Mekelle city, the capital of Tigray Regional State, was founded in 13th Century. During the time of Emperor Yohannes IV, it became the capital of Ethiopia. This very tiny town, that had only seven hectares of urban lands, was expanded to 2.4 km2 in the 1960s (MCPPO, 2008). Currently, this figure has exponentially growna to 259.9 km2 (ibid). The city is located 783 kms to the north of Addis Ababa at an altitude and longitude of 13029’N 39028’E respectively with an elevation of 2084 meters above sea level. Administratively, Mekelle is divided into seven sub-cities: AddiHak’i, Ayder, Haddinet, Hawelti, QedamayWeyyane, Kwiha, and Semien. The city is used mainly as economic and education center. EFFORT1 owns companies such as Mesfin Industrial Engineering, a steel fabrication and manufacturing factory including a car assembly line and Messebo Cement Factory, northern Ethiopia’s principal cement production facility Both are examples for some of the booming industries in the city. The industrial park, part of the GTP – II of the country, is also being constructed. The city is the host of Mekelle University that was founded in 2000 by the Federal Government of Ethiopia (Council of Ministers, regulations number 61/1999 of Article 3) as an autonomous higher education institution. This city profile is prepared to give an overview of the urban needs of Mekelle on informal settlements and poor urban communities. Consequently, it indicates ongoing policies and strategies, shows major challenges and response mechanisms at city and national levels, underlines the economic and demographic situation and highlights future development plans of the city. 1 Endowment Fund for Rehabilitation of Tigray CITY
Mekelle city was formerly known as Enda Meskel, which was intended to commemorate the place as a stopover of the true cross that was brought from Egypt during the reign of Emperor Dawit (r. 1380-1412). Later, Meam Ambesa3 was used as a name due to the presence of dense forest that served as a habitat for wild animals including lions. Finally, the word Mekelle has been set as a name during the time of Atse Seyfu Ared (r. 1352-1379). The spatial growth of settlements in Mekelle Nine villages are mentioned in the book of Henery Salt (Rumi, 2009 ): Enda Meskel, Gonay Daero, May Degene, May Liham, Chomea, Enda Gabir, Enda Anania, Ada Gafaf, and May Gifaf. These villages are the oldest settlements in Mekelle. Their names are still used for the quarters so that it is not difficult to find the location of the villages. However, it is necessary to identify the exact place of each of them within the actual spread of the quarter named as such.

Th e construction of the Medhane Alem and the Kidane Mhiret church in the early 1870s by Emperor Yohannis IV as a monastery and a nunnery aft er turning the town into a political center, was one of the reasons for the growth. Th e construction of the Royal Palace in the town was another factor for exponential growth of Mekelle as urban center. Th e town’s socio economic and political importance has enhanced the number of traders, travelers, and offi cials in the town. According to the Mekelle city structural plan revision (2016), during Italian occupation (aft er 1936), Mekelle has got completely diff erent planning approaches. Th e diff erence were additional quarters of the town that were divided by a grid system, wide streets and so on. Th e master plan was designed based on racial segregation which divided the town in two separate parts: the native and Italian quarters (See the fi gure 2). Th e Tigray province lost its status due to rising fears to develop towards the newly formed Eritrean governorate. Similarly, Mekelle churches have lost their traditional right of administering the town, standardizing the tax system, controlling the judiciary system and administrating the land. In their quarter, Italians have erected commercial, residential and administrative buildings. Aft er the retreat of Italian occupation, Mekelle has recovered its autonomy, established the fi rst municipality in 1942 on Decree number 1 of 1942 (MCSPPR, 2016) and public housing has been built. During mid-1960s, Italian architect called Arturo Mezedemi has developed master plan for Mekelle town which is all inclusive. Later on a Swedish team has explained by intensive housing survey but the plan was not realized due to outbreak of Eritrean confl ict (Rumio, 2009). On the meantime, the development of the city has accelerated according to these plans.

Mekelle is a rapidly expanding city with an impressive workforce and is the commercial hub for northern Ethiopia. Fertile farmlands, signifi cant mineral deposits, and major tourist attractions lie within 50 to 200km of the city. Mekelle also off ers an extensive commercial market and good access to the Red Sea port of Eritrea and Djibouti. With all of these advantages and Ethiopia’s pro-business policies, it is not surprising that numerous manufacturers and educational centers have already made Mekelle their home. Urban Economy Mekelle is the economic hub of the regional state of Tigray. Within a 100 km radius of the city, there are fertile farmlands to the south, signifi cant mineral deposits to the east and west, and various tourist attractions. Mekelle‘s livestock and salt markets are said to be the largest in Ethiopia. Th e city hosts a number of livestock-related industries and is known for the superior leather produced from local sheep and goats. It also hosts one of the largest cement plants in Ethiopia. Potential export products that draw on local resources also include high-quality honey and spices. Land is available nearby as well for fl oriculture and horticulture, which are of growing signifi cance as foreign-exchange earners.

Shashemane was established in 1910/1911 (1903 E.C). The area was previously used as a pathway of trade caravan routes for southern Ethiopian region. The name Shashemene was derived from a famous Oromo lady named “Shashe”, who operated a rest-stop named ‘Mene’ in the area. (Source: Local Elders and different written materials). The City has had a municipal status since 1935/36 and has had a Master plan since 1996. Currently it is the administrative capital of the West Arsi zone and is characterized as a level-one city in Oromia Regional State. The city’s strategic location at the intersection of roads connects several cities in the southern part of Ethiopia has both advantages and disadvantages. While the connections create good business opportunities and centre of commerce and the presence of lakes such as Langano and Shala around Shashemene are key assets that attract tourism for the city. In other hand the transient population also produce additional solid waste for the city to deal with. Shashemene is home to close to 250, 000 residents and the population is growing by an average of about 4.5 percent per annum. The city is going to be under a strong pressure in terms of service demand, jobs and infrastructure. The population of Shashemene is young, 65% of the population are under 25 years of age. This could be both an opportunity as well as a challenge. It is an opportunity in terms of the productive potential of the youth, but it is also a challenge for cities in terms of meeting the demand for jobs, housing and other social services.

City Profile of Gondar

The current city of Gondar geographically, is situated in Northwestern highlands of Ethiopia, Amhara Regional State at about 1203’ N latitude and 37028’ E. It is located at a distance of 727 km. from Addis Ababa, which is the capital of Ethiopia, and 120 km from Bahir Dar, main city of Amhara National Regional State. The main road from Addis Ababa (from the south) via Bahir Dar continues to Gondar northwards to Adwa and Aksum, and westwards to Metema and Sudan. In the northwest direction, Semien National Park, a world heritage site registered by UNESCO is situated at about 120km. Gondar has a total area of 192.3 km2 with undulating mountainous topography. Gondar can be characterized by three major land use types namely agriculture, built up and green areas with paved, asphalted and all weather roads.

Rainfall of Gondar city is erratic and characterized by fluctuations. Under normal condition, it deviates from mean value. The mean annual rainfall in Gondar city has been 1025mm in the past 26 years. However, there were great variations in between years. For example, the annual rainfall between 1980-1992 was 977.3mm while it was 1073.6mm between 1993-2005. The highest rainfall record of the past 26 years was in 1980with1312.7mm value while the lowest rainfall value was observed in 1992 and accounted for 719.9mm.


According to the 2007 National Population and Housing Census, Gondar consists of a total of 50, 817 housing units. Gondar is the center of political and economic activities of the North Amhara region and it is main city of the North Gondar Zone. The city is classified into 12 administrative sub-cites, which have their own legislative, executive and judiciary organs.

Gondar has one of the largest urban populations in Ethiopia. According to the Central Statistics Agency (CSA) population projection (2013), the population of Gondar was estimated to be 323,875 by 2015 and to be increased to 360,600 in 2017. Since Gondar is a major destination for urban-rural migrants in North West Ethiopia, migration contributed to population growth in the city.


Gondar is a major tourist and business hub in North-West Ethiopia. Among many tourist attraction sites of Gondar, Fasiledes Castles within the city and the Semen National Park, located 120 Km to the north west of Gondar can be found. The city earns a significant amount of money from hotel and tourism. Trade is also a key economic activity in Gondar. The city’s success in trade is attributable to the surrounding areas, for instance, Metema, and Humera that produce cotton and sesame. In com- parison, manufacturing has not only contributed the least to its GDP (only 7%) but also generates a little number of jobs (EMUDHC, 2015:24).


The city of Gondar’s development and expansion followed axial pattern with a generally slow urban growth rate especially in the late 20th and the beginning of 21st centuries. Unemployment in the city remains high especially amongst the youth, including those with a university degree. An informal settlement has expanded. The number of orphan and vulnerable children is unacceptably high (SOS, 2016).


Gondar is one of the few urban centers that still exist as attested by the available literature on the history of urbanization in Ethiopia. Although urbanization processes took place prior to the 20th century, most of the towns vanished due to geographical, political, and economic factors availed in the country.


As an important turning point, Gondar rose in the late 17th century and witnessed a notable renaissance of Ethiopian civilization, which had an impact in and around the city and the lifestyles of its people. Emperor Fasiledes established Gondar by succeeding to the throne of a country in turmoil induced by popular protests against Emperor Susneyos’s acceptance of the Roman Catholic faith. Emperor Fasiledes took prompt steps and almost immediately restored Orthodox Christianity as an official State religion, and fired the Portuguese Catholic Patriarch Afonso Mendez into exile in Goa, India.


As a tourist destination with historical, natural, and cultural heritages Gondar’s service sector expanded enormously with several hotels, resorts, travel agencies, etc. established recently. They have also created employment opportunities especially for in Tourism, Marketing Management and other graduates in hospitality fields.

Gondar city has a 10 year future development plan (2015-2025) that aims at bringing about efficient and effective urban development and transformation, satellite towns, hinterland through integrated and balanced development. According to Gondar City Administration (2015), the plan set five major intervention strategies:

  • Change: re/usage, re/vitalization, renewal, healing and mending of the existing settlements
  • New: expansion, inclusion, integration, linking of new and rural developments and satellite towns and the city region:
  • Urban region interface planning:
  • Self-realization: new spirit and new re/thinking:
  • Good Governance and urban management and institutional capacity building


Evidence suggests that the city of Bahir Dar was founded in the early 13th century and, like other parts of Ethiopia, was ruled by Lake Tana and its environs by representatives of the newly formed Solomonic dynasty.
The historical development of the city has begun around the 14th c following the establishment of Kidanemihret church at the present sites of St. Geore church. Considering its adjacency to Lake Tana and Abay river it was named as Bahir Dar which means near to the sea, during the reign of Emperor Yikunoamlak. The city is located at the north-west part of the country. The city by road transportation of the two alternative routes is located at a distance of 563 kms via Bure and 460 kms via Motta from the capital city, Addis Ababa. Whereas, through air transportation it will only takes 45 minutes by the bombard jet to reach Bahir Dar city from Addis Ababa. Currently the city has a relatively well organized bus terminal which serves to connect the city to the nearby villages and other cities of the country. On top of that, there are special buses like Selam and Sky bus for those who want to reach to Bahir Dar from Addis with a relatively better service and comfort.
The city has begun to serve as the capital city of the Amhara National Regional State since 1993. Now a day’s given the overall situation of the city it is one of the safest, the most beautiful, well planned and leading tourist destination in Ethiopia. In the year of 2002 the city has been praised by the UNESCO in receiving cities for peace prize for its remarkable measures in addressing the challenges of rapid urbanization and related problems.
Due to its strategic geographic position the city also serves as a place of transit to the old historical cities of Gondar, Lalibela, Axum and the Semien mountains both through road and air transportation.
In Bahir Dar City Administration various activities have been undertaken so as to strengthen the development efforts of the City Administration, and hence obtained satisfactory results in its sectors. Successes have been observed in the provisions of social and economic infrastructures such as health, education, transport, communication, power and water supply.
Bahir dar is one of a rapidly growing tourist and agro-industry city with huge potential due to its natural gift of Lake Tana and its location along many of the region’s rivers, which are ideally suited for the production of flowers, fruits and vegetables and is by far being the richest city of Ethiopia in natural, wildlife and historical attractions.
Governments commitment and political will to assist small and large scale investors, availability of better infrastructure, existence of cheap labor and financial institutions, existence of an international airport and become a place where many private and government colleges and a university can be mentioned as some of the investment opportunities for the investors.
On the edge of Lake Tana, the largest lake in the country ( 84 kilometres long by 66 kilometres wide), Bahir Dar this is a super place to relax and enjoy the lake, visit the island monasteries and also visit the Blue Nile Falls. The city which lies at 5900 feet, is also the stepping stone to travel north to the magnificent Simien Mountains and even further north if travelling by road to Axum.
Located in the Amhara region, the popular Bahir Dar is home to approximately 350,000 inhabitants and is the capital of this region with several attractions enticing visitors. Firstly the lake on its southern end. There are several islands in the lake and they have well known and photographed monasteries.
One of the loveliest activities is to take a ferry or private boat across to one of the islands , there are about thirty in all, and walk around the tropically plant and plantation filled islands, chatting to friendly locals about their way of life. You will see their houses and huts, chickens and goats and also of course visit their monasteries and churches with their painted murals.
Unlike Lalibela, these are built above ground and Bahir Dar’s history can be recorded from the sixteenth century. Please keep in mind that some churches do not allow women to entre. About 88% of the population is Ethiopian Christian Orthodox and the language is Amharic.
Within the city, which is known for its clean wide streets and palisades shaded by palm trees , lies the old Giyorgis church, which has murals of saints in combat. The city is flat so rickshaws (locally called Bajaj’s and bicycles are the best way to explore.
There is a daily market and a much larger market once a week- be prepared to see all manner of things – pots, pans, vegetables; bags of lentils, grains and beans in every shape, size and colour; reams of fabrics; bags and clothing, displayed in ramshackle stalls and in narrow alley ways. There is nothing whatsoever touristy here!
The Blue Nile Falls lies to the north of the town and is still visited though the flow of the water is now regulated due to a hydroelectric dam having been constructed up stream that redirects the water. They are probably best viewed in the rainy season when the rivers swell.
Bajaj’s (three wheel rick-shaws) are the most common form of transportation in the city. 20 Birr will get you most places you want to go in the town centre. There are also blue minibuses, but few still exist as means to get around town. Bajaj’s are inexpensive and cost no-more than two birr per line of road and ten birr for a private charter.
Being a relatively flat city with wide streets, Bahir Dar is an excellent city for cycling, and bikes can be rented at various locations in the city.
Bird watching is also popular around the lake – terns, kingfishers and pelicans can often be seen, and many of the fish species are endemic including the stone loach. There are molluscs and wetland birds such as darters. Apart from the churches, markets, lake and bird watching, Bahir Dar is actually a perfect place to sit, rewind and relax on your journey around Ethiopia.

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City Profile of Bishoftu

Bishoftu is located in East Shewa Zone of Oromia Regional State, 47 km south-east of Addis Ababa, the capital city. The city was founded in 1917 with the coming of Ethio-Djibouti railway.  Bishoftu is a large place in the region of Oromiya in Ethiopia with a population of approximately 197,557 people and is one of the largest places in Ethiopia. Its topography is undulating and characterized by flat land on the north and east parts of the city, locked by several lakes, while the south is dominated by hills (BCP, 2015). The geographical area of the city is about 15,273 ha, and it lies at an altitude in the range of 1900 m. to 1995 m. 

Bishoftu is a resort city which is known for having seven crater lakes that are enclosed by steep escarpment which gives the lakes panoramic views: Lake Bishoftu , Lake Hora Arsedi (the largest lake of the town), Lake Bishoftu Guda, Lake Kuriftu, Lake Babogaya (located in the outskirt of the city and convenient for many sporting activities), Lake Kilole (also called Green Lake “Arenguade Haike” because of presence of Green algae) and Lake Chelelaka.

Lake Balbala is an artificial or manmade lake situated in the town. These lakes are places where the majority of resort hotels are located and different recreational activities are taking place. Like all of the volcanic crater lakes in this area, Bishoftu is a closed system, surrounded by very steep and rocky hills and cliffs. The lake is fed directly by rain and by water flowing down from the crater rims. The maximum and minimum depths are 87 m and 55 m respectively.

Bishoftu is an importantcity, with a local agriculture-based economy. The market is a major feeder market for Addis Ababa. The city has a number of training and research centres, with the Air Force, the Ethiopian Management Institute Conference Centre, National Veterinary Institute, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Addis Ababa University, and Alemaya University of Agriculture all represented. A flourmill, a tannery, and a number of modern agricultural enterprises, particularly for chicken and egg production, have been established, and the area is a popular weekend resort for people from Addis Ababa.

The city also hosts large institutions such as the Great Ethiopian Air Force, different higher institutions, Agricultural research centers, art galleries and the likes. Ethiopian Air Force has a history which is tightly woven with the history of Bishoftu. It is established in 1946 following assigning of Bole Airport to Ethiopian Airlines, the civilcCivil Aviation of the country. The Air force base is constructed by Swedish Instructors and Ethiopian Cadets. The first 6 saab 91 safir training airplanes were bought from Sweden and flown to the air base in 24th of Dec, 1947 to start the training career.  Currently, Bishoftu Air Force base plays significant role in the social, economic and political activities of the town. Bishoftu was a favored weekend destination for his majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie. Consequently, he built his palace which is named ‘Fairfield’ in the town, after his wartime home in exile in the town of Bath, England. The palace was constructed at the shore of Lake Hora.

It’s close proximity to the capital city, Addis Ababa, and it’s position on the road to Djibouti, makes it a hub for industrial development. The industries that are established in Bishoftu Town includes Bishoftu Automotive and Locomotive Industry, Bishoftu Motorization Engineering Complex, Gafat Armament Engineering Complex, and other business include Elfora Agroindustry Export Abattoir, Adda Flour and Pasta Factory, Pasqua Giuseppe Aluminum and Metal Works, Salmida Leather Product Manufacturing and Win rock International Ethiopia.

With its increasing distinction as a recreational center which is located an hour drive from the capital city, Bishoftu town’s tourism activity has been showing promising growth in recent years. Moreover, the development of within town hotels, gust houses and pensions, and lake side resort hotels and lodges with encouraging conference facilities, makes the town more and more preferred for mix of visitors; Ethiopian week-enders, foreign resident week-enders, business and conference travelers as well as international leisure tourists. 

Bishoftu is a rapidly growing city both in terms of population and economy. One can also see the dynamisms of the city in various aspects. The city has been experiencing a high population growth compared to other cities of the region. Various studies have indicated that rural-urban and urban-urban migration accounts to the high increase in population of the city than the fertility.

City Profile of Hawassa

Hawassa city is located at a distance of 275 km away from Addis Ababa, the capital. It is bounded by Lake Hawassa on the west and north-west, Chelelaka swampy area on the east and south-east, Tikur Wuha River on the north, and Alamura Mountain on the south.  Hawassa city is established in 1952E.C during the period of Emperor Hailesilasie. The city served as the capital of a sub-administration of Yabella wereda, and it was designated the capital of the then Sidamo province in 1968.  Hawassa city began to be administered by a municipality in 1962. 

Hawassa city has got its name from “Hawassa Lake”, which in the Sidama language stands for “large or wide water body”.  Before the establishment of the city, the locality used to be known as ”Adare”, which in Sidama language means “field of cattle”.  The availability of large grazing pasture and abundant water resources throughout the year attracted the highland farmers and the low land pastoralists.

Perfectly poised at Lake Hawasa’s edge, the capital of the Sidama Regional State is large, modern, well organized, and a bit of a shock to the system for those who’ve been slogging it through the Omo valley for a long time.

The city lays on the Trans African High Way-4: an international road that stretched from Cairo (Egypt) to Cape Town (S. Africa). Geographically the City lays between 6055’0’’ to 706’0’’ latitude North and 3825’0’’ to 3834’0’’ longitudes east.

According to projections of the central statistics authority of Ethiopia, Hawassa’s population is estimated to be 436,992 in 2012E.C.  The City’s population gender breakdown will be relatively evenly split between male (224,907 /51.4 %/) and female (212,085 /48.6% /). Out of the total number of the Population of the city administration 292,525 people live in urban area, while the remaining 144,467 peoples live in the rural area of the administration.

Hawassa has a young population. Around 65% of the people are under 25 years of age, and only about 5.5% of the population is over 50 years of age. The annual population growth rate 4.02. 4.8% growth rate in urban and 2.8% growth rate in rural areas of the city.

Hawassa city is bounded by Lake Hawassa in the West, Oromia Region in the North, Wendogenet woreda in the East and Shebedino woreda in the south. The city of Hawassa is one of the fast-growing cities in the region. The city administration has an area of 157.2 (sq.kms), divided in to 8 sub-cities and 32 Kebeles.  Currently, the City is serving as the seat of Sidama Region & Hawassa City Administration.

The City of Hawassa enjoys favorable climatic conditions because of its geographic location on the shores of Lake Hawassa. The sky is generally clear, fog is uncommon, the temperature is mild, and the moderate winds often have a positive influence on the temperature.

Rainfall mostly occurs in the summer season. In 2012E.C the highest monthly rainfall is registered in April 2020 (215.3 mm).  Daily minimum and maximum temperature is almost moderate, the minimum monthly average temperature is 12.6◦c and monthly average maximum temperature is 30.1 ◦c

Ethiopia is one the premium trekking and hiking destinations in Africa. The chain of mountains across the major part of Ethiopia is scenic at the same time ideal for trekking and hiking. The picturesque mountains of the Sidama region are one of the most accomplished and mesmerizing mountains of this part of Ethiopia.

The Garamba Mountains, which measured 3368 meters above sea level in the region is a perfect and ideal spot for people who are zealot of hiking and trekking. Here hiking is coupled with watching many bird species and unique wildlife, including the elusive Ethiopian wolf. The top of wondogent area is also one of the best places to hike and catch birds with binocular in a mountainous place. Birds like Turaco, sterling, yellow fronted parrot and many endemic birds dominate the area. Wondogent is a place where a bird lovers can catch endemic Ethiopian birds easily with thier binoculars. The lush dense forest of wondogent is a perefct introduction of the green region of Sidama.


The Africa birding club nominates Ethiopia as one of the best destinations for birding. Here more than 972 bird species soar over the sky. Endemism is also astonishing. From some spotted areas in Ethiopia for birding, the wondogenet area in Sidama region is one of the perfect venues for bird watching. Here your binocular can catch up to 100 bird species and from this six of them are only found in Ethiopia. Apart from the wondogenet area, Lake Hawaasa, Lokka Abbaayya national park, Aregash Lodge, and the highlands of the Sidama region are superlative for birding.

Ethiopia is a country of coffee. This is the origin place of coffee and revered for its beans. Coffee trees have grown in the wild here for centuries. The environment is perfect to produce amazing coffee, without adding anything to it. More than a thousand different varieties of coffee grow in Ethiopia.

High elevations in the southern mountainous region make for excellent growing conditions. The sidama coffee is one of the trades marked and the best Arabica coffee of Ethiopia. The Aletawondo area in Sidama region is the main growing area of Sidama coffee. Here associations like Wetona-butane cultivate and process coffee. But they let visitors to visit their coffee farm and allow tourists to experience their day to day routines. Here you can test the organic Sidama coffee from its origins and at the same time the traditional sidama food.

Dubbed to be one of the welcoming nations in Africa for travelers, doing community tourism in Ethiopia is one of the best preferred if not a must undertake. The Sidama region of Ethiopia is one of the regions which have a tourism activity that based on community ownership.

A Hanafa cultural tourist village on the outskirt of Aregash lodge in Yirgalem showcase the culture and way of life of the sidama people. They prepare coffee for guests, prepare traditional Sidama food for visitors and demonstrate ways of life of the local people. Coupled with the stunning nature and landscape of the area, socializing with the community in this part of Ethiopia is a life time experience.



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