Aksum

Aksum, Tigray, Ethiopia

Overview

The ruins of the ancient city of Aksum mark the location of the heart of ancient Ethiopia, when the Kingdom of Aksum was the most powerful state between the Eastern Roman Empire and Persia. The massive ruins, dating from between the 1st and the 13th century A.D., include monolithic obelisks, giant stelae, royal tombs and the ruins of ancient castles. The Axumites erected a number of large stelae, which served a religious purpose in pre-Christian times. One of these granite columns is the largest such structure in the world, standing at 30m. Long after its political decline in the 10th century, Ethiopian emperors continued to be crowned in Aksum.

See & Do

  • Church of St. Mary of Zion. Ethiopian legend has it that the Church is the repository of the Ark of the Covenant (the subject of the controversial book The Sign and the Seal), which is said to have been stolen (with God’s will) from the temple of Jerusalem by Menelik I, Solomon’s own son by the legendary Queen of Sheba. The chapel in which the Ark is kept is not accessible to anyone, even the Ethiopian emperors. The expensive entrance fee to the church compound deters most; sometimes the guards let you have a look from the outside without having to pay. There are two churches in the compound: the old church, which was built by Emperor Fasiladas in 1665, and a new church built in the 1960s by Haile Selassie. Pilgrims flock to the church for a festival on Hidar 21 (30 Nov).
  • Northern Stelae Field including the Ezana Stele and the Giant Stele. The numerous monolithic stelae are fashioned out of solid granite. Their mystery lies in that it is not known exactly by whom, and for what purpose, they were fashioned, although they were likely associated with burials of great emperors. The biggest monolith (and the largest in the world), measuring over 33m (108 ft) and weighing about 500 tonnes, fell somewhere around the 4th Century AD and now lies in broken fragments on the ground. The second largest, which measures 24m (78 ft) high, is still standing at the entrance to the field, although it is leaning at a slight angle. Another stele, 24.8m (80 ft) high, fell while the tombs were being pillaged around the 10th Century AD. It was stolen by the invading forces of Fascist Italy and taken to Rome, where it stood, from 1937 to 2005. It was returned to Aksum and re-erected in 2008. The Tomb of the False Door is very impressive with its accurate workmanship.
  • Palace of the Queen of Sheba: only the foundations of this palace near the Judith stelae field remain. Although everyone calls it the Palace of the Queen of Sheba, it actually dates from the 7th Century AD, about 1500 years after the time of the Queen of Sheba.
  • Lioness of Gobedra, a stone carving of a lion, a few kms out of town in the direction of Shire. It is close to the quarry where the stelae were made. Ask a local to show you where.
  • The tombs of the kings Kaleb and Gebre Meskel, a 20-minute walk along the road heading northeast from the northern stelae field. Impressive foundations and tombs. Take a torch.
  • Ezanas Scriptures on the way from the northern stelae field to the tombs of the kings Kaleb and Gebre Meskel, usually closed. Wait for the keybearer.
  • Judith (Gudit) Stelae Field out of town in the direction of Shire, of inferior quality in comparison to the Northern Stelae Field.
  • Ezana Park, where there is another multilingual script table of King Ezana.
  • Archaelogical Museum a collection of stone artefacts giving you an idea how advanced the culture was.
  • Monastery of Abba Pantaleon (Abba Penalewan). The monastery overlooks the city, features relics and interesting artwork. It is a bit difficult to reach. Men only.

 

Getting Here

By Air: There are daily flights from Addis Ababa to the small and rural, but well-functioning, Aksum airport. Some flights are direct, others make stops along the way. At the airport, there will be taxis eager to drive you into town. Many hotels also offer van service to and from the airport.

By Bus: Buses from Addis Ababa take a minimum of three days to travel via Dessie and Mekele. It is a very taxing ride over rough roads.

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Overview

The ruins of the ancient city of Aksum mark the location of the heart of ancient Ethiopia, when the Kingdom of Aksum was the most powerful state between the Eastern Roman Empire and Persia. The massive ruins, dating from between the 1st and the 13th century A.D., include monolithic obelisks, giant stelae, royal tombs and the ruins of ancient castles. The Axumites erected a number of large stelae, which served a religious purpose in pre-Christian times. One of these granite columns is the largest such structure in the world, standing at 30m. Long after its political decline in the 10th century, Ethiopian emperors continued to be crowned in Aksum.

See & Do

  • Church of St. Mary of Zion. Ethiopian legend has it that the Church is the repository of the Ark of the Covenant (the subject of the controversial book The Sign and the Seal), which is said to have been stolen (with God’s will) from the temple of Jerusalem by Menelik I, Solomon’s own son by the legendary Queen of Sheba. The chapel in which the Ark is kept is not accessible to anyone, even the Ethiopian emperors. The expensive entrance fee to the church compound deters most; sometimes the guards let you have a look from the outside without having to pay. There are two churches in the compound: the old church, which was built by Emperor Fasiladas in 1665, and a new church built in the 1960s by Haile Selassie. Pilgrims flock to the church for a festival on Hidar 21 (30 Nov).
  • Northern Stelae Field including the Ezana Stele and the Giant Stele. The numerous monolithic stelae are fashioned out of solid granite. Their mystery lies in that it is not known exactly by whom, and for what purpose, they were fashioned, although they were likely associated with burials of great emperors. The biggest monolith (and the largest in the world), measuring over 33m (108 ft) and weighing about 500 tonnes, fell somewhere around the 4th Century AD and now lies in broken fragments on the ground. The second largest, which measures 24m (78 ft) high, is still standing at the entrance to the field, although it is leaning at a slight angle. Another stele, 24.8m (80 ft) high, fell while the tombs were being pillaged around the 10th Century AD. It was stolen by the invading forces of Fascist Italy and taken to Rome, where it stood, from 1937 to 2005. It was returned to Aksum and re-erected in 2008. The Tomb of the False Door is very impressive with its accurate workmanship.
  • Palace of the Queen of Sheba: only the foundations of this palace near the Judith stelae field remain. Although everyone calls it the Palace of the Queen of Sheba, it actually dates from the 7th Century AD, about 1500 years after the time of the Queen of Sheba.
  • Lioness of Gobedra, a stone carving of a lion, a few kms out of town in the direction of Shire. It is close to the quarry where the stelae were made. Ask a local to show you where.
  • The tombs of the kings Kaleb and Gebre Meskel, a 20-minute walk along the road heading northeast from the northern stelae field. Impressive foundations and tombs. Take a torch.
  • Ezanas Scriptures on the way from the northern stelae field to the tombs of the kings Kaleb and Gebre Meskel, usually closed. Wait for the keybearer.
  • Judith (Gudit) Stelae Field out of town in the direction of Shire, of inferior quality in comparison to the Northern Stelae Field.
  • Ezana Park, where there is another multilingual script table of King Ezana.
  • Archaelogical Museum a collection of stone artefacts giving you an idea how advanced the culture was.
  • Monastery of Abba Pantaleon (Abba Penalewan). The monastery overlooks the city, features relics and interesting artwork. It is a bit difficult to reach. Men only.

 

Getting Here

By Air: There are daily flights from Addis Ababa to the small and rural, but well-functioning, Aksum airport. Some flights are direct, others make stops along the way. At the airport, there will be taxis eager to drive you into town. Many hotels also offer van service to and from the airport.

By Bus: Buses from Addis Ababa take a minimum of three days to travel via Dessie and Mekele. It is a very taxing ride over rough roads.

Overview

The ruins of the ancient city of Aksum mark the location of the heart of ancient Ethiopia, when the Kingdom of Aksum was the most powerful state between the Eastern Roman Empire and Persia. The massive ruins, dating from between the 1st and the 13th century A.D., include monolithic obelisks, giant stelae, royal tombs and the ruins of ancient castles. The Axumites erected a number of large stelae, which served a religious purpose in pre-Christian times. One of these granite columns is the largest such structure in the world, standing at 30m. Long after its political decline in the 10th century, Ethiopian emperors continued to be crowned in Aksum.

See & Do

  • Church of St. Mary of Zion. Ethiopian legend has it that the Church is the repository of the Ark of the Covenant (the subject of the controversial book The Sign and the Seal), which is said to have been stolen (with God’s will) from the temple of Jerusalem by Menelik I, Solomon’s own son by the legendary Queen of Sheba. The chapel in which the Ark is kept is not accessible to anyone, even the Ethiopian emperors. The expensive entrance fee to the church compound deters most; sometimes the guards let you have a look from the outside without having to pay. There are two churches in the compound: the old church, which was built by Emperor Fasiladas in 1665, and a new church built in the 1960s by Haile Selassie. Pilgrims flock to the church for a festival on Hidar 21 (30 Nov).
  • Northern Stelae Field including the Ezana Stele and the Giant Stele. The numerous monolithic stelae are fashioned out of solid granite. Their mystery lies in that it is not known exactly by whom, and for what purpose, they were fashioned, although they were likely associated with burials of great emperors. The biggest monolith (and the largest in the world), measuring over 33m (108 ft) and weighing about 500 tonnes, fell somewhere around the 4th Century AD and now lies in broken fragments on the ground. The second largest, which measures 24m (78 ft) high, is still standing at the entrance to the field, although it is leaning at a slight angle. Another stele, 24.8m (80 ft) high, fell while the tombs were being pillaged around the 10th Century AD. It was stolen by the invading forces of Fascist Italy and taken to Rome, where it stood, from 1937 to 2005. It was returned to Aksum and re-erected in 2008. The Tomb of the False Door is very impressive with its accurate workmanship.
  • Palace of the Queen of Sheba: only the foundations of this palace near the Judith stelae field remain. Although everyone calls it the Palace of the Queen of Sheba, it actually dates from the 7th Century AD, about 1500 years after the time of the Queen of Sheba.
  • Lioness of Gobedra, a stone carving of a lion, a few kms out of town in the direction of Shire. It is close to the quarry where the stelae were made. Ask a local to show you where.
  • The tombs of the kings Kaleb and Gebre Meskel, a 20-minute walk along the road heading northeast from the northern stelae field. Impressive foundations and tombs. Take a torch.
  • Ezanas Scriptures on the way from the northern stelae field to the tombs of the kings Kaleb and Gebre Meskel, usually closed. Wait for the keybearer.
  • Judith (Gudit) Stelae Field out of town in the direction of Shire, of inferior quality in comparison to the Northern Stelae Field.
  • Ezana Park, where there is another multilingual script table of King Ezana.
  • Archaelogical Museum a collection of stone artefacts giving you an idea how advanced the culture was.
  • Monastery of Abba Pantaleon (Abba Penalewan). The monastery overlooks the city, features relics and interesting artwork. It is a bit difficult to reach. Men only.

 

Getting Here

By Air: There are daily flights from Addis Ababa to the small and rural, but well-functioning, Aksum airport. Some flights are direct, others make stops along the way. At the airport, there will be taxis eager to drive you into town. Many hotels also offer van service to and from the airport.

By Bus: Buses from Addis Ababa take a minimum of three days to travel via Dessie and Mekele. It is a very taxing ride over rough roads.


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    Overview

    The ruins of the ancient city of Aksum mark the location of the heart of ancient Ethiopia, when the Kingdom of Aksum was the most powerful state between the Eastern Roman Empire and Persia. The massive ruins, dating from between the 1st and the 13th century A.D., include monolithic obelisks, giant stelae, royal tombs and the ruins of ancient castles. The Axumites erected a number of large stelae, which served a religious purpose in pre-Christian times. One of these granite columns is the largest such structure in the world, standing at 30m. Long after its political decline in the 10th century, Ethiopian emperors continued to be crowned in Aksum.

    See & Do

    • Church of St. Mary of Zion. Ethiopian legend has it that the Church is the repository of the Ark of the Covenant (the subject of the controversial book The Sign and the Seal), which is said to have been stolen (with God’s will) from the temple of Jerusalem by Menelik I, Solomon’s own son by the legendary Queen of Sheba. The chapel in which the Ark is kept is not accessible to anyone, even the Ethiopian emperors. The expensive entrance fee to the church compound deters most; sometimes the guards let you have a look from the outside without having to pay. There are two churches in the compound: the old church, which was built by Emperor Fasiladas in 1665, and a new church built in the 1960s by Haile Selassie. Pilgrims flock to the church for a festival on Hidar 21 (30 Nov).
    • Northern Stelae Field including the Ezana Stele and the Giant Stele. The numerous monolithic stelae are fashioned out of solid granite. Their mystery lies in that it is not known exactly by whom, and for what purpose, they were fashioned, although they were likely associated with burials of great emperors. The biggest monolith (and the largest in the world), measuring over 33m (108 ft) and weighing about 500 tonnes, fell somewhere around the 4th Century AD and now lies in broken fragments on the ground. The second largest, which measures 24m (78 ft) high, is still standing at the entrance to the field, although it is leaning at a slight angle. Another stele, 24.8m (80 ft) high, fell while the tombs were being pillaged around the 10th Century AD. It was stolen by the invading forces of Fascist Italy and taken to Rome, where it stood, from 1937 to 2005. It was returned to Aksum and re-erected in 2008. The Tomb of the False Door is very impressive with its accurate workmanship.
    • Palace of the Queen of Sheba: only the foundations of this palace near the Judith stelae field remain. Although everyone calls it the Palace of the Queen of Sheba, it actually dates from the 7th Century AD, about 1500 years after the time of the Queen of Sheba.
    • Lioness of Gobedra, a stone carving of a lion, a few kms out of town in the direction of Shire. It is close to the quarry where the stelae were made. Ask a local to show you where.
    • The tombs of the kings Kaleb and Gebre Meskel, a 20-minute walk along the road heading northeast from the northern stelae field. Impressive foundations and tombs. Take a torch.
    • Ezanas Scriptures on the way from the northern stelae field to the tombs of the kings Kaleb and Gebre Meskel, usually closed. Wait for the keybearer.
    • Judith (Gudit) Stelae Field out of town in the direction of Shire, of inferior quality in comparison to the Northern Stelae Field.
    • Ezana Park, where there is another multilingual script table of King Ezana.
    • Archaelogical Museum a collection of stone artefacts giving you an idea how advanced the culture was.
    • Monastery of Abba Pantaleon (Abba Penalewan). The monastery overlooks the city, features relics and interesting artwork. It is a bit difficult to reach. Men only.

     

    Getting Here

    By Air: There are daily flights from Addis Ababa to the small and rural, but well-functioning, Aksum airport. Some flights are direct, others make stops along the way. At the airport, there will be taxis eager to drive you into town. Many hotels also offer van service to and from the airport.

    By Bus: Buses from Addis Ababa take a minimum of three days to travel via Dessie and Mekele. It is a very taxing ride over rough roads.