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Axum City Tour

Country: Ethiopia
City: Aksum
Duration: 3 Day(s) - 2 Night(s)
Tour Category: Full Day Tours

Package Itinerary

Did you ever want to know what happened to the Ark of the Covenant? According to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church it is kept in a small chapel on the compound of the Maryam of Tsion Church. Not to be seen by anyone except the guardian monk. After been appointed for this Holy job, he will have spent the rest of his life guarding the Ark.

Axum has been the capital of the ancient Axumite Empire and it is the place where facts and legends still waiting to be unraveled. Legends go back to the time of the Queen of Sheba (known as Makeda in Ethiopia) and King Solomon, around 1000 BC. On record it is first mentioned in the Periplus of the Eritrean Sea in the first century AD. It is believed not more than 20% of the old town is excavated, much is unknown. The archeological sites of Axum have been declared a World Heritage Site.

The Maryam of Tsion Churches

The Maryam of Tsion Churches are considered the most important churches of Ethiopia. The original one is believed to be built during the time of King Ezana, the first Christian king of Ethiopia. At the moment you find a new church build in the 1950's and an old church (only man allowed inside) build in the 17th century.

Chapel with the Ark of the Covenant

Menelik I is believed to be the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. When he visited his father the Ark of the Covenant went missing. It has been taken to Ethiopia. Read all about it in the Kebra Nagast, the glory of the kings.

The biggest annual festival celebrated in Axum, Hidar Tsion, is connected to the presence of the Ark of the Covenant. This very colorful festival attracts thousands of pilgrims from all over Ethiopia. Another big annual festival celebrated in Axum is Hoseana or Palm Sunday.

Axum and Saint Maryam (Mary)

Every first 7 days of the month in the Ethiopian calendar there is an early morning procession to honour Mary. The Tabot (replica of the Ark of the Covenant) is taken out of the Makdas (holy of holiest) and the procession find its way around the compound of the Maryam of Tsion Churches.

The Stelae of Axum

Hundreds of monolithic stelae are found in and around Axum. They are presumed to be grave markers and a few tombs have been excavated. The biggest and most decorated stelae are found at the main stelae field, among them the recently returned Stele from Rome. The fallen Great Stele is one of the largest single piece of stone (520 tonnes) ever worked on in human history.

Nearby the main stelae field you find the beautiful decorated Iyesus church. The biblical story is painted on the outside wall.

Many other interesting historical sites are found in and around Axum. Some are disputably attributed to the Queen of Sheba like the bath and Dungar Palace. Other sites to mention are: The tomb of Basen of which is believed he is Balthazar, one of the three wise man. The tombs of Kaleb and Gebre Meskel, rulers in the 6th century. The trilingual tablet with inscriptions in Ge'ez, Greek and Sabean.

A beautiful walk to the monasteries of Abba Liqanos and Abba Pantaleon (women are not allowed inside), makes a pleasant break from all the history. The market, especially on Saturday, is also worthwhile to visit.

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