Aksum (Ethiopia)

According to Programingplease, Aksum is one of the main historical sights of Ethiopia. The city is located in the very north of the country near the border with Eritrea in the Adua Mountains at an altitude of 2130 m. Aksum is the capital of the first powerful state of the Ethiopian highlands – the Aksumite kingdom. The city was founded by Menelik I, who, according to legend, was the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. It was in Aksum in the 4th century AD. Christianity was declared the state religion. Aksum is considered the location of the main shrine of the Jewish people – the Ark of the Covenant. It is believed that Menelik I took it out of Jerusalem and placed it under the Aksumite church of the Virgin Mary. For its historical legacy Aksum in 1980 it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Today, Aksum is the most visited historical site in Ethiopia.

The best preserved from the buildings of the Aksumite kingdom are stelae – huge pillars made of granite monoliths. It is believed that steles in ancient times were erected on the graves of members of the royal family. The largest number of stelae is found in the Northern Archaeological Park. Here you can see the remains of a huge stele of the 3rd-4th centuries, which collapsed immediately after construction. If the 33-meter stele had survived to this day, then it would be the highest monolith in the world. Nearby stands the tallest surviving stelae of Aksum – the 24-meter Obelisk of Aksum.. This granite monolith was erected in the 3rd century, but in 1937, during the occupation of Ethiopia by the Italians, Mussolini ordered the antique monument to be taken to Italy. Only in 2008 the stele was returned from Italy to its historical place. The obelisk has a weight of 160 tons and is completely covered with patterns. Also in the North Park you can see the Stele of King Ezana with a height of 21 m and about a dozen other steles.

Opposite the North Park is the temple complex of the Virgin Mary. It was erected in 1665 on the site of an older temple, which was built in the 4th century under King Ezana. Legend has it that it is under this temple that the Ark of the Covenant is located, containing the stone tablets of Moses with the Ten Commandments. The Ark of the Covenant was transported to Ethiopia from Jerusalem by Menelik I. Because of its sacred relic, the temple became the site of the coronation of Ethiopian emperors. Nowadays, every year during the holiday of Maksal, at the end of the rainy season, a copy of the Ark of the Covenant is taken out from a small chapel of 1965, standing in the middle of the temple complex. Also at the temple there is a museum, where collections of bibles, crosses and church robes are presented.

Moreover, in Aksum of interest are the Ezana stone with inscriptions in ancient languages, the archaeological and ethnographic museums, the tomb of King Bazin, the remains of the palace of the Queen of Sheba, the baths of the Queen of Sheba, where the religious holiday – Epiphany (Timkat) is celebrated, and the ruins of ancient palaces.

Northeast of Aksum is the oldest city in Ethiopia – Yeha. It was built in 800 BC. and is now a fine example of the architecture of pre-Aksumite Ethiopia. In Yeha, the ruins of the Temple of the Moon have been preserved. It is believed that it was erected in the 5th century BC. On the site of the ancient temple, you can see the 10-meter walls of the hall, 20 meters long and 15 meters wide. Many archaeological finds of Yehi are now displayed in the National Museum in Addis Ababa.

76 km from Aksum in the mountains on a high rock is the monastery of Debre Damo. According to legend, the monastery was built in the 6th century AD by the Syrian monk Abyun Aregawi, who came to these parts in order to preach Christianity. Since its founding, Debre Damo has become one of three places in the Ethiopian highlands where men of imperial blood were kept, who were taken into custody to avoid intra-dynastic struggle for the throne. Another similar monastery is located nearby on Mount Vekhni. From the ancient monastery complex, only the main temple has survived to this day, which is the oldest in Ethiopia.. The interior of the temple is decorated with wood carvings and frescoes. Here you can see images of animals and motifs based on the legend of the foundation of the monastery by the monk Aregavi. Also, the oldest manuscripts of Ethiopia have been preserved in the monastery. Women are not allowed to visit Debre Damo. In order to get to the monastery, you need to climb a steep 20-meter cliff on a rope. A monk, standing on top of a cliff, lowers a rope for tourists, which must be wrapped around their waist, and helps tourists climb up.

Aksum (Ethiopia)