Villagers perform a traditional dance in Konso, southwest of Addis Ababa, celebrating their hometown joining the UN's list of World Heritage sites -- Ethiopia’s ninth. Konso, a town of 300,000 people where herds of cattle clog the narrow roads, is the first in the country to be recognised for its "cultural landscape."
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
ADDIS ABABA: AbabaThe booming drums and lusty singing of Ethiopia's Konso tribe, celebrating their hometown joining the UN's list of World Heritage Sites, echoed down the road that winds through lush green hills.
When the revellers came into sight, there was an explosion of colour -- women in bright orange skirts and men in striped neon yellow and red shorts, heads topped with decorative feathers and cowhide masks.
Under the blazing midday sun, Konso residents brandishing animal skin shields chanted as they streamed through the streets, followed by a full marching band.
Hundreds of Konso people turned out in their famed town, 600 kilometres (375 miles) southwest of Addis Ababa, for the recent formal inauguration of their inclusion in UNESCO's heritage list.
UNESCO chose the stone-walled terraces and fortified settlements in the Konso highlands -- spread over 55 square kilometres (21 square miles) -- as it represents among other things a living cultural tradition spanning centuries.
The Konsos are among the last remaining people to produce, use and discard stone tools on a regular basis.
Its new status makes Ethiopia the top African country for protected sites and promises to preserve an ancient culture under threat in a rapidly developing country.
"The potential risk is that this is an era of globalisation... and Konso is not an exception," said Yonas Desta, general director at the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage, an arm of the Ethiopian Ministry of Culture.
"How this urbanisation is harmonised with the essential values of Konso -- that's the clear line that we need to carefully understand and manage," he added, standing before one of Konso's towering mountains.
Konso's addition to UNESCO's World Heritage Site list was decided in 2011 but only made official this year.
It recognises Konso's centuries-old cultural traditions, namely sophisticated terracing techniques, cuisine, music, dance and unique burial rites.
Ethiopia's famed rock-hewn churches in Lalibela and the towering obelisks of Axum count among the country's other heritage sites.
The South Omo valley has also received recognition, and several rights groups have accused Addis Ababa of threatening cultural preservation with the construction of a controversial dam in the region.