North of Addis Ababa, one climbs up into the Entoto Mountains, the site of Emperor Menelik II's fourth capital.
Menelik chose this as the site of his fourth capital and then moved his official seat there, as King of Shoa, from Ankober. Strategically, it was a suitable fortress, but as a peacetime capital, the windy location, and with strains on local resources such as firewood and water, it became less desirable. It would serve as Shoa's capital only briefly. Menelik married Taitu Betul in 1883 and it was she who supervised the building of Entoto Maryam Church. Finally able to enlist the support of a majority of powerful warlords, Emperor Menelik II was crowned as Emperor on November 3rd, 1889. He was crowned at Entoto's St. Maryam Church by Abune Mattiwos. Two days later, Emperor Menelik crowned his wife as Empress Taitu, "Light of Ethiopia".
To the south of Entoto's mountainous peak was a broad hilly plateau, covered in forests and intersected by the Finfine, Kebena and Akaki rivers. Near the Finfine river, were some hot springs that had given the nearby river and area their name. The term finfin is from the Oromo language and refers to the fine spray associated with the hotsprings. Taitu and her ladies found it pleasant to leave the cold of Mt. Entoto to bathe in the theraputic mineral springs, and as her visits to this natural spa became so frequent, she built a house nearby. The climate was much more pleasant than windy Entoto, wood was readily available for fuel and building, and water was plentiful. Eventually a little settlement had grown in the area and Empress Taitu officially named the new town "Addis Ababa" in 1887.
Menelik moved his capital down the hill into Addis Ababa during the next decade at the same time as he continued to consolidate his power. Menelik II is credited with establishing the unified boundaries of modern Ethiopia pretty much as they exist today by limiting the power of the feudal warlords, and by expansion through conquests. He successfully repelled the colonial ambitions of European powers, in particular, Italy. He also continued to bring Ethiopia into the modern era despite the conservative suspicions and influence of Empress Taitu.
Upon Menelik's death, The Empress Taitu returned to Entoto's old palace adjacent to Entoto Maryam Church and lived out the rest of her days there.
photo of Kidist Maryam from my 2007 tripinside the gates of Entoto Maryam Church compound
looking down to the old imperial compound adjacent to the church
monks, discussing things
The little bells on structures similar to this found atop all the Orthodox churches in Ethiopia have a poignant symbolism. They are said to represent the babies ordered to be put to death by King Herod when he heard of the arrival of the magis from the east looking for a Newborn King, ie Jesus.
In the old imperial compound: