Axum or Aksum (አክሱም) is a city and separate woreda in northern Ethiopia that was the original capital of the kingdom of Axum . It has a population of 56,500 (2010). Axum was a naval and trading power that ruled the region from about 400 BC into the 10th century. The kingdom was also arbitrarily identified as Abyssinia, Ethiopia, and India in medieval writings. In 1980 UNESCO added Aksum’s archaeological sites to its list of World Heritage Sites due to their historical value.Located in the Mehakelegnaw Zone of the Tigray Region near the base of the Adwa mountains, Axum has an elevation of 2,131 meters. Axum is surrounded by La’ilay Maychew woreda. Axum was the center of the marine trading power known as the Aksumite Kingdom, which predated the earliest mentions in Roman Era writings. Around 356, its ruler was converted to Christianity by Frumentius. Later, under the reign of Kaleb , Axum was a quasi-ally of Byzantium against the Persian Empire . The historical record is unclear, primary sources limited mainly to ancient church records.
It is believed it began a long slow decline after the 7th century due partly to Islamic groups contesting trade routes. Eventually Aksum was cut off from its principal markets in Alexandria , Byzantium and Southern Europe and its trade share was captured by Arab traders of the era. The Kingdom of Aksum was finally destroyed by Gudit , and eventually the people of Aksum were forced south and their civilization declined. As the kingdom’s power declined so did the influence of the city, which is believed to have lost population in the decline similar to Rome and other cities thrust away from the flow of world events. The last known (nominal) king to reign was crowned c. 10th century, but the kingdom’s influence and power ended long before that.
Its decline in population and trade then contributed to the shift of the power center of the Ethiopian Empire so that it moved further inland and bequeathed its alternative place name (Ethiopia) to the region, and eventually, the modern state.During the times of the Axum empire, Azana also held his own against war with the Persia and Byzantine empires. Axum with good hotel and daily flight by Ethiopian Airlines from Addis Ababa ,1,005 Km to the north ,is northern most stop along the route,and the site of Ethiopia’s most ancient city. It is renowned for its Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion where,as legend has it the original Ark of the covenant is housed .Axum is also famous for its seven mysterious monolithic Stella ,all made of single pieces of granite ,and there with identical decorations .The biggest of these ,measuring thirty-three meters and weighing over 500 tones,was the largest monolith in the world but fell at some remote period in the past .En route to Axum you will pass Ras Dashen which ,at 4,620 meters ,is Africa’s forth highest mountain .
Lalibela The last stop will be in the route is Lalibela ,642 km from Addis Ababa ,with good hotels and with daily flights by Ethiopian Airlines.Though not much more than a village now.Lalibela is internationally –renowned for its rock-hewn churches which are sometimes called the “Eighth Wonder of the World” physically praised from the rock in which they stand ,these towering edifices seem to be of superhuman creation in scale, workmanship and concept.
Lalibela is a town in northern Ethiopia that is famous for its monolithic rock -cut churches. Lalibela is one of Ethiopia’s holiest cities, second only to Aksum, and is a center of Pilgrimage for much of the country. Unlike Aksum, the population of Lalibela is almost completely Ethiopia Orthodox Christian . The layout and names of the major buildings in Lalibela are widely accepted, especially by the local clergy, to be a symbolic representation of Jerusalem . This has led some experts to date the current form of its churches to the years following the capture of Jerusalem in 1187 by the Muslim soldier Saladin .
Lalibela is Located in the Semin Wollo Zone of the Amhara ethnic division (or kilil) at 2,500 meters above sea level , It is the main town in Last woreda, which was formerly part of Bugna woreda.
During the reign of Saint Gebre Mesqel Lalibela (a member of the Zagwe Dynasty , who ruled Ethiopia in the late 12th century and early 13th century) the current town of Lalibela was known as Roha. The saintly king was given this name due to a swarm of bees said to have surrounded him at his birth, which his mother took as a sign of his future reign as Emperor of Ethiopia . The names of several places in the modern town and the general layout of the rock-cut churches themselves are said to mimic names and patterns observed by Lalibela during the time he spent in Jerusalem and the Holy Land as a youth.
Lalibela is said to have seen Jerusalem and then attempted to build a new Jerusalem as his capital in response to the capture of old Jerusalem by Muslims in 1187. As such, many features have Biblical names – even the town’s river is known as the River Jordan. It remained the capital of Ethiopia from the late 12th century and into the 13th century.
The first European to see these churches was the Portuguese explorer Pero da Covilha (1460–1526). Portuguese priest Francisco Álvares’ (1465–1540), who accompanied the Portuguese Ambassador on his visit to Lebna Dengel in the 1520s. His description of these structures concludes:
I weary of writing more about these buildings, because it seems to me that I shall not be believed if I write more … I swear by God, in Whose power I am, that all I have written is the truth Priest with cross at Lalibela Although Ramuso included plans of several of these churches in his 1550 printing of Álvares’ book, it is not known who supplied him the drawings. The next reported European visitor to Lalibela was Miguel de Castanhoso, who served as a soldier under Christovao da Game and left Ethiopia in 1544.
After de Castanhoso, over 300 years passed until the next European, Gerhard Rohlfs , visited Lalibela at some time between 1865 and 1870.According to the Futuh al-Habasa of Sihab ad-Din Ahmad, Ahmad Gragn burned one of the churches of Lalibela during his invasion of Ethiopia. However, Richard Prankurst has expressed his skepticism about this event, pointing out that although Sihab ad-Din Ahmad provides a detailed description of a rock-hewn church (“It was carved out of the mountain. Its pillars were likewise cut from the mountain.,only one church is mentioned; Pankhurst adds that “what is special about Lalibela (as every tourist knows) is that it is the site of eleven or so rock churches, not just one – and they are all within more or less a stone’s throw of each other!”Pankhurst also notes that the Royal Chronicles, which mention Ahmad Gragn’s laying waste to the district between July and September 1531, are silent about the Imam ravaging the fabled churches of this city. He concludes with stating that had Ahmad Gragn burned a church at Lalibela, it was most likely Bete Medhane Alem; and if the Muslim army was either mistaken or misled by the locals, then the church he set fire to was Gannata Maryam, “10 miles east of Lalibela which likewise has a colonnade of pillars cut from the mountain”
Gondar 748 km along the route from the capital you will come to Gondar which is also served daily by Ethiopian Airlines and has some good hotels .The oldest and most impressive of Gondar’s many imperial structures isthe place of Emperor Fasildas ,said to have been built by an Indian architect.There are also numerous other fascinating historical buildings and relics tobe seen in the area. One of the most spectacular painted churches inEthiopia,Debre Berhan Selassie can be seen here .
Negash, a village in the Tigray region is known as the earliest Muslim settlement in Africa ;a seven century cemetery has been excavated inside the village boundaries .Negash is also known for the NegashAmedin Mesgid (Mosque) .The first Hijra occurred in 615 when a band of muslimwere conseled by Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) to escape Makkah and travel to thekingdom of Axum ,which was ruled by a Christian king and they settled in Negash.
Harar Off the oval-shaped ,almost north-south historical route,is Harar,515 km due east of Addis Ababa .While the town has a reasonable hotel,most people prefer to stay in Dire Dawa,54 km away along the road to Addis Ababa .The most dominant feature of Harar are its strong encircling walls which tightly embrace the town ,its rich and exciting market place-probably the most colorful in Ethiopia-and its 99 mosques .Harar is believed to be the 4th holiest city in Islam ,after Makkah ,Madinah and Jerusalem.Ancient walled city of Harar, was a major commercial center in the east of Ethiopia for many centuries. Earlier Harar could be reached only by a long caravan journey, now the city is an hour drive from Dire Dawa a modern Ethiopian railway town, with an international airport and several first class hotels. Highway trip from Dire Dawa to Harar, provides a delightful journey with panoramic views. The Ahmar Mountains produce some of the best coffee in Ethiopia. This medieval walled city, is a city of mosques, minarets, colorful markets, center of Islam religion in Ethiopia. Walled city of Harar is considered by many Muslims to be the fourth Holy City, following Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. The city was a ferociously Islam religion center and was forbidden to visitors, until 1887 King Menelik restored central rule. Harar has a pleasant climate, attractive countryside and is a hassle free place.
Harar stands on the eastern wall of the Great Rift Valley, the location gives wonderful views of vast Danakil desert to the north, Harar mountains to the west and the plains of Ogaden to the south.The prime attraction of Harar is the Old Walled city center, you can enter the city by road through Harar Gate and can follow a main road to Feres Magala Square where you’ll find a guide. The road that runs east from the square next to the Church of Mehane Alem leads to Erer Gate which is the site of the Chat Market, along this road is the 16th century domed tomb of Emir Nur, the Harar Museum and the Tourist Office.If you are walking towards Erer Gate, the road to the right, opposite Misrak Arbegnoch Hospital, will take you to what is allegedly the house of Arthur Rimbaud, a French poet who moved to Harar in 1880. The house has unusual architecture, frescoed ceiling and great views over the town. Ask your guide to show you the inside of a Harari house, these have a unique design with an open ground floor dominated by a carpet-draped raised area where social activity takes place.