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William Drenttel

Moving the Axum Obelisk



"The Axum Obelisk, which has adorned a Roman piazza for the last 67 years, is waiting to be shipped back to Ethiopia."

A remarkable event will occur in April: the return to Ethiopia of the 1700-year-old Axum Obelisk. Seized by dictator Benito Mussolini in 1937, this funerary monument — a 78-foot-tall royal grave marker — was one of the most important surviving artifacts of a pre-Christian site in northern Ethiopia; for years it has been decoration in front of the U.N.'s Food & Agriculture Organization headquarters, down the road from Rome's Coliseum. Its weight is a point of dispute: the BBC says it's 160 tons; ABC News says it's 200 tons; the more-scientific Ethiopians say it's 188 tons. NPR offers a wonderful audio interview with Richard Pankhurst, of the Committee for the Return of the Axum Obelisk, about its homecoming to Ethiopia, where a national holiday is being declared.

How do you move an obelisk that weighs close to 200 tons? The ever-ingenious Italians are busting it into three pieces. Ethiopia has had to build a special runway for the only aircraft big enough to carry the pieces, the U.S.-built C5 Galaxy. (The first segment is currently in a warehouse near Rome's Fiumicino airport awaiting transportation; the prerequisite Galaxy is not available.) The cost of moving it — $450 million dollars — will be borne by the Italian Government, perhaps to make up for their taking 60 years to fulfill their post-World War II pledge to return this national treasure to Ethiopia.

Like the Egyptian Pyramids, though, there was another design solution for moving such an artifact.

In the mid-1990s, I saw an exhibition at the New York Public Library of the greatest illustrated books of the 19th century, or some similar subject. One book stood out for me: a massive tome by Henry H. Gorringe, Lieutentant-Commander in the United States Navy, titled Egyptian Obelisks and dated 1882. It's in my design collection because of a dubious memory that it's the first book to document a from-start-to-finish design process, and through a range of appropirate media —artotypes, engravings and chromo-lithograghs. Of course, the process it documents is how one moves an obelisk.

In 1879, His Excellency Chérif Pacha, the Governor of Alexandria, gave a 71-foot obelisk known as Cleopatra's Needle to the United States Government, to be elected in the city of New York. Funding for its transportation was provided by William H. Vanderbilt, to whom this book was dedicated. What follows is a geatly simpified rendition of how this 244-ton obelisk was moved, in over a hundred stages, over a two-year period and at a cost of approximately $100,000.


The Staging. November 5, 1879. Artotype.

Before it could be moved, it was "staged" with scaffording to protect the hieroglyphs, while its foundation was unearthed. It was then hoisted onto a mechanical contraction that turned it 90 degees, parallel with the ground. It was then moved horizonitally, much like pyramid stone, right onto a boat — a steamer with a hole cut through its hull.


Embarking the Obelisk. May 10, 1880. Artotype.

The steamer then sailed to New York. After being unloaded, the obelisk was tranported on a special elevated railroad track built from the Hudson River to Central Park — a distance of 10,905 feet that took 112 days to traverse.


Obelisk Crossing the Main Drive into Central Park. October 22, 1880. Artotype.

The obelisk was quite literally driven into its cradle, a mechanical turning device that could move it into an upright position on its pedestal, a 50-ton stone that had also been moved from Egypt.


Turning the Obelisk. January 22, 1880. Artotype.

On February 22, 1881, the obelisk was installed in Central Park in New York City.


The New York Obelisk. February 22, 1881. Artotype. Photograph by Bierstadt.

Today, over a hundred years later, Cleopatra's Needle stands near the Metropolitan Museum on Greywacke Knoll in Central Park. Thank god this particular obelisk was a gift to the United States and that there are no claims by the Egyptian government for its repatriation: after the genius it took to move it across land and ocean, it being broken into pieces to fit into a C5 Galaxy would be a sad fate.

Postscript. A couple of years ago, when the Washington Monument, an obelisk-shaped "mausoleum of American granite and marble," underwent restoration, its scaffolding was a major architectural commission won by Michael Graves. It's difficult not to think of "the staging" of 1879 in Alexandria when seeing his design.

Posted in: Architecture, Books, Cities + Places, History

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Comments [31]
Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't there at one point in the Axum obelisk controversy a plan to give the obelisk back to Ethiopia by declaring the ground that it stood on (presumably extending out about a yard or so) to be Ethiopian territory?
Dan Visel
03.10.05
12:32

First a comment: in the paragraph just below the photograph of the staging of Cleopatra's Needle, you say turning it 45 degrees made it parallel to the ground. I didn't quite get this because I thought they turned it in one fell swoop from vertical 90 degrees down to horizontal.

[Emilio, thanks for the correction: I have modified my post accordingly. Bill Drenttel.]

The way Cleopatra's Needle was erected in New York is a very elegant method (by turning it about its center of mass) however it does require the lifting of the entire weight of the obelisk which would be quite difficult with something bigger.

As an undergrad at Caltech I worked on a project to see if obelisk erection could be done with wind power. We managed to raise a 16-ton concrete obelisk of near-Egyptian proportions (concrete plus rebar is denser than granite so it wasn't quite the right volume for its weight). The arrangement we used minimizes the amount of force that you need at any given time, and I believe it is the arrangement that requires the least force (excluding any methods using ramps). It was inspired by the raising of the Vatican obelisk in 1586, which was done with "900 men and 74 horses" for an obelisk that weighed 330 tons.

There are of course several ways to raise an obelisk; some are more efficient in terms of energy and others in terms of force. However the one constant thing seems to be the enormous amount of infrastructure needed to do any of them. The to-date most successful "ancient" method is the sand pit method suggested in 1923 and enacted in "The 10 Commandments" in 1925. A research team managed to raise a 30 ton obelisk in this way, but they never figured out how to pull it up their ramp and just didn't discuss it. It also requires a free-pull at the very end that could easily topple the obelisk.

Our project came in second at 16 tons but we didn't have all that many ancient materials, so it doesn't count. The next one down is a mere 2 tons I believe, done again with the sand pit method after a team failed to raise a 40-ton by pulling alone.

Anyway, you can go to our project's website and watch some videos. There is also a History Channel documentary entitled "Soaring Stones Flying Pyramids" that still airs regularly in the middle of the night.

Emilio
Emilio Graff
03.10.05
12:53

I'm curious -- how did Mussolini get the Axum Obelisk to Italy in the first place?
Daniel Green
03.10.05
01:13

Smoke and Mirrors™, of course!
luxuryluke
03.10.05
01:22

Bill, great post
E. Tage Larsen
03.10.05
01:25

Let's consider again the structure that Egyptians needed to erect such a large obelisk without welding, duct tape, rope clutches and the like.
The only way Egyptians in that era could have erected objects of such scale is through evil magic and trickery of the eye.

Subject closed.

(yes, please email comments to me!)
luxuryluke
03.10.05
01:41

I wonder if His Excellency Chérif Pacha, the Governor of Alexandria. thought he was accomplishing some sort of diplomatic slight of hand by offering a gift that couldn't be moved. He'd get credit for the gesture and not have to part with the object. Oops.
Todd W.
03.10.05
02:22

The part of the obelisk story that always intrigued me the most was specifically how they got it to Central Park. The only place where the river bank of the west side of Manhattan was low enough to allow a boat to bring the obelisk to shore easily was at 96th Street, but the river bank was that low because, immediately ashore, there was a reasonably steep hill that led to the rest of the island. (People who live there now know the hill, which still slopes down to the shore steeply.) So they brought the obelisk ashore onto an assembly of logs; they slowly rolled the obelisk forward, and as it cleared a log at the back, they dragged the log to the front to continue the rolling road. (Going up the hill was apparently very hard.) The obelisk went all the way to Central Park this way ; it was only inside Central Park that it then was mounted on the special trestle that brought it to its final location in Graywacke Knoll.

If I recall correctly, the whole story is told reasonably well in Kenneth Jackson's Encyclopedia of the City of New York.
Jason
03.10.05
03:45

Oh, awesome -- a photo of the obelisk being offloaded ashore is here, although they misidentify the location as 51st Street. Alas, only the pedestal stone and steps were offloaded at 51st Street; for other reasons, the ship was then diverted to Staten Island to offload the obelisk, which was then floated to 96th Street on a barge.

So cool.
Jason
03.10.05
03:55

Actually, there is a great book on the topic, Moving The Obelisks by Bern Dibner. It was put out by MIT Press in 1970, and it discusses the obelisk moving problem, from the original Egyptian engineering to the Central Park move.

Did you know that one obelisk was lost at sea and recovered?

The 16th century Vatican obelisk was a fascinating story. It was moved first into place by the Egyptians, then moved to Rome, then finally, moved a few hundred yards by the Vatican. This final move was extensively documented. The Vatican archives still have all the engineering proposals, including Fontana's winning bid. This means we know how many men and horses were needed to lower and raise the obelisk, how many ropes and timbers were used and so on.

Check out bookfinder and see if you can get yourself a copy if you are interested in this kind of thing.
Kaleberg
03.10.05
04:28

Interesting reactions to this post and a number of historical questions.

I don't know the answer to Daniel Green's question, "how did Mussolini get the Axum Obelisk to Italy in the first place?" Perhaps someone else will know the answer to this question. Jason has corrected my original post by noting that the railroad track shown was not built from the Hudson River to the obelisk's site in Central Park: there were huge grade differences which needed to be accounted for, given its weight. Let's use this post to render an accurate history.

But then there are more philosophical issues. The design process (really a feat of engineering) was truly quite beautiful: endless problems to solve, structures to build, circumstances to overcome. I am not trying to romanticize the past. But there is something remarkable in this 19th century feat of design and engineering that is lost in simply breaking an obelisk into three pieces and loading it into a C5 Galaxy, as if it were a number of very weighty Hummers. (Of course, no one is writing about what will happen at the other end, that place called Ethiopia. Putting this thing back together will be no small feat.)

Then, there is the documentation in the book I reference, which outlines the entire sequence of events. I remain convinced that this is an early example of design as process: there is much to learn from how this obelisk was moved, how the process of moving it was documented.
William Drenttel
03.10.05
06:27

I love the story about the raising of the obelisk in the Place de la Concorde in Paris -- I've read a better version somewhere but here's the quickie recap:

"The obelisk wasn't upright yet when the huge winches reached their mechanical limits probably due to their location. From the silent crowd holding its breath a man's voice shouted 'moisten the ropes!' A sailorman of the old days knew that hemp ropes would shrink while drying..."
David
03.10.05
06:42

Wow! Does that "water on the ropes" story get around. It's one of the great memes, to use a popular internet phrase, of the historical engineering world.

That story is recounted in Moving The Obelisks with regard to the Vatican obelisk, with the additional spice of a death penalty for talking in the area. The teams of workers were coordinated by hollering orders, so background quiet was essential. Needless to say, there was no death penalty for saving the obelisks.

The book notes that the story is probably aprocryphal in that it was also applied to the moving of a large statue in St. Petersburg. The author was sure that the story was indeed much older.

Personally, I doubt any accounts from the late 19th century. Wouldn't they have been using wire cables by then? The Brooklyn Bridge in the 1880s used wire cables, and it wasn't the first. Wire cables can fatigue, but don't burn. Also, construction sites in the late 19th century probably did not maintain silence, what with the steam engines running. I imagine they used flag signs, bells, whistles and wire cables.

They still use whistles when blasting, though I imagine that they'll be switching to WiFi as soon as most hardhats are properly networked.
Kaleberg
03.10.05
10:10

Hey, I should mention that this discussion has a nice rhythm, with so many parties telling parts of the tale. I can almost imagine it, minus my own drivel, as a dramatic work.
Kaleberg
03.10.05
10:11

Great article.

On Cleopatra Needles, here's a PDF (308k) of a description of moving another Cleopatra Needle to London the year before New York's from an 1878 edition of Scientific American Supplement. This is from a bound volume of these I bought in a used book store years ago.
Mark Eastman
03.11.05
01:41

That's incredibly callous and shitty behaviour of the Italians, IMO.

They're "giving it back"... BROKEN?!? Was it in three piecxes when they got it? No, apparently it's in one piece now. It's as if they're saying, "You want it back? OK, here are the pieces -- ha ha!"; like any nasty twelve-year-old bully boy.

I mean, they certainly DON'T have the excuse that it's impossible to transport it in one piece; Benito's boys got it to Rome in one piece!

And it's not as if ships had been un-invented in the mean time, now is it?
Christian R. Conrad
03.11.05
03:08

Christian, the obelisk was broken in 3 pieces when found by Mussollini's troops. It was reassembled using cement.
Andrew Montgomery
03.11.05
09:43

Another interesting feat was the moving of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse in North Carolina, at 208 feet the tallest lighthouse in the United States. It was moved one-half mile in 1999 to save it from falling into the Atlantic Ocean. Built in 1870, the brick structure on a foundation of granite blocks and submerged yellow pine was moved upright and intact.

The project received the Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement from the American Society of Civil Engineers
For pictures and background of the move,
Betsy
03.11.05
10:55

That is an incredible story, made all the better by the inclusion of the photos; thank you for sharing it.
Isaac B2
03.11.05
04:11

Here in Massachusetts they moved a 450 ton lighthouse about 500 feet because the cliff it was on was eroding. See Link.

http://www.internationalchimney.com/highlandlight.htm

Apparently International Chimney Corp. specializes in moving, restoring, and repairing chimneys and lighthouses:

http://www.internationalchimney.com/lighthousepreservation.htm
StriperGuy
03.11.05
04:53

Just a quick note:

The C5 Galaxy isn't the only aircraft capable of transporting the obelisk pieces (not sure if it's going to take them all at once or one at a time).

The Russian built Antonov AN-124 and Antonov AN-225 are both larger than and have more cargo capacity than the C5. The AN-124 is rated at 150+ tons while the AN-225 is rated at over 250 tons and holds the world record for a 253.82 ton lift. The C5 is only rated to 100+ tons.

Due to the obelisk's weight, I'm guessing they are planning to fly it out one piece at a time.
Rob Brooks-Bilson
03.11.05
06:31

Doesn't anyone find that sum of $450 million a bit much? For that sum it could be done by hand!

Lets do the math: If the obelisk weights 200 (metric) tons, you need about 4000 - 8000 thousand men to carry it, lets say 8000.
For $450 million, 8000 men working for 8 dollars per hour would all work for 7000 hours. That would be about 880 days when working 8 hours a day.

The distance would be about 8000 - 10000 km by land, let's say 10000 (~ 6250 miles). That means the guys, carrying the obelisk by hand about, 25 kilos (~55lb) each, would have to travel about 11,3 km (7 miles) a day. If working effectively for 6 hours a day that would be less than 2 km/h (~1m).

Either BBC reporters aren't doing their jobs that well or Italians don't care too much about government spending! Go Berlusconi!
Pas
03.11.05
06:43

I wonder about the aprocryphal nature of the hemp rope story.

Hemp rope may shrink when drying from a wet state, but wouldn't wetting them in the first place allow them to expand in the first place, leaving you right back where you started?
Tim Holmes
03.11.05
10:41

I regret that the links I tried to include did not show up in my earlier post due to a glitch not under my control. I went to some trouble to search out the most interesting photos and descriptions of what I found to be an astounding engineering feat, the intact relocation of an 800-ton structure resting on nothing more substantial than a sandspit at the edge of the Atlantic.

I suggest that readers interested in learning more google "relocation Cape Hatteras lighthouse".
Betsy
03.11.05
11:21

I didn't quite get the point of splitting the obelisk - isn't that a total disregard for world heritage? Especially if tha task was already performed one-way earlier without the obelisk having to undergo such a drastic measure :-(

Not even half a billion dollars can keep it intact!? Come on - it's more like a slap in the face - "We're giving it back to you but not without breaking it!"


Thanks for the info Emilio & Jason!
Ananya
03.13.05
05:41

I think the 450m moving figure is absolutely absurd .I'm sure it will not pan out as real.I'll move it myself for 300m
Josh
03.14.05
06:54

Interesting article!

BTW:
Christian: I mean, they certainly DON'T have the excuse that it's impossible to transport it in one piece; Benito's boys got it to Rome in one piece!

The Axum Obelisk (hot topic in Italy a couple of years ago...) was already broken in 3 or 5 pieces (according to different sources) when the italian army invaded the city in 1937.

It took two months to move the pieces to the port of Massaua, moved by hundreds of Eritrean and Italian soldiers.

It was then shipped to Naples, moved to Rome and reassembled in Piazza di Porta Capena (Circo Massimo).
It has been reinforced with steel and cement. A part missing (the original part was left in Axum) was re-created.

As you can imagine, the Obelisk has been topic for a lot of political arguments here in Italy...
In the '69 Italy tried to give it back (without taking care of the moving), but king Hailè Selassiè, due to enormous transportation costs considered the Obelisk as his personal gift to Italy.

Dan: Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't there at one point in the Axum obelisk controversy a plan to give the obelisk back to Ethiopia by declaring the ground that it stood on (presumably extending out about a yard or so) to be Ethiopian territory?

I don't remember clearly, I'll check ;)
Emilio Vanni
03.15.05
05:42

...but king Hailè Selassiè, due to enormous transportation costs considered the Obelisk as his personal gift to Italy.

So why return it, it's gift, keep it and send the money (the cost of moving the rock) to Ethiopia. The money will go a long way to help the country than a Obelisk. My two cents.
Dino
03.15.05
09:27

I watched the Soaring Stones Flying Pyramids last night. What was missing in the experiment was the original idea: the sail. I consider that by using the sail[s], it will be possible to gain more control of the lift and landing.
sandu
03.15.05
10:05

Obelisk Bigotry versus Obelisk Revolution.

The Obelisk Revolution: -

What is the Obelisk Revolution?

The Obelisk revolution is the new call upon all Ethiopian People to use the Obelisk Platform and force Egypt to stop its arrogance on the waters of the Nile.

It would be weak sentimentality to comment on Great Britain and Italy which nations are far away from the African Continent and fail to give a political patriotic caution and prompt on Egypt.

Preamble on Egypt: -

Egypt will and must not be tolerated at all if she continues with her arrogance on the issue of the River Nile and Ethiopia with or without the riparian states that share the waters of the Nile must declare a political and military cohesive strategy against Egypt's arrogance on the hydro-sanctity of life in lieu of the Ethiopian peoples.

Ethiopian Sovereignty and Contribution on the River Nile: -

It should be noted that Ethiopia provides over 1529 km of water and rich silt, emanating from Lake Tana in the hinterland of Western, and this over 1529 kilometre tributary from Ethiopia is called the Blue Nile.

Therefore without chewing my words, the Egyptian arrogance on this natural property of Ethiopia is a direct provocation of Ethiopia, which must not be tolerated by any prudent government.

As if that is not enough, Ethiopia provides another over 250 km of water (known as the Tekezze in Ethiopia) and externally as the Atbara.

Therefore present day Ethiopians will not sit back and watch over the death f their sons and daughters because of monopolistic greed driving Egypt to treat the River Nile as its paid up annex, to supply emphasis herewith below a detailed description of the hydro-politics of the Nile propagated by Cairo with an indirect support from the middle east.

Simon Peter Kabala Kasirye
Simon Peter Kabala - Kasirye
03.29.05
02:04

OBELISK BIGOTRY VERSUS OBELISK REVOLUTION
By

Kabala-Kasirye Simon Peter
Academic Registrar/Administrative Secretary
Fediins Pre-University of the North - CANADA
P. O. BOX 1531 STATION -A, Windsor, Ontario N9A-6R5 Canada.
Worldtradefacility@yahoo.ca

March, 30th, 2005

De-limbosing the Sacred Ethiopian Obelisk-
From Italian Political Limbos
Has Been the
Ethiopian Desire of Decades and Now Must Inspire the Ethiopian to Diversify Into Non Obelisk Victories Under the Obelisk Revolution!!!!

The Obelisk Bigotry

After a half-a-century of wrangling over the ancient monument, the fuss over the obelisk has at last yielded into a victory to be cherished by the African people. This is a symbol to indicate that from time immemorial, the African people cherished and protected their civilizations for thousands of years until when divisively destructive forces from the present day Developed Industrialized Economies maliciously destroyed the treasures of centuries, Africa had accumulated. They exiled and/or killed her kings in exile, while training divisive forces that have continued to be a militia plague on the innocent continent.

The significance of the redemption and holistic reclaim of the obelisk to Ethiopia is not only of paramount importance but of traditional mythology that binds the Ethiopian people together. After decades of PRAYERS and HARD WORK by the Ethiopian people, echoed with broken promises by a string of Italian governments, it has at last become a prophetic dream that has come true in our generation, that once upon a time the Axum obelisk will finally be returned to her homeland of Abyssinia.

The Obelisk is one of the Ethiopian's most prized monuments which was forced to succumb to the ground and stolen in 1937 when Italian soldiers marched into Axum in northern Ethiopia on the order of Italy's fascist leader Benito Mussolini. The over 200 - tone Obelisk, which marked the beginning of Ethiopian civilization nearly over 2000 years ago, was hauled off in several huge pieces and shipped to Rome. The pages ahead usher in year 2005 as a harbinger of a New Obelisk Revolution!
Mussolini was immensely proud of his trophy and saw it as a magnificent symbol of the new Roman Empire. But the people of Axum along with the rest of the Ethiopian people were devastated by its loss and ever since then, Ethiopians everywhere have travailed for its return.
Inanimates were destroyed and the outstanding men and women killed in thousands as a result, thus retarding and haunting the civilization of ages. Despite continuing protests from some mainly right wing politicians in Italy, Silvio Berlusconi's government carefully saw the significance of the uproar and dismantled the obelisk and sent it in pieces to Rome military airport for storage. The obelisk was wrapped and its flight halted waiting a plane big enough to cope with its enormous weight, prior to its getting winged back to Axum.
The obelisk constructed over two thousand years ago when cranes had not been invented shows how the African people had a magnificent civil, mechanical and structural engineering technology which if not interrupted would have rivalled the present day architectural marvels.


If at present it has required an enormous high capacity aeroplane to cargo it back to Ethiopia, then those Africans who over two thousand years ago, exhibited such a technology, despite their pre-industrialized curriculum, we owe them eternal gratitude for their challenging intellectual scientific might that is now our magnificent heritage.

The news of the Obelisk return brings fresh tears to those who were alive at the time of its destruction witnessing the killing of their mighty men and guarant daughters of valour, who not only were traumatized by its destruction and plunder, but painfully suffered apathy and unresolved intrigue due to the succumbing it down, wrecking and its getting carted off by Italian troops.
Many were saddened and cried fowl as they day dreamt the barbaric visitation. However, now all Ethiopians regardless of their scatter on the globe, it gladdens them seeing the "sacred and precious treasure" returning in their life time frame.

The Treasured Tower to Give Birth to the "Abyssinian Day"
The people of Axum have a cause to rejoice!
Massive parties have been planned and the date it is commemorated should be named the "ABYSSINIAN DAY" so that all future generations will live to remember and cherish this great icon and a splendor of African civilization. The re-installation of this treasured tower of rock brings joy far beyond Ethiopia's borders especially at a time when continental Africa is forging into a political merger through the African Union.

Ethiopian People of all hues of spiritual thoughts have been prostrate falling for the return of this emblem of wisdom and civilization disrupted by the West's Expansionist Greed to Scramble, Colonize, Control, Partition and Mutilate Continental Africa, which over 2000 years ago had a rapid match towards civilization, but forces of doom thwarted all her effort to grow, thus later labeling it a dark continent because she echoed and exerted costly resistance against extermination and destruction.

"The whole world will celebrate"
All civilised, history loving, freedom advocating and wisdom cherishing people will celebrate with the Ethiopian people not only in the year 2005, but whenever a memorial of the great "Abyssinian day" will be called to attention.



The pedigree of the looters gave so many reasons by successive Italian Governments for not returning the obelisk earlier claiming that it would not be looked after properly in Ethiopia, whereas for over two thousand years, it had stood the test of devastation. Devastatingly in less than a century while in Italy it has been badly damaged by pollution in Rome and while there, a few years ago it was even hit by lightening which, traditional Ethiopians attributed it to be a sacred cosmic ball fire due to its sacredness as an act by the divinities.

'Antique bauble' and "Sacrilege"
Analysts and Archeological valuers, have pointed out that the remaining Obelisks in Axum are remarkably in very good condition and have not had to depreciate due to weather differences, as the looted Obelisk, which was subjected to endure air pollution found in the Italian environmental contagion. It is part of our African heritage and the rest of Africa must contribute to its re-installation so that it can withstand timeless epochs of post-pre industrialization space age pollutants from the globalizing and cosmo-universing world.

Ethiopia faced it double way from Italians and from the Britons and now, it seems, attention in Ethiopia will shift from Italy to the United Kingdom. It should be recalled that in 1868 British troops looted Emperor Tewodros's mountain fortress of Maqdala seizing hordes of valuable church property. Their haul included golden crowns, precious chalices, tabots, altar slabs, beautiful processional crosses, dozens of fine manuscripts and his hair. These are still kept at a variety of locations in the United Kingdom, at the Albert Museum including but not limited to the Windsor Castle.

The true sons of Africa, especially the sons and daughters of Ethiopia ought to become, ardent advocates for all these items to be returned. "This collection of loot from Maqdala was entirely, before any prudent jury, if we would argue, uncalled for and/or unjustified and without justification in international law. This was an act of sacrilege. These items should be returned or else, another sacred lightening might establish a visitation to the Britons and their United Kingdom's treasures like it did in Rome.

The New Site for the Obelisk
The obelisk, which is 24 metres tall and carved with geometrical motifs, now will for ever stand at the site above. The obelisk was taken by Italian troops from the holy city of Axum in 1937, at a time when Ethiopia was under Italian dominance.
The Obelisk Revolution
What is the Obelisk Revolution?
It would be weak sentimentality to comment on Great Britain and Italy which nations are far away from the African Continent and fail to give a political patriotic caution and prompt on Egypt.

Therefore the Obelisk revolution is the new call upon all the Ethiopian People to use the Obelisk Platform and goad Egypt to stop its arrogance on the waters of the Nile. It should be noted that the Axum Obelisk was taken by aggression, war and excessive force and it was unjustified, illegal and inconsistent with the acceptable doctrines of the international law. But this time on, it is being returned through peaceful means to Ethiopian utter victory!

Preamble on Egypt

The Nile hydropolitics can also be resolved by peaceful means, however since the Nile is the mother of all the rivers in Africa, its sacredness goes beyond empirical analysis. Like the Obelisk roared in Italy, also the Nile when offended, she roars like lightening and thunder and if provoked beyond appeasement it rises and falls.

Therefore if Egypt continues with her arrogance over the natural utility of the waters of the Nile it will sacredly spit inspired ball fires to Cairo that Egypt will not withstand. Egypt's arrogance on the hydro-sanctity of the Nile especially in lieu of the life of the Ethiopian peoples may this time not be tolerated.

Ethiopian Sovereignty and Contribution on the River Nile: -
It should be noted that Ethiopia provides over 1529 km of water and rich silt, emanating from Lake Tana in the hinterland of Western Ethiopia, and this over 1529 kilometre tributary from Ethiopia is called the Blue Nile. Therefore without chewing my words, the Egyptian arrogance on this natural gift to Ethiopia is a direct provocation of Ethiopia. This provocation must not be tolerated by any prudent government. As if that is not enough, Ethiopia provides another over 250 km of water (known as the Tekezze in Ethiopia) and externally as the Atbara.

Therefore the gods of Ethiopians will not sit back and watch over the death of their grand sons and daughters because of monopolistic greed driving Egypt to treat the Nile as its "paid up" annex and she has to respect this non violent whisper.

It should be observed that, without the waters of the Nile, all living beings in Egypt will be exterminated and/or declared endangered species. Therefore the sharing of the Nile waters by the riparian states especially of the Nile Basin does not necessarily drastically affect Egypt. The million dollar question is; what is then Egypt's concern in the context of the hydro politics of the Nile? A brief historical anecdote is called forth to critically examine and reasonably appreciate the underpinnings of the Ethio-Egyptian relations vis-à-vis other Nile countries.

A proper look at the political bigotry of the founder of modern day Egypt, Muhammed Ali (an Albanian serving at the behest of the Ottoman Empire), involved Egypt in a series of wars in the Hijaz (1811-1818), the Sudan (1820-1822), Crete and Cyprus (1824-1828), and Syria (1831-1833) and again (1837-1840). These wars had a major damage on the face of the African continent in the like manner with the damage caused by European nations like Italy and Great Britain, which we have not winked at.

Therefore, winking at the Egyptian arrogance sends wrong signals to the rest of the civilized world. There was a proxy agenda behind these wars. For instance, all these wars were conducted in the name of modernization, but while Muhammed Ali sought political and economic independence for Egypt, he was unable to sever his cultural ties with the Ottoman Sultanate. By contrast, his son Ibrahim Pasha wanted complete independence from his Turkish patrons and was successful, to some degree, in creating an Egyptian state that he could control. Inspired by his ancestry, he, Muhammed Ali, was a greedy and an aggressive expansionist. His son Ibrahim Pasha in-ward looking, and his grandson Khedive Ismail (1863-1870) were more like their grand/father but different in their geopolitical interest.

They all had a hidden agenda to de-stabilize all the African people wherever the Nile emanates by clandestine inspiration of proxy governments into civil confrontations, but with the ultimate goal of permanent control of the waters of the Nile Valley and the Red Sea coastal regions.

By 1872, Khedive Ismail attempted to connect Massawa with Sudan and even claimed Berbera and Harar as part of the Ottoman Empire administered by Egypt. In order to ensure firm control of his hypothetical territory, Ismail further encroached into Ethiopian territory and fought the Ethiopian forces at Gundet in November 1875 and Gura in March 1876. This encroachment was mortally costly as his forces were annihilated by the army of Ethiopia's legendary hero- Ras Alula.

Khedive Ishmael failed to take over Ethiopian territory but was successful in developing the Nile Valley by expanding irrigation canals in order to pay the debt he incurred to the French in the construction of Suez Canal. However, Khedive Ismail was unable to pay back his debt and out of desperation he called upon European powers to extricate him from his financial crisis.
Khedive Ismail, with his treacherous wiles, naively but tacitly allowed Europeans to exercise a defacto control over Egypt. In fact, by 1876 an investigative body armed Caisse de la Dette Publique, composed of France, Britain, Austria and Italy was set up.

Ultimately, the dual control (French and English) control of Egypt's income and expenditure declared the country bankrupt by 1879, and the same year Ishmael was deposed. He was succeeded by his son Twafiq who was only a puppet figurehead, and the English increasingly entrenched themselves in Egypt between 1879 and 1884.

By proxy success, Khedive Ishmael's dream of controlling the Nile Valley was fulfilled by the British. With the exception of Ethiopia, the Nile countries of Uganda, Sudan, Tanganyika (present day Tanzania) and Egypt all became British Colonies. The White Nile over [5584] kilometres was effectively controlled by the British.






It should be observed that the source of the White Nile is one of its distributaries, the (Kagera) both in the southern most parts of Uganda and south western Tanzania. The Kagera flows north ward on the boundary of Uganda, cuts through Lake Victoria and turns into the Ripon Falls in Uganda.

On reaching the Sudan-Uganda boarder, it is traditionally known as the Bahr al - Jabal and after joining the Bahr al-Ghazal further north, it becomes the Bahr al-Abyad or the White Nile.

In the Sudan, at Khartoum, the White Nile is joined by the Bahr al-Abyad or the Blue Nile which is 1529 kilometres long and rises from the Lake Tana district of Western Ethiopia. From Khartoum, the Nile flows northeast and is joined by the Atbara (known as Tekezze in Ethiopia) 200 miles north of the city.
Both the Nile (known as the Abbay in Ethiopia) and the Tekezze bring tons of rich alluvial soil to the Sudan and Egypt. After the city of Atbara, the Nile drains into the Nubian Dessert and into Egypt, and before it enters the Mediterranean Sea, it forms the Delta and is separated into the Rosetta and Damietta distributaries.

Recalling from what has been indicated earlier, the White Nile was effectively controlled by the British in the last quarter of the 19th century. However the hydro-politics of the Nile had begun much earlier when European explorers mapped out the waters of the major rivers of Africa.

The Lake Tana which is shown above in its natural youthful splendour is located in the western frontier of the present day Ethiopia. This natural location and endowment under no circumstances obligates any prudent Ethiopian Government with both a right and mandate to force Egypt to be more accountable for its arrogance over the Nile.

For instance in the year 1769, the Scottish traveler James Bruce was in Ethiopia in search of the source of the Blue Nile. Other British explorers like John Hanning Speke reached Lake Victoria in 1858, and in 1868 the German George Schweinfurth explored the Western tributaries of the White Nile.
In the like manner, Henry Stanley, the British-American sailed around Lake Victoria in 1875. It should therefore be recalled that by the end of the 19th century, although the British ambition of connecting 'Cairo with Cape' [Cecil Rhodes' idea] was not realized, they effectively controlled the Nile Basin and had begun projects in earnest.
In 1902, they constructed the Aswan Dam which was further developed in 1936. Following WWI, the Makwar Dam [now renamed the Sennar Dam] was built on the Blue Nile to provide water for cotton plantation in the Sudan.

Another dam at Jabal Awliya (few miles south of Khartoum) was constructed on the White Nile in 1937. In 1947, the Owen Falls Dam in Uganda was built following Egypt and Ugandan agreement where Egypt was guaranteed the smooth release of the Nile water on the Ugandan territory. In the 1950s, during Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt formally demonstrated its geopolitical stake in the Nile Valley although it could not directly control the headwaters of both the Blue and White Niles.
However, by the 1959 Nile Water Agreement Egypt secured the use of 76% of the water as opposed to 24% by Sudan. Ethiopia objected to the Agreement and was presumed a bystander in the Nile Valley although it contributes 85% of the water.
History and prudence has it that, by 1971, Egypt was using the Aswan High Dam, the world's largest reservoir [Lake Nasser] for major irrigation projects. Ethiopia, on the contrary was not using the Blue Nile for either irrigation or hydroelectric powers till the recent negligible utilization of the Abbay valley. The latest Egyptian hydro politics with respect to the Nile is the New Valley project where 415,000 acres at Abu Simbel and its environs will be irrigated and finished by the year 2001 and allow at least 7 million Egyptians a new home. Egypt may even divert the eastern delta of the Nile into the Sinai, perhaps with the help of other Middle East nations, and find additional new resettlement zone.
Arrogany continued and Egypt grew more adamant on the continuation of the 1959 agreement and does not want to permit new vistas and agreements on the sharing of the Nile waters. Instead of cooperating with Ethiopia and other Nile countries, Egypt resorts to subterfuge on a number of occasions to divert the attention of world public opinion and even went to the extent of sponsoring disgruntled political groupings such as the Somali factions and the Eritrean government as a form of deterrence and probably as political intimidation directed against Ethiopia.
It should be established that even after dozens of international round tables regarding the usage of the waters of the Nile, Egypt has failed to comply and to recognize that ultimately it is only through negotiation and mutual understanding that it can secure its permanent interest; it also fails to understand that the present generation of Ethiopians will nonetheless exhibit resolve to use the waters of the Nile for the benefit of their people. Egypt cannot employ the old-fashioned Khedive Ismail strategy or British control of the headwaters of the Nile.

As we write, the present geopolitical policy of Egypt pertaining to the sharing of the Nile waters is counter productive, and it could have a boomerang effect and although, Egypt's geopolitical interest in the Nile was continued by successive Egyptian regimes, the Nasserite government was not backing mercenaries against sovereign African nations.
It should be recalled that, Nasser created a Supreme Committee and the African Association to monitor African affairs. He also established the Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Organization (AAPSO). Egypt, under Nasser, was haven to African progressive forces and nationalist leaders as opposed to Mubarak's Egypt which is virtually harboring and nurturing reactionary political groups.

Therefore the current Egyptian political clerics, must reverse the present policy of their government, recapture Nasser's (short of threatening Ethiopia) ideals and promote the principle of sharing the Nile waters equally.
In order to achieve lasting solutions on the hydro politics of the Nile, the status quo of the 1959 Agreement must be repealed and a new agreement must be signed to accommodate the interests and development agendas of all Nile countries. In fact, the 1959 Agreement stipulates that Egypt and the Sudan must reduce their use of the Nile waters if the upstream countries begin to use the Nile for development. Egypt is suffering from 'water stress' phobia, but in spite of the latter's perception, Egypt has no choice but to share the Nile with other riparian states. Ethiopia should not accept any other outcomes or keep quiet but must go on the offensive and achieve victory, whereby Egypt must respect the general agreement on cooperation and the use of the Nile reached between Ethiopia and itself on July 1, 1993. This agreement may not be binding, but it could serve as conduit toward more understanding and resolving the problem of the politics of the Nile. Under the circumstances, Egypt must not only respect the interest and the need of the Ten Nile riparian countries that told the whole world, in the Fifth Nile 2002 Conference held in Addis Ababa, that they want to use the Nile for their respective socioeconomic development, but must comply or be forcefully be made to size down her greedy past a relic of the failed Ottoman Empire. Hence, the new era of the Obelisk Revolution!
For a peaceful use of the Nile, the UN development agencies like the UNDP must be involved and if possible finance the development endeavors of respective riparian nations, whereby, the development of the Nile will then benefit all, resolve the contradiction between Egypt and other Nile countries. If Egypt resorts to the use of force and war, it is the one that will pay the unthinkable and inevitable mortal price.
Finally Ethiopia should use the Obelisk Platform that has brought together all the peoples of Ethiopia, and declare a New Obelisk Revolution, addressing itself on the hydro-politics of the Nile which accommodates over ten countries. Ethiopia must use her sovereign status quo on the Nile, and compel Egypt to partake her lot. The Ethiopian government should not remain adamant to the plight of her peoples, and continue to be using a drop in the bucket of its Abbay, while compromising the plight of her people to Egypt, which has exerted force to make a monopolistic plunder of the Nile ever since the Ottoman Empire envisioned its dirty agenda.

As we write, the present geopolitical policy of Egypt pertaining to the sharing of the Nile waters is counter productive, and it could have a boomerang effect and although, Egypt's geopolitical interest in the Nile was continued by successive Egyptian regimes, the Nasserite government was not backing mercenaries against sovereign African nations.
It should be recalled that, Nasser created a Supreme Committee and the African Association to monitor African affairs. He also established the Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Organization (AAPSO). Egypt, under Nasser, was haven to African progressive forces and nationalist leaders as opposed to Mubarak's Egypt which is virtually harboring and nurturing reactionary political groups. Therefore the current Egyptian political clerics, must reverse the present policy of their government, recapture Nasser's (short of threatening Ethiopia) ideals and promote the principle of sharing the Nile waters equally.
In order to achieve lasting solutions on the hydro politics of the Nile, the status quo of the 1959 Agreement must be repealed and a new agreement must be signed to accommodate the interests and development agendas of all Nile countries. In fact, the 1959 Agreement stipulates that Egypt and the Sudan must reduce their use of the Nile waters if the upstream countries begin to use the Nile for development. Egypt is suffering from 'water stress' phobia, but in spite of the latter's perception, Egypt has no choice but to share the Nile with other riparian states. Ethiopia should not accept any other outcomes or keep quiet but must go on the offensive and achieve victory, whereby Egypt must respect the general agreement on cooperation and the use of the Nile reached between Ethiopia and itself on July 1, 1993. This agreement may not be binding, but it could serve as conduit toward more understanding and resolving the problem of the politics of the Nile. Under the circumstances, Egypt must not only respect the interest and the need of the Ten Nile riparian countries that told the whole world, in the Fifth Nile 2002 Conference held in Addis Ababa, that they want to use the Nile for their respective socioeconomic development, but must comply or be forcefully be made to size down her greedy past a relic of the failed Ottoman Empire. Hence, the new era of the Obelisk Revolution!
For a peaceful use of the Nile, the UN development agencies like the UNDP must be involved and if possible finance the development endeavors of respective riparian nations, whereby, the development of the Nile will then benefit all, resolve the contradiction between Egypt and other Nile countries. If Egypt resorts to the use of force and war, it is the one that will pay the unthinkable and inevitable mortal price.
Finally Ethiopia should use the Obelisk Platform that has brought together all the peoples of Ethiopia, and declare a New Obelisk Revolution, addressing itself on the hydro-politics of the Nile which accommodates over ten countries. Ethiopia must use her sovereign status quo on the Nile, and compel Egypt to partake her lot. The Ethiopian government should not remain adamant to the plight of her peoples, and continue to be using a drop in the bucket of its Abbay, while compromising the plight of her people to Egypt, which has exerted force to make a monopolistic plunder of the Nile ever since the Ottoman Empire envisioned its dirty agenda.



Kabala-Kasirye Simon Peter
Academic Registrar/Administrative Secretary,
Fediins Pre-University of the North - CANADA
P. O. BOX 1531 STATION -A, Windsor, Ontario N9A-6R5 Canada.

Worldtradefacility@yahoo.ca
Simon Peter Kabala-Kasirye
04.03.05
04:50



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