BBC: Ethiopia's lost Armenian community

BBC: Ethiopia's lost Armenian community

PanARMENIAN.Net - London-based journalist Ismail Einashe has made a trip to Ethiopia to find out about the lost Armenian community there, which he summer up in an article for the BBC series of letters from African journalists.

Einashe’s search for the last Armenians of Ethiopia began in Piassa, the bustling commercial centre of the old part of the capital, Addis Ababa.

In the 19th Century, a handful of Armenians played a vital role in the court of Emperor Menelik II.

And later, in the early 20th Century, a community settled that went on to have an economic and cultural impact in the country.

When Einashe visited the St George Armenian Apostolic Holy Church, he was greeted by Simon, the Armenian-Ethiopian caretaker, who said that they do not get many visitors.

The church is rarely open, as there is no priest these days, and the community, of no more than 100, is mostly elderly.

The author says Armenian courtiers, businessmen and traders played an important role in the modernization of Ethiopia on the mid-20th century. The community reached its zenith in the 1960s when it numbered 1,200.

But as the Armenian community was tied to the imperial history of the country, once the emperor fell the community declined, Einashe notes.

After many fled to North America and Europe, he says, a few did stay, and some married within the local community, creating a unique blend of Armenian and Ethiopian cultures.

But there is also the Armenian social club, which has a restaurant that reminds people of the taste of home, the article says.

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