If all goes to plan, operations to re-erect Ethiopias ancient obelisk in the northern city of Axum should be completed by the end of this year, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Italian engineer Giorgio Croci, who is overseeing the project for the UN agency, told a recent press conference in Addis Ababa that the first step is to prepare the foundations and the structure for levering the obelisk into position. This is due to be completed before the end of the rainy season in mid-September, when the reinstallation of the stele will begin. The total cost of the operation will be $4 million, which is being paid for by the Italian government.

The 1,700-year-old stele was removed in 1937 during the Italian occupation and transported to Italy, where it stood in central Rome for almost 70 years before being dismantled under pressure from the Ethiopian government and flown back home in April 2005. Founded in 100 BC and the one-time capital of a vast kingdom, Axum has been on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites since 1980.