Haile Selassie I - Laws and Government

A Short Biography of Hapte Selassie Tafesse

A Biography written and printed by SEED (Society of Ethiopians Established in Diaspora) in 2013.


Lij Hapte-Selassie Tafesse was born in the 1930 in Addis Ababa. Because of the Italian attempt of colonization in Ethiopia, Hapte-Selassie’s father left Ethiopia and fled to France and Hapte Selassie had to be separated from his family when he was only two years old, and was taken to Greece by a refugee Russian family. In Greece, he completed his elementary and pursued secondary education at Athens college. In 1947, Lij Hapte-Selassie came back to Ethiopia and rejoined with his family. Able to speak only Greek and Russian, he attended Teferi Mekonnen School for a year mainly to learn Amharic language.

After Italy left Ethiopia, Hapte-Selassie’s father became Ethiopia’s ambassador to Egypt which gave Hapte-Selassie an opportunity to travel to Alexandria and reunite with his father. There he attended Victoria College in 1950, where he also learnt French. In 1954, however, Hapte-Selassie left for the United States and entered Carlton College in Northfield, Minnesota, and graduated with B.A. degree in International Relations and Government.

The then Emperor of Ethiopia, His Majesty Haile Selassie I, considering Hapte-Selassie’s gift of language, offered him a job as Assistant Director in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Hapte-Selassie reached the limit of what can be done within his Department and he proposed that a special organ be set up to handle the little developed sector of tourism.

Soon he was transferred from the ministry of foreign affairs to an office under the prime minister’s office with no budget and staff to start his new assignment of establishing and running Ethiopian Tourist & Trading Organization. However, ETTO was formally decreed and with Hapte-Selassie’s sole effort, minimal budget was secured, appropriate office acquired and the necessary staff hired. Consequently, Hapte-Selassie was charged with inventing and organizing all aspects of the tourism industry in Ethiopia from the scratch.

In an effort to raise funds for the sector, Hapte-Selassie then introduced Duty Free Shops and with a personal borrowed money of 25,000 USD he went to Aden for shopping. Luck was with Hapte-Selassie, and all items were sold instantly and within short period of time the Duty Free Shop expanded and became one of the world’s leading duty free businesses and the international weekly magazine – Newsweek, featured it in a full page article as one of the world’s largest duty free enterprises.

Lij Hapte-Selassie’s innovative work continued in introducing the modern concept of tourism to Ethiopia and for creating an image of the country under the slogan ‘Land of 13 Months of Sunshine’. Similarly, he created operational mechanism, services, practices and institutions in the tourism industry such as Ethiopian Tourism Trading Corporation (ETTC), Tour and Travel Operation which created the present pioneer state owned (just privatized recently) tour operator, the present National Tour Operator (NTO), the first tourist class and tourist oriented hotels, the Catering and Tourist Training Institution (CTTI), and many more.

Not only this but Hapte-Selassie produced a range of international standard tourist literature covering all parts of all aspects of the country from taking pictures for posters, to organizing tours operated personally by himself.

In association with Ethiopian Airlines and Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce, Lij Hapte-Selassie took part and played significant role in many national expos and exhibitions held in Addis Ababa, Asmara, Jimma, and elsewhere. Working as travel consultant, Lij Hapte-Selassie took part in the constant modernization and expansion of Ethiopian Airlines. He was also part of the inception and subsequently a member of the organizing commitee for the establishment of both ECA (Economic Commission of Africa) and OAU (Organization of African Unity, the present African Union, AU) in Addis Ababa.

Moreover, he also took Ethiopia and Ethiopian products to international expos in Canada (1967), Japan (1970), and Nairobi (1972) where he conceptualized, designed, constructed ideas and even financed expenses.

Working under the then Ethiopian Tourism Commission, he also played a role in the organization of the Gold Mercury Trade Fair Center and attended and participated in annual tourist trade fairs and conferences held in major cities around the world, such a Miami, Las Vegas, Tokyo, Sydney, France, Athens, Hong Kong, Spain, and others.

Working all this for his country however, Lij Hapte-Selassie was imprisoned in 1974 on 50 false criticisms and was released in 1982 only to continue the job he started.

Lij Hapte-Selassie started tourism industry when tourism was perceived by people as selling the country’s pride and name, and when there were no adequate tourist class hotels and service providers. With the massive improvements of infrastructure, roads, airports, hotels, resorts, communications in the country, which are very encouraging for the development of the industry, Lij Hapte Selassie, now age 81, wonders why tourism in Ethiopia hasn’t achieved at least one million tourists every year.

And that’s the reason why he doesn’t rest from immerging new innovative ideas, even in his pension. And this great man has plenty projects in mind to bring up his country’s reputation, and most recently he started designing quality neckties and scarves with features the country’s beauty paintings and alphabet to promote Ethiopian art in international level.

He is also trying to make Ethiopia host coffee carnival as a country which introduced coffee to the rest of the world which also will generate many tourist numbers.

This never resting man has the hobby of travelling, photographing, playing tennis and swimming and have been awarded on several occasions with medals, decorations, certificates from both past and present Ethiopian governments, and foreign governments for personal service, merit, and participation in major events.

In February 2011, Lij Hapte-Selassie is recognized as ‘the Father of Ethiopian Tourism’ by the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Ministry of Culture and Tourism. True, Lij Hapte-Selassie will always be remembered and respected by generations for his invaluable contributions to where the Ethiopian tourism sector is today.”

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Haile Selassie I - Anecdotes

The Library of Enrico Cerulli

“I had travelled to Ethiopia via Rome and had visited Enrico Cerulli (born 1898), the greatest living master of Ethiopian studies, scholar, diplomat, and proconsul. In that last capacity he had been Vice-Governor General of Ethiopia during two years of the short-lived Fascist occupation. (…) He was then (and, for that matter, has remained ever since) one of the very few foreigners to possess a fluent command of Amharic. When I was received by the Emperor during my 1958 visit, one of his first questions was about Cerulli. In fact, this was the occasion of a royal repartee which I remember very clearly. His Majesty had asked me about my library of Ethiopian books; I told him that it was quite good but could not compare with Cerulli’s splendid collection. ‘Ah’, he replied, ‘but you have bought your books !’ (irso gin matsahifton baganzab gaztawal – in the rather more telling Amharic original).”

(Taken from “The Two Zions”, E.Ullendorff, Oxford 1988, p. 202-203)

Spiritual Poetry

Time Will Tell

will tell
over hell
all matters
His spell
each cell
of illusional
He rings
next bell
a different
I feel
out the well
form the best
can’t quell
like water
that fell
a hard shell
who dwell
trying to repel
the death
that fake
won’t sell
shall rebel
what excel
only that
He compel
to accept
Haile Selassie
the First
Amlake Amalekt
the fact
to kill
the rats
of Gebrièl
news of arts
what befell
to the part
of the infidel ?
Will forget
the carousel
of Noel
cannot stand
the medicine
of Rufaièl
the discipline
the prophet

Ethiopian Icons

Adam and Eve’s Expulsion From Paradise

A seraphim chases away Adam and Hewan from Paradise (Gennete Edom).

They committed their sin on Friday and were expelled in nakedness (while before they were dressing garments of light) at the end of the same day, prophecy of the Crucifiction of Christ and His Entrance into Paradise on Friday.

Although apparently they just took a forbidden fig fruit, their sin was a symbolic concentrate of all human wickedness and rebellion, infringing all the 10 commandments of God:

1) “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” – for Eve ate the fruit with the intention to become God.

2) “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain” – for Eve vainly speak about Him with the satanic snake

3) “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” – for they entered the Sabbath in impurity and sin.

4) “Honor your father and your mother” – for they disrespected the fatherhood of God.

5) “You shall not murder” – for Eve killed his husband giving him the fruit to eat.

6) “You shall not commit adultery” – for Eve was seduced by the devil against the authority of his husband.

7) “You shall not steal” – For they stole the fruit of God against His will.

8 ) “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” – for when God went among them, Adam accused Eve, lying about his own responsibility.

9 and 10) “You shall not covet” – for Eve coveted the power of God.

Ethiopian Icons

The Burial Of Christ

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus wash and embalm the body of the Lord, using Myrrh and Aloes (John 19,39), envelop it in a linen shroud with spices, as it had been prophecied by the Scripture:

“All thy garments smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia” (Psalm 45,8)

Five wise virgins (nuns of Christ) weep for His death: Maryam Mother of God, Mary of Magdala, Mary of Cleophas, Mary of Bethany (sister of Lazarus), and Salome. It is thus realized the gospel parable:

“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise” … “bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut” (Matthew 25). They are considered spiritual wives of Christ.