Old Town Adwa

Sitting at the foot of the mountains, Adwa is a warm, calm town with a population of about 60,000. The Mai Assam stream, which springs upstream from the mountains, divides it north-south. The common features of the city are stone buildings and thatched houses. Before moving to Mekele, where he built his famous European-style palace, Emperor Yohannes IV considered his capital city to be Adwa (along with Abbi Addi). But that didn’t stop him building a town palace. Occasionally used for state receptions, one of Adwa’s attractions is the palace of Emperor Yohannes and its wide compound. Its large and ancient trees provide habitat for bird constellations.

Adwa is dotted with a dozen churches named after its neighborhoods. Enda Eyesus, Enda Selassie, Alem, Enda Medhane, etc. The church of Medhane Alem is one of Adwa’s most important religious sites. It is known for its magnificent walls, parchments and royal dresses, still in active use. But the cathedral of St. George is the most famous of these churches. The church was part of the military and intelligence strategies package during the Battle of Adwa, if not the de facto central command of Emperor Menelik. Tricked by a piece of intelligence information deliberately leaked to the Italian invaders that the Ethiopian army would lay down its arms in commemoration of the vacation dedicated to St. George, the Italian invaders — unaware of the lurking and strategically positioned Ethiopian army — were prompted to leave their trenches to start the war that ultimately led to their total destruction.

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