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Meskel, Ethiopia

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    Meskel, Commemoration feast of the finding of the True Holy Cross of Christ

    Meskel is an Ethiopian Orthodox church annual religious festival commemorating the legend of finding the true cross of Jesus Christ. The festival is celebrated throughout the whole country on September 26th. On a national level, Meskel is celebrated on in a large-scale at the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa with hundreds of thousands of people taking part on the grand celebration. The procedure of the festival began on late afternoon when followers of the religion, the church clergy, church students and tourists began to gather in Meskel the square named after the event. The celebration consists of different procedures and festivities, singing and displaying colorful parade. At the climax of the event large bonfire called “Demera” will be lighted by the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Meskel celebration, possessing high religious value and culture has become one of the best known events for the city of Addis Ababa (MFA, UNESCO, Mamo, Y. 2014).



    Figure 1, Meskel Celebration in Addis Ababa 



    Meskel as an Intangible Cultural Heritage

    The concept of Intangible Cultural Heritages (ICH) is relatively new, according to the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, ICH are living heritages, practices, knowledge and skills that are transmitted from generation to generation expressing the values and culture of the community. In December 2013 UNESCO has inscribed Meskel celebration on the list of intangible cultural heritage, considering its cultural significance, its role of promoting social unity and inter-cultural dialogue among different societies. (MFA, UNESCO, 2014)

    Managerial challenges

    The primary managerial issue lies on the lack of proper entity or organization representing, monitoring and promoting the festival. The event is a public event with a large number of stakeholders like volunteers, churches and different organizations.  Cooperation between stakeholders and creating ties on the preservation of the heritage was discussed by Heldt Cassel and Pashkevich (2011).  But on the case of Meskel the interaction of stakeholders like city government of Addis Ababa and the organizing committee is limited. Furthermore according to UNESCO the main objective of the inscription on the ICH is to safeguard the cultural value.  Meskel can be promoted as one of the major events organized in the country but, at the same time the organizers of the event should avoid excessive commercialization which leads to alteration of the main cultural and religious  purpose of the celebration( UNESCO, 2014,).


    Cassel Heldt S. and Pashkevich A. (2011). Heritage Tourism and Inherited Institutional Structures: The Case of Falun Great Copper Mountain. Scandinavian Journal of Hospitality and Tourism, 11: 1, 54 — 75.

    Mamo, Y. (2014) Own experience and knowledge of the cultural event. [Reviewed 14.11.2014] student/Ethiopian citizen,, (2014). Ministry of Foreign Affairs - MoFA. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Nov. 2014].

    Section, U. (2014). UNESCO Culture Sector - Intangible Heritage - 2003 Convention :. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Nov. 2014].



    Figure 1,, (2014). [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 Nov. 2014].


    Written by Yonas Mamo

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    Comments (3)

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    Hi Yonas!
    Nice brief description! Regarding the managerial challenges, you mention that, 'lack of monitoring and promoting organs' as one of the challenges and if it has to be promoted and monitored the the ultimate goal is to brand and sell the WHS as a tourist product, but 'excessive commercialization' mentioned as a threat for the WHS at the end. Don't you think it is not contradictory?
    By the way the presentation was great!!
    Dinberu edited 00:47, 17 Nov 2014
    Posted 00:42, 17 Nov 2014
    Thank you Dinberu for your feedback as mentioned above creating an organizing and monitoring body which at the same time promotes the event as a hallmark event will diversify the tourism product offered in the city. But on the other hand putting an entrance fee or "excessive" commercialization will affect the events religious value and purpose.
    Regards, edited 01:09, 17 Nov 2014
    Posted 01:05, 17 Nov 2014
    It was a very interesting discussion guys!!! Well done, that is always a very 'thin line' with the commercialization of the even/tradition/celebration and the possibility to sell it to the rest of the outside world. We talked about it in the class too, that it is very difficult to sell this type of heritage as it is quite tricky to 'package' it. However, as Yonas noted in the class if the tourists will be coming during this festive season they will be able to enjoy these celebrations and they would potentially able to attract people as any even does (like Brazilian carnival or something like that). This issue was really interesting! Thank you guys!
    Best, Albina
    Posted 22:16, 21 Nov 2014
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