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The Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and a major construction project on Mesqel Square have meant that the annual religious festivities of Mesqel was likely to be underwhelming.


The Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and a major construction project on Mesqel Square have meant that the annual religious festivities of Mesqel was likely to be underwhelming. The celebrations did not disappoint the low expectations, a point illustrated by a bonfire lighting that was unique for standing solitary in the middle of Mesqel Square, stripped of the faithful that come in their thousands adorned in white church attire and holding lighted candles every other year.

The Demera, a bonfire lighted to commemorate the finding of the cross Jesus Christ was crucified on, according to the teachings of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, stood alone, surrounded by security personnel in military fatigues. It was set against the backdrop of a crane rising out of the ground in the Mesqel Square construction zone.




The construction taking place was that of a 2.5- billion-Br renovation project of the famous Square, where it will also be outfitted with an underground parking lot. Despite promises by city officials that the project would be completed in a matter of four months and be available for the Mesqel festivities, it had become clear that only parts of it would be usable by yesterday. As a result, the Demera lighting and hymns took place without the setting of the famed crescent-shaped steps that partially envelop the Square.

Further inconveniencing the celebrations was the COVID-19 outbreak in Ethiopia. In an attempt to enforce physical distancing rules, members of church choirs that sung hymns were placed in lines at intervals for the show.





But perhaps most consequential to upending the usual lush celebrations of Mesqel, a major tourist attraction that has been designated an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO, was the lack of faithful that should have descended on the Square beginning midday.

Instead, the festivity was packed with security personnel, Church choir members and media crews, with attendance from Patriarch Abune Mathias, Deputy Mayor Adanech Abiebie and President Sahle-Work Zewde. It has been indicated that the annual thanksgiving holiday, Irreecha, celebrated in the capital last year and taking place early next month, will also be held under similar circumstances with a limited crowd size.



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