Adwa is a market town in northern Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

, and best known as the community closest to the decisive Battle of Adowa
Battle of Adowa
The Battle of Adwa was fought on 1 March 1896 between Ethiopia and Italy near the town of Adwa, Ethiopia, in Tigray...

 fought in 1896 with Italian troops. Notably, Ethiopian soldiers won the battle, thus being the only African nation to thwart European colonialism. Located in the Mehakelegnaw Zone
Mehakelegnaw Zone
Mehakelegnaw is a Zone in the Ethiopian Region of Tigray. Mehakelegnaw is bordered on the east by Misraqawi , on the south by Debubawi , on the west by Mirabawi and on the north by Eritrea...

 of the Tigray Region
Tigray Region
Tigray Region is the northernmost of the nine ethnic regions of Ethiopia containing the homeland of the Tigray people. It was formerly known as Region 1...

, Adwa has a longitude and latitude of 14°10′N 38°54′E, and an elevation of 1907 meters.

Adwa is home to several notable churches: Adwa Awraja Fird Bet, Adwa Gebri'el Bet (built by Dejazmach Wolde Gebriel), Adwa Maryam Bet (built by Ras Anda Haymanot), Adwa Medhane `Alem Bete (built by Ras Sabagadis
Sabagadis was a Dejazmach or governor of Tigray, a province in northern Ethiopia. He was the son of Shum Waldu of Agame, and a member of the Irob people.- Life :...

), Adwa Nigiste Saba Huletenya Dereja Timhirt Bet, and Adwa Selasse Bet. Near Adwa is Abba Garima Monastery
Abba Garima Monastery
Abba Garima Monastery is an Ethiopian Orthodox monastery, located some 5 kilometres east of Adwa, in the Mehakelegnaw Zone of the Tigray Region of northern Ethiopia...

, founded in the sixth century by one of the Nine Saints
Nine Saints
The Nine Saints were a group of missionaries who were important in the initial growth of Christianity in what is now Ethiopia during the late 5th century. Their names were Abba Aftse, Abba Alef, Abba Aragawi, Abba Garima , Abba Guba, Abba Liqanos, Abba Pantelewon, Abba Sehma, and Abba Yem’ata...

 and known for its tenth century gospels. Also nearby is the village of Fremona
Fremona was a town in northern Ethiopia, located in the modern Tigray Region. The town was about a mile in circumference and was flanked with towers. It served as the base of the Roman Catholic missionaries to Ethiopia during the 16th and 17th centuries...

, which had been the base of the 16th century Jesuits sent to convert Ethiopia to Catholicism.


According to Richard Pankhurst, Adwa derives its name from Adi Awa (or Wa), "Village of the Awa"; the Awa are an ethnic group mentioned in the anonymous Monumentum Adulitanum
Monumentum Adulitanum
The Monumentum Adulitanum was an ancient Adulite inscription in Greek and Ge'ez depicting the military campaigns of an Adulite king. Though the inscription and the monument have never been located by archaeologists we know about it through the copying of the inscription by Cosmas Indicopleustes, a...

 that once stood at Adulis
Adulis or Aduli is an archeological site in the Northern Red Sea region of Eritrea, about 30 miles south of Massawa. It was the port of the Kingdom of Aksum, located on the coast of the Red Sea. Adulis Bay is named after the port...

. Francisco Alvares records that the Portuguese diplomatic mission passed Adwa, which he called "Houses of St. Michael," in August 1520.

Despite this claim of antiquity, Adwa only acquired major importance following the establishment of a permanent capital at Gondar
Gondar or Gonder is a city in Ethiopia, which was once the old imperial capital and capital of the historic Begemder Province. As a result, the old province of Begemder is sometimes referred to as Gondar...

. As the traveller James Bruce
James Bruce
James Bruce was a Scottish traveller and travel writer who spent more than a dozen years in North Africa and Ethiopia, where he traced the origins of the Blue Nile.-Youth:...

 noted, Adwa was situated on a piece of "flat ground through which every body must go in their way from Gondar to the Red Sea
Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

"; the person who controlled this plain could levy profitable tolls on the caravans which passed through. By 1700, it had become the residence for the governor of Tigray province, and grew to overshadow Debarwa
Debarwa is a market town with a population of about 25,000 in central Eritrea, about 25 kilometers south of the capital Asmara. It is the capital of the Debarwa district in the Debub administrative region...

, the traditional seat of the Bahr negus, as the most important town in northern Ethiopia. Its market was important enough to need a nagadras; the earliest known person to hold this office was the Greek
Greeks in Ethiopia
The Greek community in Ethiopia today numbers about 500 persons and can be traced back to the 18th century. It is mainly located in the capital, Addis Ababa, and the city of Dire Dawa.-History:The name Ethiopia itself is Greek and means "of burned face"...

 emigre Janni of Adwa, a brother of Petros, chamberlain to Emperor Iyoas I
Iyoas I of Ethiopia
Iyoas I or Joas I was of Ethiopia, and a member of the Solomonic dynasty...

. Adwa was home for a small colony of Greek merchants into the 19th century.

Major trade route

Because of its local on this major trade route, it is mentioned in the memoirs of numerous 19th-century Europeans visiting Ethiopia. These include Henry Salt
Henry Salt
Henry Salt may refer to:*Henry Stephens Salt , English writer, campaigner for social reforms, and animal rights advocate*Henry Salt...

, Samuel Gobat
Samuel Gobat
Samuel Gobat , was a Swiss Lutheran who became an Anglican missionary in Africa and was the Protestant Bishop of Jerusalem from 1846 until his death....

, Mansfield Parkyns, Arnaud and Antoine d'Abbadie, and Théophile Lefebvre. After the defeat and death of Ras Sabagadis in the Battle of Debre Abbay
Battle of Debre Abbay
The Battle of Debre Abbay was a conflict between Ras Marye of Yejju, Regent of the Emperor of Ethiopia, and his rival from Tigray, Dejazmach Sabagadis of Agame...

, its inhabitants fled Adwa for safety. The town was briefly held by Emperor Tewodros II
Tewodros II of Ethiopia
Tewodros II was the Emperor of Ethiopia from 1855 until his death....

 in January 1860, who had marched from the south in response to the rebellion of Agew Neguse, who had burned then fled the town.

XIXth Century

Giacomo Naretti
Giacomo Naretti
Giacomo Naretti was an Italian architect. He migrated to Ethiopia as a carpenter, and he become the official architect at the court of Emperor Yohannes....

 passed through Adwa in March 1879, after it had been devastated by a typhus epidemic. It had been reduced to a shadow of itself, having about 200 inhabitants.

Its geographical importance has also led to Adwa's greatest importance, being the site of the final battle of the First Italo–Ethiopian War, where Emperor Menelik II fought to defend Ethiopia's independence against Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 in 1896. Menelik led the Ethiopian Army to a decisive victory against the Italians, which ensured an independent Ethiopia until the Italians invaded again in 1935 (Second Italo-Ethiopian War). A large tree at the edge of town was pointed out to visitors in the following years as where Emperor Menelik passed judgement on the Eritreans captured in the battle. Eritrean Battalions were part of the Italian colonial army, but the drumhead court-martial
Drumhead court-martial
A drumhead court-martial is a court-martial held in the field to hear urgent charges of offences committed in action. The term is said to originate from the use of a drumhead as an improvised writing table, altar for religious services, and a traditional gathering point for a regiment for orders...

 that passed judgment on them did not recognize this, and condemned the prisoners to having their right hand and left foot cut off.

Writing in the 1890s, Augustus B. Wylde described the Adwa market, held on Saturdays, as a large one with cattle of all sorts available for purchase. The Asmara-Addis Ababa telegraph line, constructed by the Italians in 1902-1904, passed through Adwa and had an office there. By 1905 it was considered the third-largest town in Tigray. Telephone service reached Adwa by 1935, but no phone numbers are listed for the town in 1954.

On 6 October 1935 Italian forces entered Adwa, after two days of bombardment had shocked Ras Seyoum Mengesha
Seyum Mangasha
Seyum Mangasha KBE was an army commander and a member of the Royal family of the Ethiopian Empire.-Biography:...

 into a hasty retreat, abandoning large stocks of food and other supplies. The Italian Gavinana Division brought with them a stone monument in honor of the Italian soldiers who had fallen in 1896. This monument was erected immediately after their arrival, and inaugurated on 15 October in the presence of General Emilio De Bono
Emilio De Bono
Emilio De Bono was an Italian General, fascist activist, Marshal, and member of the Fascist Grand Council . De Bono fought in the Italo-Turkish War, World War I, and the Second Italo-Abyssinian War.-Early life:De Bono was born in Cassano d'Adda...

. The town had passed from Italian hands before 12 June 1941, when the newly arrived 34th Indian State Force Brigade set up a post office there.

During the Woyane rebellion, 6000 of the territorial troops retreated to Adwa on 22 September 1943. By 1958 Adwa was one of 27 places in Ethiopia ranked as First Class Township. During the 1960s the town was not only an educational center but also an early focus for nationalist dissent, indicated by the fact that all three of the leaders of the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front
Tigrayan People's Liberation Front
The Tigrayan People's Liberation Front , known more commonly and sometimes pejoratively in Ethiopia as Woyane or Weyane is a political party in Ethiopia...

 (TPLF) over the 22-year period from 1975 to 1997, Aregawi Berhe, Sebhat Nega, and Meles Zenawi
Meles Zenawi
Meles Zenawi Asres is the Prime Minister of Ethiopia. Since 1985, he has been chairman of the Tigrayan Peoples' Liberation Front , and is currently head of the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front .Meles was born in Adwa, Tigray in Northern Ethiopia, to an Ethiopian father from...

, all came from Adwa and attended the town's government school.


Adwa was frequent target of attacks by the TPLF during the Ethiopian Civil War
Ethiopian Civil War
The Ethiopian Civil War began on September 12, 1974 when the Marxist Derg staged a coup d'état against Emperor Haile Selassie, and lasted until the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front , a coalition of rebel groups, overthrew the government in 1991. The war overlapped other Cold War...

: in 1978 the TPLF attacked Adwa; in 1979 it unsuccessfully tried to rob the bank. The town permanently passed into TPLF control in March 1988. Adwa and its environs are the native district of many of the core leaders of the TPLF which lead Ethiopia today, and the district is represented in Parliament by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi himself.


Based on figures from the Central Statistical Agency
Central Statistical Agency (Ethiopia)
The Central Statistical Agency is an agency of the government of Ethiopia designated to provide all surveys and censuses for that country used to monitor economic and social growth, as well as to act as an official training center in that field. It is part of the Ethiopian Ministry of Finance and...

 in 2005, Adwa has an estimated total population of 42,672, of whom 20,774 were males and were 21,898 females. The 1994 census reported it had a total population of 24,519 of whom 11,062 were males and 13,457 were females. It is the largest town in Adwa
Adwa (woreda)
Adwa is one of the 36 woredas in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia. Part of the Mehakelegnaw Zone, Adwa is bordered on the south by Werie Lehe, on the west by La'ilay Maychew, on the north by Mereb Lehe, and on the east by Enticho...

Woreda is an administrative division of Ethiopia , equivalent to a district . Woredas are composed of a number of Kebele, or neighborhood associations, which are the smallest unit of local government in Ethiopia...



Almeda Textile Football Club (ALTEX) was promoted to the Ethiopian National Football League after winning the Ethiopian football club championships held in Mekelle. ALTEX beat Meta Beer Football Club 2-1 in the final. ALTEX is the first club from Adwa town to represent the town in Ethiopian football history.

Notable people

  • Kinfe Abraham
    Kinfe Abraham
    Kinfe Abraham is an Ethiopian academic and politician. He was President of the Ethiopian International Institute for Peace and Development, as well as President of Horn of Africa Democracy and Development....

  • Negadras Gebre hiwot Baykedagn, Economist, statesman and political theorist, one of the prominent reformist intellectuals of the early 20th century Ethiopia.
  • Sebhat Nega, Politician
  • Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher
    Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher
    Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher is an Ethiopian who won the Right Livelihood Award in 2000 "for his exemplary work to safeguard biodiversity and the traditional rights of farmers and communities to their genetic resources."Tewolde Berhan graduated in 1963 from Haile Selassie I University Tewolde...

    , Scientist and Environmentalist
  • Sebhat Guèbrè-Egziabhér
    Sebhat Guèbrè-Egziabhér
    Sebhat Guèbrè-Egziabhér is an Ethiopian writer. He was born in 1928 in Tigray region near the historical town of Adwa in a village called Erba gered. He has published works of fiction and non fiction in French and Amharic...

    , Writer
  • Abune Paulos
    Abune Paulos
    Abune Paulos is Abuna and Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church . His full title is "His Holiness Abuna Paulos, Fifth Patriarch and Catholicos of Ethiopia, Ichege of the See of St...

    , Patriarch
  • Abay Tsehaye
    Abay Tsehaye
    Abay Tsehaye is the Minister of Federal Affairs of Ethiopia. The field of work of his ministry includes police functions and Addis Ababa city administration.Born at Axum, he attended high school in Mek'ele, afterwards attended Addis Abeba University...

    , Politician
  • Abuna Yesehaq
    Abuna Yesehaq
    Abuna Yesehaq, born Laike Maryam Mandefro in Adwa, Ethiopia, 1933; died 29 December 2005 Newark, New Jersey, was a leader of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in the Western hemisphere....

  • Meles Zenawi
    Meles Zenawi
    Meles Zenawi Asres is the Prime Minister of Ethiopia. Since 1985, he has been chairman of the Tigrayan Peoples' Liberation Front , and is currently head of the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front .Meles was born in Adwa, Tigray in Northern Ethiopia, to an Ethiopian father from...

    , Prime Minister
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