it "is neither intended as a study of the various foreign communities in Addis Ababa nor as a biographical lexicon of foreigners who once lived in Addis Ababa" short essays certainly do provide much valuable background in addition to the comprehensive listing of the 3700 or so names and dates taken from the tombs where he was able to make an identification. He is to be congratulated for this important contribution to the understanding of the foreigners living and working in the capital in the 20th century and the input they had into the development of Addis Ababa and Ethiopia.

One Week in Ethiopia, Forever with God: Guidebook to the Foreigners' Cemeteries in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. by Rudolf Agstner, published by Lit Verlag, Münster, Germany, 2009.
216 pages; 230 x 160mm; 25 plates
Paperback ISBN: 9783643500915
Price £19.95

First Published in News File Summer 2010

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