Ethiopia Tour 1:
Axum


I toured Ethiopia in the summer of 2001, during the rainy season. This fact will become apparent in the pictures below. Ethiopia is a country full of history and color where people will go out of their way to help you, sometimes a bit too far out of their way, but that's Ethiopia.


The Ethiopian National Anthem
(playing);



Ethiopia



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Axum


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Ethiopian civilization starts with Axum. A group of Semitic immigrants arrived around 400 BC and mixed their culture with theirs of the native Africans. Thus, the Axumites were racially, culturally, and linguistically, a mix between the Middle East and Africa. Indeed, the clerical language of Ethiopia, Gaez, has Semitic routes.

Responding to this culture mix, Axum became a strong kingdom in the hills of Northern Ethiopian. The kingdom of Axum gradually emerged as one of the great empires of the old world, dominating Red Sea trade and trading with places as far as India, Greece, and Egypt.

The Kingdom reached a certain apogee with the crowning of the Queen of Sheba. The Queen travelled to Israel. Allegedly, the Ethiopian royal line comes from an illicit union between her and King Solomon. Later, their son, Menelik, the Ethiopians, brought back the Arc of the Covenant to Axum. Certainly, during the Queen's time, the Queen controlled modern, northern Ethiopia as well as Yemen on the other side. The church that holds the arc, St. Mary Xion, is considered the mother church of Ethiopia. Ethiopian Judaism dates from the Queen.

The Axumite kingdom eventually converted to Christianity. Seven later foreign saints did the bulk of the converting, and each of them built at least one famous, hilltop chapel. Later great men included St. Yared who created not only his own philsophy but also his own system of musical notation, ten tone, still used in Ethiopia today. As time went on, the people of Axum, the Tigre and Tigriyana, of upper Ethiopia and Eritrea, gradually spread their religion and culture southward through conquest and conversions.

With the rise of Islam, the Axumite Kingdom declined. This occurred despite the fact that even 100 years earlier, under King Caleb, the Axumites ruled a good deal of Saudi Arabia. Due to the Axumites' kindness in treating some Moslem refugees, the Prophet Mohammad forbade a direct attack against the Axumites. However, when the Yemenites and Somalia converted to Islam, this cut off Axum from its trade routes. The conquest of Egypt isolated Axum from the great Orthodox powers, such as Byzantium.

The end of Axum came with the Jewish Falasha Queen Judith in the 10th Century. A hater of Christianity, she encouraged all the Falasha to arise, she took great efforts to wipe up all signs of Orthodoxy, destroying monasteries and churches, the heart, not only of Axumite religion, but its culture. While Judith undoubtedly led the attacks, many other subject peoples arose with the Falasha, and undoubtedly some were either Orthodox Christians or pagans. After her death, Axum remained a regional capital and, later, as a symbolic center of the Orthodox Church. Real power, however, shifted southward.

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AXUM
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Queen of Sheba's Palace. Yes, in fact, it is. Ethiopia began long before her time. .

The author with the Palace.

King Caleb's tomb. King Caleb brought the empire to its height.

This shows one of the many tunnels that connected the kingdom.
This one leads, reportedly, to Eritrea, miles away.

This is the Queen of Sheba's bath.

Another view.

Still another view.

This is the real burial place of King Caleb circa 400 AD.

This is the sole standing pillar of Axum.

This pillar broke or was broken. Note how it resembles a multi-story building.

This shows, again, the below-surface tombs.

Typically, the tomb consists of a single block.

High on a mountain, the Pentaleon monastery.

This Ethiopian Bible, at the monastery, dates from the era of Axum.

This four hundred-year-old Bible dates from the era of Gondar.

Jesus on the Cross and Mary with Jesus. Note how the figures appear African.

The patriarch with the cross of the monastery along with other crowns.

Imperial margarine can do this to you. See, I'm a bit too big-headed for this.

The view from the monastery.

The hills are alive with the sound of music.

A view of the city of Axum.

Another view: note the large dome which is Haile Selassie's church next to St. Mary Zion.

This is St. Mary Zion, the "Mother Church" of all of those in Ethiopia.

This building supposedly holds the Arc of the Covenant.

Raiders of the Lost Arc should go here.

Various crowns of kings and prelates: some of them date from Axumite times.

Here are some copies of older pictures in the Selassie church.

Haile Selassie's church. Like all Ethiopian churches, it holds a copy of the Ark.

The church patriarchs with the Seven Saints who spread Christianity in Ehtiopia.

The streets of Axum today.

The modern market of Axum.

Here are some Falasha artifacts. Under Judith's leadership, and with many allies, they supposedly brought down declining Axum.

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Related Ethiopian Tours:
Back to Tour 4: Gondar and Addis Adaba
On to Tour 2: Lalibela

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