And, if it achieves that, it will start challenging the dominance of regional rivals on Africa's eastern seaboard, such as Kenya and Tanzania. But instead of beach holidays and safaris, land-locked Ethiopia is promoting its imperial past — the below ground 13th century churches of Lalibela, hewn from solid rock, and the hill castles of Gondar — as well as its mountainous and majestic topography.
Visitor numbers have risen 12 percent a year in the past decade to reach 600,000 in 2014. The target at the end of this year is 1 million. In the capital of Addis Ababa, the transformation from the starvation years and the 'Red Terror' purges of the 1970s and 1980s is plain to see. Construction is booming and a metro — the only such network in sub-Saharan Africa — opens next year, cutting through the sprawling city.
The commission praised the the excellent preservation of humanity landmarks such as ruins of the city of Aksum, the heart of ancient Ethiopia; Fasil Ghebbi, the residence of the Ethiopian emperors during the 16th and 17th century; Harar Jugol, 82 mosques, 102 shrines, and unique interior design in the townhouses; and Lalibela, holy site encompassing 11 medieval stone-carved churches from the 13th century.