Ethiopia opens its secretive Imperial Palace for first time

For more than a century, the secretive imperial palace complex has stood over Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa, closed off to everyone but the country’s leaders and the troops who protected them.

Almost hidden from view on a wooded bluff, its forbidding 40-acre compound was unknown even to some of those living beneath it. Behind its walls, plots were hatched, conquests planned and dark deeds executed.

Red-bereted elite soldiers with AK-47s manned watchtowers dotted around the perimeter. Pedestrians had to walk on the far side of the road surrounding the compound. If a car broke down, it had to be pushed to the far side too.

Today, the soldiers are still there, but the curtain has finally been raised on the mysteries within following renovation of a section of the compound that has housed Ethiopia’s rulers since the days of Emperor Menelik II.

Locals and tourists are now being invited in to explore the 15-acre Unity Park created out of the palace complex. Although it remains the residence of the prime minister, land has officially been given back to the city of Addis Ababa.