The Anglo-Ethiopian Society

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

Ambassador Professor Rudolf Agstner

Wednesday 16th September 2009

7:00pm, Room B102 (Brunei Building), SOAS - Public lecture (all welcome)

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

The foundation of Addis Ababa also brought in its wake the establishment of a cemetery for foreigners. The rapidly growing community of foreigners, Greek as well as Italian entrepreneurs, Armenian businessmen, and an assortment of Europeans and Americans, made it necessary for a dedicated cemetery for Roman Catholics, Protestants, Greek Orthodox, Orthodox Armenians, Jews and others. Thus the Gulele cemetery was established in 1912 on land donated by Emperor Menelik II, then far away from Addis Ababa on the road to Ambo. The oldest surviving graves are from the autumn of 1918, reminding us at the time of a swine flu pandemic, that Spanish flu had reached isolated Addis Ababa too.

Today, the cemetery site of roughly 9 hectares also holds the two military cemeteries of World War II, the Commonwealth War Graves and the Italian cemetery. As parts of the "Italian" cemetery are cleared to make way for burials of Ethiopian Catholics, the cemetery is constantly changing, thus losing its international character; it may soon look like any other Ethiopian Orthodox cemetery. A separate Jewish cemetery was established after World War II. Neither of them is mentioned in any guide books on Ethiopia nor figures on maps of Addis Ababa, and are unknown even to longtime Ferenji residents of Ethiopia's capital.

The talk by the Austrian Ambassador to Ethiopia, Professor Rudolf Agstner, based on his own surveys and photographs, will explain the foundation, growth and significance of the cemetery in Gulele.

First Published in News File Summer 2009

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