Art & Culture

‘American Gibbi’: Merkato’s Historic Building Gets a Facelift

ADDIS ABABA – The World Monuments Fund completed the cultural heritage conservation work on the landmark late 19th-century building, commonly known as the “American Gibbi”.

The conservation work of the building, located in Addis Ababa’s business district Merkato, was carried out with a $240,000 grant that the Fund received from the US Embassy in Addis Ababa in 2019.

On Wednesday, the Embassy coordinated with the Yemeni community to organize a ceremonial re-opening of the restored building that served as a community school for the last 80 years.

Ambassador Tracey Jacobson, Chargé d’Affaires (CDA) of the U.S. Embassy was joined by State Minister of Tourism Sileshi Girma for its reopening.

“This building is a physical symbol, not only of the history underpinning the relationship between the United States and Ethiopia but of American diplomacy at its finest,” said Ambassador Jacobson.

A reminder of H. Engert’s heroic Act’

The building served as the American Legation in the 1930s.

As per the US embassy, the unveiling of the ‘America Gibi project’ will refresh memories of the heroic actions of the then U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Cornelius Van H. Engert. and the role the building played in saving Ethiopian lives.

In February 1937, in the aftermath of the failed assassination of the Italian Viceroy Graziani and the consequent indiscriminate massacre of thousands of residents of Addis Ababa at the hands of Italian fascists, H. Engert sheltered 700 Ethiopians in the compound fleeing the violence, thereby saving their lives. 

The incident is known as “Yekatit 12” or “The Addis Ababa Massacre.” 

The inaugural event was held a couple of days after the 86th annual commemoration of the “Yekatit 12 massacre”.

Descendants of Ethiopians whose lives were saved when they were given refuge in the building were among the attendants of the reopening event which also featured an “American Gibbi photo exhibition”.

Featured Image: Ambassador Jacobson joined by State Minister of Tourism Sileshi and members of the diplomatic corps at the “American Gibbi” photo exhibition, Addis Ababa, February 22, 2023. (Photo USE)