‘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.

Before that, it served as the American Legation in the 1930s.

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 at the reopening.

The event was held a few days after the 86th annual commemoration of the ‘Yekatit 12 massacre.’

The day marks indiscriminate killing of thousands of Addis Ababa residents at the hands of the invading Italian fascist army following a failed assassination of the Italian Viceroy Graziani in Feb 1937.

The incident is known as “The Addis Ababa Massacre.”

The US Embassy says 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.

Engert sheltered 700 Ethiopians in the compound fleeing the violence, thereby saving their lives.

The inaugural event – attended by and descendants of Ethiopians whose lives were saved when they were given refuge in the building – also featured a “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)

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