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Barara -Addis Ababa’s Predecessor: Foundation, Growth, Destruction and Rebirth (Book Review)

Book Review by Berhane Tadese
June 23, 2020
The Red Sea Press, 2020. 
Date: June 23, 2020

The book uncovers the history of Addis Ababa and the surroundings which has not been researched in any detail previously.  The book tells the history of the establishment of Barara city and its early civilization. The city is welcoming technological skills by having  diplomatic connections to Europe and Arabian countries. However, due to internal warfare declining in power, the central Ethiopia Kingdoms and ultimately the rulers moved  its capital city to  Gondar. Gondar became and known as the capital for Ethiopia for several centuries. The book also discussed the  rise of Islam and how  the Oromos  took opportunity to swept through the area of Shoa as well as other regional places to seize more lands. Finally, the Oromos settled down and assimilated with other ethnic groups adding to the ethnic diversity of the present  Ethiopia.

The current Ethiopian politics is marred by ethnic divisions and violence to the extent of threatening the existence of the country. The political narratives are intended to bolster differences, often with accusatory words, among ethnic groups. The ethnic based politics deny and down-play Ethiopia’s different ethnic groups historical and socio-economic relationships among each other.  Ethnic leaders claim that “Ethiopia has no history prior King Menelik (1889-1913) and falsely claims the current Addis Ababa belongs to one specific ethnic Oromo origin.”  The book brings forward substantive evidence and tells stories of Barara where multiple ethnic groups used to live harmoniously, which reinforces the historical bondage among ethnic groups and under one Ethiopian Empire. This historical Barara discovery affirms that the Ethiopian national identity actually transcends ethnic and regional loyalties.

Unfortunately, the history of Barara has been totally neglected from Ethiopia’s entire educational school curriculum. Students and the general public are unaware of the underlying truth to Ethiopia history.  The book traces the history of the medieval Ethiopia Empire from Atse  Dawit  (1380 -1413) to Atse Lebna Dengel (1508-1540) that  Barara city was a center of gravity for trade in goods and had played a significant role as diplomatic center. People traveling from Venus, Fluorenes, Iran, Armine, Egypt to Barara had been attracted to do commerce activities. The city was also the residence of Ethiopians Kings and foreigner and domestic Church leaders. Consequently, it has been placed in the world map with its geographical coverage.  Supporting evidence are presented in various forms including, archeological building debris found in Addis Ababa vicinity, maps, in footnotes  and by examining scholars’ work that established the historical authenticity of the city of Barara. Known scholars work such as  Bretenits and Pankhurst, Falchetta, Fra Mario World Map who are able to identify the location of Barra, Crawford, Ethiopian Itineraries, Professor Getachew Haile’s and others published and unpublished writing  are used to substantiate the historical account. The book found no credible evidence to corroborate what the current Oromo political leaders’ propaganda, that claims Oromo is a colony of Ethiopia and Addis Ababa was “Finfineee”.

After many years of being the center of trade and the seat of Kings of Ethiopia, the city of Barara was destroyed and burned down to ashes when the Empire nearly collapsed, and the power significantly limited by invasion of Islamic war lord by the name of Ahmed Grange.  He invaded Ethiopia from 1519 to 1543 within these 14 years, he burnt down the city of Barara, several churches, several historical books, antiques items, thousand people killed,  and stole valuables such as  gold, silver, silken furnishing. The book tells the history of why and how the war with Ahmed Grange starts and ends.

The book established the city of Barbara as Addis Ababa’s predecessor. It narrates Ethiopia’s own beauty is based on and improved by almost 80 ethnic groups’ natural and inseparable ethnic-linguistic-cultural-ties and diversity. In addition to this, there are several historical facts readers learn from this book. Most importantly, Ethiopians have to rise to the challenges of dealing ethnic extremist thoughts and understand all have shared common ancestral history.

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