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Analysis፡ Illicit construction, renovation of houses pose peril to UNESCO inscribed Jugol wall

By Mihret G Kristos @MercyG_kirstos

Addis Abeba – One among many Ethiopian historical heritages inscribed by UNESCO as world heritages is the Jugol wall, which was built between the 13th and 16th centuries in a bid to serve as a protective barrier for Harar city found 525 km from the capital of Addis Abeba. Harar, being home to 82 mosques, is considered as the forth Islam holy city worldwide.

Jugol wall, the wall fortifying town houses with unique interior designs constituting a spectacular part of the city’s cultural heritage, offers the minority Harari community with social, economic, and environmental benefits.

However, due to new constructions and renovations of houses in the enclose, the historic wall is now threatened with losing its cultural values.

The Harari Council of Ontario, rang the alarm bell in a statement it released on 15 November, expressed that the Jugol wall is in a state of disrepair and at risk along with many other Harari heritages.

“The ancient city neither keeps with modern development standards nor preserves the authenticity and the originality of the city,” the statement underscored.

It also clarified that while the traditional way of life in the city over the centuries is giving way to new systems, little attention has been given to the natural environment and the historical sites of Harar. “These are being destroyed due to neglect, carelessness, poor planning, faulty restoration, tasteless renovation or deliberate destruction”.

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Residents and heritage authorities confirm that complications are hovering over the Jugol walls at present. Although there are activities endangering the heritage, the city administration has been working to mitigate the problems.

Tewelda Abdasho is the head of tourism bureau of Harar city. He said that an unauthorized constructions and renovation of houses inside the wall has been imperiling its existence.

“The city administration has been persuading people to maintain the previous way of cultural heritage preservation”


Despite efforts the city administration has been exerting, fear has thrived on possible changes of the architectural design of Jugol wall into a modern structure over time due to divergence of the preservation of cultural heritage and human life development.

“The city administration has been persuading people to maintain the previous way of cultural heritage preservation,” Teweleda told Addis Standard.

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In preserving the heritage, water drilling, budget scarcity, little social participation in sanitation and green legacy, and lack of responsibility are some of the factors the inflict danger Jugol wall.

The head of the regional tourism bureau stated that directives are put in place to rescue the endangered residential houses, churches, mosques, museums, and other historical, religious, and ancient treasures located in the fortified town of Jugol.

Being cognizant of the danger hovering over the Jugol wall, a task force led by Ordin Bedri, the president of the Harari regional state, was set. The major task of this team is mainly to surveil the unauthorized construction inside Jugol wall, he said, adding that however, this is not a task left for one part to accomplish rather all members of the society have to shoulder the responsibility to preserve the historical heritage.

Tewelda said, “tremendous activities have been undertaken in order to protect and pass the UNESCO inscribed world heritage to the next generation.

Jugol wall is not reserved in one area similar to any other heritages like Axum or Lalibela. It rather encircled Harar city which was the capital of the Harari Kingdom (1520 -1568). It has been preserved and handed over from generation to generation for centuries through cultural and traditional ways. Recently, the wall has subjected to danger because of some social and environmental factors.

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“The current generation is not taking responsibility for reserving the traditional culture and fortification of the Jugol Wall,” Teweleda added. The city administration is working on awareness creation aiming to curb the changes made in the structural design and cultural heritage of Jugol by the residents.

In fact, the city administration allows residents who want to renovate old houses inside Jugol but they must maintain the cultural structure and style of the old house. They rather preferred changing them into modern ones. The city administration must evaluate the previous decision and do some amendments that help in reserving the values of the heritage, said the head of the bureau.

Haji Mohamed Hashim Umer, an elderly man in Harar, has been feeding hyenas for tourist attraction for years, He previously told Addis Standard the city is a world heritage that all Africans can be proud of.

“The indigenous residents have been attempting to keep the cultural value of the heritage but the newcomers to inside Jugol town don’t know [the] concerns of preserving the houses with in Jugol”

Haji Mohamed

He says, “The previous way of hospitality, handling of the wall and house inside it is not existing at present. The indigenous residents have been attempting to keep the cultural value of the heritage but the newcomers to inside Jugol town don’t know [the] concerns of preserving the houses with in Jugol.”

As the number of residents inside Jugol have been increasing time and then, waste pollution has become a severe problem in the ancient city.

Haji Mohamed advises the city administrators to consider the problem seriously so that the historical heritage of Jugol will be maintained.

Harari Regional State has vowed continued legal measures to preserve and develop this world heritage site. House renovations, water drilling, and car wash services have been well identified as causes for the damage of the Jugol wall.

“We informally notify all the difficulty and future fears for UNESCO as Jugol is one of its inscribed heritages,” head of the city tourism bureau said.

The city administration needs financial and technical support from organizations and volunteer citizens. “We welcome to anyone who could lend a hand the efforts that we are exerting to maintain the cultural status of Jugol” said Teweleda.

Professor Abebaw Ayalew, Director General of Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH), says “We have been discussing with the regional state authorities regarding the preservation, we put directions for a plan that will be performed by the regional state”.

The authority has been supporting in preserving the UNESCO prescribed and Ethiopia’s historical heritage, Jugol. In this regard, the city administration has a serious homework on performing these directions planned by the authority, said Professor Abebaw. AS

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