Axum Things to Do

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    THE CROWNS OF AXUM

    by DAO Written May 16, 2007

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    QUEEN SHEBA'S BATH

    by DAO Written May 13, 2007

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    Yeha

    by SirRichard Written May 6, 2007

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    Yeha is an archeological site not far from Aksum. You can get there on a daytrip and, although most people go with tour agencies or in private cars, you can reach it by public bus if you stop at the road junction and hitchike the following 4-5 kilometres till Yeha.
    There are 2 things to see: an anodine orthodox monastery and the ruins of a temple (see pic). This ancient temple is one of the most mysterious places in Ethiopia. It's a huge square building (only the walls remain) built in the middle of nothing (no other building or ruin around) by an unknown people. It is believed to have been built by arab architects coming from Yemen, but it's very little known of its origins. Is one of the oldest temples in Ethiopia.

    The temple (see people behind to realize size)
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    St. Mary of Zion Church

    by SirRichard Written May 6, 2007

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    This is the other main attraction of the city, specially for religious people. Apart from being a pilgrimage place for ethiopian orthodoxs, this is the place where the ethiopians assure the Ark of the Covenants is kept, since it was brought here to keep it safe after the destruction of Salomon Temple in Jerusalem. Belive it or not, you can't check it, as entrance to the holy building where the ark is kept is forbidden and images of it are not allowed.
    The entrance to the place is rather expensive, and there is really not much to see inside. The old church is nice, but nothing compared with Gonder's Debre Selassie church. And the nodern church, built in the times of Haile Selassie, is nothing special.
    Anyway, there is a back door which, in theory, is not open to the tourists, just to pilgrims (free entrance of course), but if there is nobody around you can enter and have a quick look around... if you know what I mean :-)

    The church from outside
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    The Stellae Fields

    by SirRichard Written May 6, 2007

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    Probably the main attraction in Aksum are the Stellae Fields, specially the North Field, the one next to St. Mary of Zion Church. This huge monolithic stones are in fact funerery monuments, erected by ancient kings who wnated to be remembered. There are about 10-12 monoliths in this area. These gian obelisks were built in the early times of the kingdom, around 1700 years ago.
    The place is an UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

    A general view
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    St. Mary of Zion Church

    by leonik Written Sep 16, 2005

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    Where the legendary Ark of the Covenant is supposedly held now... (as shown in the 2nd picture)

    No one is allowed to see it, except for the guardian priest. Only he gets to see it... and he doesn't let anyone in!

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    Queen of Sheba's bath...

    by leonik Written Sep 16, 2005

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    Nothing much of interest but this was reputedly where Queen of Sheba (or Dungur) used to bathe...

    Now, local women and children do their laundry in it.

    The guide told me that locals believe the pool is cursed as many children have drowned in the waters before...

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    Northern Stelae Field

    by leonik Updated Sep 16, 2005

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    Many mysterious stelaes abound in this field in the center of Axum town.

    One of the obelisks, looted by Mussolini during the Italian occupation, has been returned to Axum earlier in 2005... "Homecoming of the Axum Obelisk 2005"

    It had been broken into 2 pieces and will be put together again and it'll be put back in the Northern Stelae Field park where it used to stand...

    No one knows how these stelaes were made to stand! Some say it was the powers of the Ark of the Covenant (now reputedly housed in the St. Mary of Zion church, just opposite the field...) that made it stand upright.

    The number of levels of windows show how many levels-deep the tomb has below ground... e.g. 9 "stories" of windows on the stelae = 9 floors below ground where it stands.

    No one has determined for sure what these obelisks are for anyway... a possible theory is that they probably mark possible tombs beneath it.

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    Maryam Tsion Church Complex

    by frockland Updated Sep 4, 2004

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    The Maryam Tsion Church was built on site of a former church complex that was destroyed by the Muslims in the 16th century. The style is similar to the Gondar castles because it was built by Fassilidas.
    Within the complex is the most holy religious artefact of Ethiopia stored: The Arc Of The Convent. It was smuggles from Jerusalem to here by Menelik I but noone is allowed to have an eye on it.

    The entrance fee is a hefty 60 Birr and women are not allowed to enter the compound. Haile Selassie was responsible for the construction of the ugly modern church.

    Maryam Tsion Church

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    Trilingual Tablet

    by frockland Updated Sep 4, 2004

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    In the 1980th a farmer discovered this trilingual tablet when he was working on the field. The tablet was produced during the reign of King Ezana and says that everybody will die an unexpected death who moves it. Its still in the same position how it was found but a small house was erected around it to protect the tablet.

    Trilingual tablet

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    Stellae Field

    by frockland Updated Sep 4, 2004

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    The largest stelae field is behind the museum and the large granite monoliths give everybody an impression about how rich the ancient empires had been. The fallen down stelae is the world`s largest monolith and measures 30 metres. Probably all the blocks were brought here from a nearby quarry but its still not clear how they were erected. and why the large one fell down.

    The world largest monolith

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    Queen Of Sheba`s Pool

    by frockland Updated Sep 4, 2004

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    Five minutes from the stelae field is Mai Shum or better known as the Queen Sheba`s Pool. It’s a water reservoir and maybe the queen was bathing in there or not, who knows? Nowadays kids swim in there and cattle likes to drink out of it.

    Mai Shum

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    Rock-hewn church

    by sachara Updated May 26, 2004

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    In Ethiopia you can find three types of rock-hewn churches.
    The most famous ones of Lalibela are totally hewn out of the rocks. The churches of Tigray, between Adrigat and Mekele, are half hewn out of the rocks.
    This church near Aksum foms a contra mould with the churches in Lalibela.

    To enter the church, you have to descend in this cross-formed hole. The whole church is underground. The door to the church will be opened only once a year, during the Timkat festival.

    rock-hewn church near Aksum
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    Rock church & tombs

    by sachara Updated May 26, 2004

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    From the Northern Stelae Park you can take the road up to the north east. It's a nice road to walk, edged by agaves. It can be extremely hot, so go early in the morning or take a taxi up and walk down.

    En route, at the west side of the track, you will see a small building. By stepping on a stone, you can have a look inside through the very small windows and see a pillar with King Ezane's inscriptions.

    About 1,5 KM from the park you can find the ruins of the tombs of Kings Kaleb & Gebre Meskel. With a ticket (bought at the Archaeological Museum downtown) you can enter this ancient site. Otherwise you can have a look over the wall and have an overview of the ruins.

    Nearby is a rockhewn church, not mentioned in the travelguides.

    road to tombs of kings Kaleb & Gebre Meskel
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    The Great Stele

    by sachara Updated May 26, 2004

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    The great stele at the Northern Stelae Park in Aksum measures 33 M and is supposed to be the largest monolyth, that ever is attempted to be erect.

    Once it was believed that this stele has stood, but investigations in 1998 say that it toppled over as it was being erected. So this broken stele of the 4th century lies down for ever.

    Some people call the downfall of this stele, sabotaged or not, a permanent reminder of the defeat of paganism by Christianity

    The Great Stele
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