Axum “An open Air Museum”
Axum (also spelled as Aksum) is located in the northern tip of Ethiopia. It was believed to be founded in the 2nd century BC after the decline of Yeha and the seat of an empire which extended across the Red Sea to Arabia, traded with India and China, had its own note and notational system, constructed great engineering works and dams.
Queen of Sheba was one of the famous Axumite rulers whose capital and residence was the town of Axum itself. Today in the remains of the queen`s palace; one can see among other things, the bathing rooms, a throne rooms, and a large kitchen of brick ovens. The Old Testament states that the Abyssinian Queen “came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of King Solomon of Jerusalem”. Makeda, as the Queen is known in her country, conceived from King Solomon, and as a result bore him a son, Menelik I, King of Ethiopia. Legend has it that Menelik I, the founder of the Solomonic Dynasty, traveled to Jerusalem to visit his father. Up on his return, he secretly brought the “Original Ark of the Covenant” to Axum. Now it is housed in St. Mary cathedral, the first church in sub Saharan Africa. This ancient city is frequently referred to as “the sacred city of the Ethiopians”. It accepted Christianity as early as the 4th century AD, and almost immediately built the church of St. Mary of Tsion (Zion), the first church in sub Saharan Africa. King Ezana and Frumentius, Ethiopia`s first bishop, played the decisive role in the rapid Christianization of the country. Since then, Axum has become the most revered Christian city of Ethiopia.
Axum is renewed for its seven mysteries monolithic Stelae, which are hewn from single pieces of solid granite. The most notable are carved to resemble multi story houses. The tallest fallen stele is 33.3 meters high and weights 500 tones. The second stolen but returned after 68 years now standing in its original place is 23 meters high, and the third still standing 21 meters stele are found. These structures are the tallest structures on earth carved out of a single rock.
Furthermore, Aksum was the only African state to mint its own currency in ancient times, in the 4thc A.D. Due to all these things, the city has never lost its special apple to the hearts and minds of all Ethiopians.
The fallen Great Stele of Axum
The colossal granite obelisks of Axum provide striking opportunities for thought and speculation. Nobody knows for certain how, when or why they were erected and what mechanisms were deployed in carving and transporting them. Tradition states that the immense powers of elephants were used in moving the stones. ''The steles were erected with the aid of earthen ramps and tremendous human effort,'' guesses Munro-Hay. Professor Richard Pankhurst and Graham Hancock helplessly but perhaps rightly conclude: ''There are no easy answers to such questions, and the visitor today will find his mind turning superstitiously to thoughts of magic, and of the mysterious intervention of the Gods in the affairs of men. '' Nonetheless, these great relics, many of them still standing, are living testimonies to the unparalleled status Axum had once occupied in the world.
Axum accepted Christianity as early as the 4th century AD, and almost immediately built the church of St. Mary of Tsion, The first in Sub-Saharan Africa. King Ezana and Frumentius, Ethiopia’s first Bishop played the decisive role in the rapid Christianization of the country. Since then, Axum has become the most revered Christian city of Ethiopia. For the majority of Ethiopians, Axum is synonymous with Christianity and history.
Window in the stele
Furthermore, Aksum was the only African state to mint its own currency in ancient times. According to Pankhurst and Hancock, Aksum, during the 9th or 10th century, had more than 500 types of coins 170 in gold, 18 in silver, and more than 300 in bronze.
The issue of coinage was a very important propaganda instrument for Aksum, because it was used to convey a message to its neighbors, foe and friend alike, that Aksum was a sovereign state. It also helped to simplify trade.
The city of Aksum was not only a capital and religious center but also a coronation site for Ethiopian kings. King Zara Yaqob (1434-68) was the first king to reintroduce the ancient coronation rites at Axum. Today, Axum is eclipsed by its ancient history. The modernizations are all overshadowed by the, Mai Shum, Queen Sheba's pleasure bath, the Queen's ruined palace, King Kaleb's tomb, and many other legacies of the age-old history, culture, and religion.
Aksum is also very much known for its colorful religious ceremonies. The commemorative day of St. Mary of Zion is among the notable. It occurs every year on the 21st of Hidar (9th of December in most years). The occasion is always accompanied with cultural rituals and dances. Aksum can be reached by plane and land from Mekelle and Addis Ababa.
The Mekelle-Axum roads via Adigrat and Abbi Addi are accompanied by relics adorned with forked environments. As discussed earlier, the region possesses stupendous rock-hewn and mud constructed churches found perched on stone- pinnacles, flat-topped cliffs and mountain sides. The surrounding embraces the obelisks, stele, statues, palaces, thrones, tombs, artistically hewn holes, myths and other reverend places.
Axum Mariam Tsiyon Church
The environment is dotted with hilltop villages intervened with crop-fields and thread like footpaths. There are several accommodations that meet the needs of those in search of beauty.
The area provides an opportunity to share lives with peasants whose ancestors bequeathed the present generation with such wonders. The vicinity that also holds colorful annual religious festivals provides open air markets swathed with rustic charms.
Axum can be approached from the capital city of the country via Gondar. The road that runs between these tourist destinations appears most appealing at around the Tekezze Bridge. The localities, in addition to the dense forest, hold historic relics. Rock-drawings found near the town of Amba Madre and the monastery of Debre Abay is also noteworthy.