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Travel to Italy: Rome : Photo 5

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Closer still.  After decades of promising in 1947 to return it to Ethiopia, the authorities finally took action.  As of May, 2004, the stele had been taken down and packed in three boxes sitting at Fiumicino airport.  Vittorio Sgarbi, an art critic and deputy minister for culture in the Berlusconi government explained to a reporter that "Ethiopia was part of Italy at the time, so the obelisk can't have been stolen, can it?"  Then why return it?  His reply: "we are only giving it back to them because they are pathetic paupers."   (April, 2005: the stele, cut into three segments so it could be airfreighted, arrived at Axum. From the BBC on the 19th: "I am excited, overjoyed and delighted," said Ethiopian Culture Minister Teshome Toga. This is a very historical moment for us, we have waited so long to have the obelisk back," he said. Abebe Alenayehu, 81, watched Italian troops seize the obelisk from Axum, but never expected to be alive to witness its return. "The memory still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth," he told the Associated Press news agency. "Every day for the last 67 years I have thought about the obelisk.")



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