about Axum and
The legacy of the Queen of
Sheba lies just below the shifting sands, and churches hewn out of
sheer rock attract wide-eyed tourists. The African nation's
historic route begins in the ancient city of Axum, which dates to
about 100 B.C. This capital city was the first place in Ethiopia
to adopt a new religion -- Christianity. According to the Old Testament,
The Queen of Sheba was born in
Axum, but travelled to
Israel to meet King Solomon. They had a son named Menelik, who
later became the first emperor of Ethiopia. Menelik brought the
original Arc of the Covenant back to Ethiopia from Israel. Today,
the Arc, which once housed the Ten Commandments, remains well
hidden in Axum. It is guarded by a select group of monks, whose
sole commitment is to protect the sacred vessel. Axum is also
known for its massive, towering sculptures that are more than two
thousand years old. Their significance is still under
investigation by archaeologists.
365 kilometres northeast of
lies the town of Axum, Ethiopia's oldest city. Axum dates back
some 2,000 years to when it was the hub of the Axumite Empire. The
Queen of Sheba made it her capital 1000 years before Christ. The
Ethiopian Orthodox Church was founded here in the fourth century
and Axum remains the holiest city of the Ethiopian Orthodox
Queen Sheba's Palace
All that remains now
past glories are the
huge granite stelae
fallen and some
Made of single
blocks of granite,
the tallest stood
over 33 metres high
- the largest
monolith in the
world. The biggest
now standing is 23
section of the 1,700-year old Axum obelisk has arrived back in
Ethiopia, 68 years after it was looted by Italian fascists. Many
Ethiopians see the obelisk as an important national symbol – its
return has been subject to great national anticipation and
excitement. Seized back in 1937 by Italian troops, it was taken
to Rome where it remained, despite a 1947 UN agreement to return
it to Ethiopia. It was eventually dismantled into three pieces
in 2004 in preparation for its journey home, an operation which
is costing Italy an estimated 6 million euros (£4.1 million).
monument is due to be re-erected after the rainy season.
The 16th century
Church of St Mary of
Zion is the holiest
in Ethiopia, and
that the church
Ark of the Covenant,
tables on which
Moses wrote the Ten
Menelik is reputed
to have brought it
Axum, along with 12,000 Jewish children. The Chapel is
by monks, and not
even the President
authority to enter.
The Grave of King
Kaleb and the Grave
of King Gabre, the
of the Queen of
Sheba, and a Museum
are other historical
attractions in the
town. The ruins a
few kilometres out
of town to the north
were once the Palace
of Sheba apparently.
The entrance stairs
and floor plan are
intact and the
Palace had over 50
The entrance ticket
to the sights of
Axum allows only one
entry to each site
but visits may take
place over several
days. It is
essential to bring
your own torch to
view the tombs.
Tel. 750605. Part of the government run Ghion Chain
Axum, c/o Ethiopian Hotel and Spaas Corporation (EHC), PO Box
1263, Addis Ababa, Tel. 152700, Telex 1112.
Africa, close to bus stand has safe parking for cars and
Bazen, Kaleb, Ghenet and
hotels all have a bar and restaurant. There are also plenty of
basic 1 star cafes in town. The Mini Pastry next door to the Kaleb
Hotel has a courtyard.
Getting There and
Ethiopian Airways. Tel. 03-750226/750300, daily flight from Addis
Ababa. The Airport is located very close to town, within walking
distance. If you are visiting other cities, there are special
round trip excursions.
The bus stand in
Axum is right in the centre next to the Big Tree. There
are 2 buses daily to
Asmara, one departs at 0800, the journey is 170 kilometres.
Journey takes 12 hours. Ensure you have a valid Eritrea Visa.
Route from Addis is via Bahar Dar and Gondar and the whole journey
is 1,100 kilometres. Good sealed road to Adigrat. Access is
difficult June-September when the rains are heavy. Allow at least
4 days for the journey there, with stops in Debre Markos, Bahar
Dar and Gondar. There are regular buses running along this route.
the journey takes a full day. It is sometimes necessary to change
buses at Shire (Inda Silase).
If travelling into Eritrea the Rama border post, which is about 1
hour's drive from Axum, opens at 0900. The 120 kilometre journey
between Axum and Adigrat takes 4 hours by bus. There are frequent
minibuses between Axum and Adwa. Close to Adigrat the road climbs
up to over 3,000 metres, offering a view of the highest peak,
Alegua, at 3, 291 metres, and overlooks the Hista River gorge
offering spectacular views.
Tour and Travel Agents
Galaxy Tours office is based at the Yeha Hotel
Experience Ethiopia Tours office is based at the Axum Hotel.
more Tour Operators.