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.

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