The Ethiopian government has completed extensive renovations of the Imperial Palace Complex in Addis Ababa (also known as the Menelik Palace, or the Grand Palace), and has announced that it will be opened to the public for the first time in over 4 decades. It will be reopened as "Unity Park", and paying customers will be able to tour it.
The palace complex was built by Emperor Menelik II 133 years ago, and the Palace as served as Ethiopia's official seat of power ever since. Emperor Menelik II, Lij Iyasu (un-crowned Emperor designate), Empress Zewditu, and Emperor Haile Selassie reigned from this 44 hectare site (although Lij Iyasu and Emperor Haile Selassie had their primary residences in other palaces, this was where they carried out most state functions). Following the Ethiopian Revolution of 1974, the Communist Military "Derg" regime used the Palace complex as its headquarters, and kept members of the former Imperial Government imprisoned in the former wine cellars of the Palace. When the Derg regime collapsed and the EPRDF took over, the Palace continued to be used as the seat of power, but over the four and a half decades following the fall of the monarchy, the Palace was slowly deteriorating from lack of maintenance. Now extensive renovations have taken place, and the grounds have been restored and cleaned up to include areas to display Ethiopia's various cultural heritages.
Among the many Imperial era attractions are the Zufan Adarash (Throne Hall), the Gibr Adarash (Great Feast Hall), the Elfign (Imperial Household or Residence), the Inqulal Bet (a special pavilion named for it's egg shaped dome), chapel buildings, and others. The Palace Complex also included three significant Churches that will not be part of the "Unity Park" and can be visited separately. They are the Monastery Church of Ba'eta Le Mariam (Church of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary to the Temple) which is the Mausoleum of Emperor Menelik II, his Consort Empress Taitu, and his daughter Empress Zewditu; The Church of St. Gabriel, and the Church of Kidane Meheret (Our Lady Covenant of Mercy). Note is made that Emperor Menelik II and Empress Zewditu both died in the Elfign here, and that Emperor Haile Selassie was imprisoned and murdered here in a small house next to the Inqulal Bet. The second Chairman of the Derg, General Teferi Benti was also killed here in the shootout that eliminated him and other opponents of the then Vice-Chairman Mengistu Haile Mariam.
The massive Gibr Adarash (Great Feast Hall) was used by Emperor Menelik II to give his periodic great "Gibr" feasts in which he fed large numbers of his subjects. It was later used as a venue for large gatherings or occasions. Emperor Haile Selassie used it as the venue for especially large state banquets, such as the one held for the African Heads of State gathered to form the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union) in 1963, and the state dinners in honor of the visits of Queen Elizabeth II and Charles De Gaul. Here are some photographs of the renovated complex.
Also returning to the palace grounds are the black maned lions which were once a regular feature of the residences of Ethiopian Emperors, but which are currently kept in a sad little outdated zoo. They are to be given a new modern enclosure.
The Gibr Adarash (Great Feast Hall) main entrance.
A recent gala fundraising dinner held in the Gibr Adarash by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to raise funds for the beautification of Addis Ababa and show off the restoration work in the Palace. (The state in the background covers where the great canopied throne would have been).