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25

And yet, there is one dissonant in this otherwise magnificent part of the world. In Lalibela,

it becomes painfully obvious that being an UNESCO world heritage site is not always a

blessing. To preserve the rock-hewn churches posterity, a truly hideous construction was

built. A pale-yellow canvas covers a large part of the churches and rests on massive scaf-

folds, that stand IN the quarries of all places, so that a clear view of most buildings is

obstructed. We are blown away by this much ugliness. It is as though the Atomium – our

national pride, for some at least – would be placed under a dreadful wooden shelter, so

that the sky and the sun can no longer play with their reflections on the steel spheres. You

don't need to be an engineer or an architect to know that this could have been handled

much better: a large transparent canopy, for example, carried by columns that stand far

beyond the pits. "That is actually what the initial plans looked like", says Destaw. "Then

why does it look like this now then?", we ask. Destaw shrugs, and we know what he means

to say. Because of corruption, the poison of our time. Too many crumbs of the financial

cookie got stuck to the wrong hands. That is the eternal problem in Africa: many have

good intentions, but just as many take what doesn't belong to them.