Axum, a city in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, has a long and illustrious history and is home to many important cultural artefacts. One of the most important and long-lasting civilizations in the Horn of Africa, the Aksumite Kingdom, had its capital there for hundreds of years. There are many historical and cultural landmarks in the city that were built during the time of this ancient empire and are likely to create an indelible effect on tourists.
The mythical Ark of the Covenant, given to Ethiopia by Menelik, son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, is at the centre of Axum’s cultural legacy. The Tablet is said to be kept at the Chapel of the Tablet at the St. Mary of Zion church complex in downtown Jerusalem. There is a chapel dedicated to the legendary Queen of Sheba as well as the grave of King Kaleb within the same religious complex.
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee recognised Axum’s cultural value and included it to their list of protected sites across the world. Some of the most impressive of these are the ancient stelae that dot the cityscape and mark the resting places of Aksumite nobility. The Great Stele is the tallest at over 23 metres, and it is also one of the heaviest at almost 520 tonnes, making it one of the biggest single slabs of stone ever mined by human hands.
Axum is rich in more than only religious architecture and stelae, though. The city is also home to a number of important historical monuments, such as the remains of the Aksumite palace and the spectacular cliff-side monastery complex of Debre Damo, which can only be reached by a narrow rope bridge.
Axum is a good starting point for seeing the rest of the Tigray area, with its iconic rock-hewn cathedrals in Lalibela and its beautiful castle complex in Gondar. Visitors can easily reach some of the region’s top beaches and coastal communities because to the city’s proximity to the Red Sea.
History of Axum also known as Aksum
Located in northern Ethiopia, the city of Axum holds considerable cultural and historical value. Once the seat of the Axumite Kingdom, one of the ancient world’s most powerful trading states, this location served as a crossroads for trade between Yemen and the Horn of Africa via the Red Sea. The emergence and collapse of the Axumite Kingdom, which flourished from the third century BCE to the tenth century CE, are crucial to the tale of Axum.
The story of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon is one of Axum’s most popular and lasting myths. Legend has it that the original Ark of the Covenant was carried to Ethiopia by Menelik, King Solomon’s son from his relationship with the Queen of Sheba. This sacred artefact is supposed to be kept in the Chapel of the Tablet at St. Mary of Zion Church in Axum and holds great significance for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Axum was profoundly affected by the introduction of Christianity and Islam. King Ezana of the Axumite Kingdom became one of the earliest converts to Christianity in all of sub-Saharan Africa in the fourth century CE. The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela and the Tigray churches are only two examples of Ethiopia’s ancient Christian communities that may be found in Axum. The 7th century saw the introduction of Islam, and from then until the 16th century, Axum was governed by many Muslim sultanates.
As one of Ethiopia’s most significant archaeological sites, Axum has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Several historical sites dating back to the Axumite Kingdom can be found in and around the city. These include the stelae field and the tomb of King Kaleb. Debre Damo, in Axum, is home to one of Ethiopia’s oldest monasteries and is only reachable through a rope and basket system.
Handicrafts, traditional music and dance, and old languages like Ge’ez are all part of the city’s cultural inheritance from the ancient Axumite civilisation. The Axumite Museum of Antiquities and the Church Museum are only two of the many museums and historical sites open to the public in Axum. The actual Ark of the Covenant is supposed to be kept safe in the Chapel of the Tablet, which tourists can also see.
Things to Do and See in Axum
The Ethiopian city of Axum is a cultural and historical treasure. Travellers interested in history, culture, or adventure will all find something of interest in Axum.
Seeing the Axum Obelisks and the Stelae Park is a must if you’re in the area. These gigantic obelisks made of granite are among of the oldest surviving monoliths, dating back to the third and fourth centuries. The Great Stele, the highest of the obelisks at 33 metres, collapsed in the fourth century. However, several other stelae in the park have also undergone restoration.
Dungur and Yeha, two ancient cities, are also worth seeing while in Axum. The Aksumite king Kaleb constructed the Dungur temple in the sixth century. Yeha, on the other hand, is a pre-Aksumite cultural hub and one of the earliest cities in Ethiopia. The Moon Temple, the Sun Temple, and other historical landmarks are all located in ruins here.
Those curious about the reigns of the ancient kings of Axumite should definitely check out the ancient tombs and ruins. Many Axumite kings, such as King Kaleb and King Gebre Meskel, are buried in these tombs and ruins. One of the most well-known people in Ethiopian folklore and history, the Queen of Sheba, had a palace here that visitors may still see today.
Travellers interested in learning more about the history and culture of Northern Ethiopia should pay a visit to the Monastery of Debre Damo. The only way to reach this historic monastery is by climbing a rope to the top of a mountain. The monastery is a must-see for art and history buffs because to its stunning paintings, manuscripts, and crosses.
The rock-hewn churches of Tigray, not far from Axum, are another major attraction. These rock-hewn cathedrals in Tigray are proof of the ancient Ethiopians’ inventiveness and artistic prowess.
Finally, travellers visiting Axum shouldn’t pass up the chance to see Lalibela, another site recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The rock-hewn churches of this city are often regarded as the finest specimens of mediaeval architecture anywhere in the world. Several handicraft markets sell traditional Ethiopian textiles, pottery, and other handmade items to tourists in Lalibela.
Other Attractions around Axum Ethiopia
Axum’s historical landmarks and cultural experiences are intriguing, but there’s so much more to see and do in and around this amazing Ethiopian city.
Northern Ethiopia is renowned for its breathtaking landscape. There are several mountain ranges, valleys, and hills in the area. The scenery here is ideal for hikers, climbers, and explorers, since it offers a wide variety of terrains and activities. Mountains and rocky terrain provide a dramatic background for your adventures in the Tigray area, which is noted for its particularly attractive surroundings.
There is a wide variety of opportunities for travel in the Horn of Africa. You may travel over the Red Sea to Yemen or head west to Eritrea for some sightseeing. Unique food, traditional music, and bustling marketplaces are just some of the cultural offerings in both countries.
Adigrat, Mekele, and Remhai are additional interesting options for day trips in the vicinity. Adigrat is a thriving commercial centre with a rich cultural heritage. Mekele, Tigray’s capital, is a progressive metropolis with a flourishing cultural scene and a growing coffee culture. Remhai, on the other hand, is a sleepy rural hamlet that showcases authentic Ethiopian culture.
You won’t be let down if you want to find out more about the local fabrics and handiwork. The area has a long history of textile production, and many skilled craftsmen continue this legacy today. If you’re interested in learning more about the history and craftsmanship behind the region’s beautiful textiles, a visit to a weaving workshop or one of the many local markets is a great place to start.
How to Get to Axum
Travelling to Axum? There are numerous modes of transportation at your disposal.
Travelling to Axum by air is the most time-efficient option. The city of Axum is home to its own airport, conveniently placed a short distance from the downtown area. Addis Abeba and the rest of Ethiopia’s major cities are served by frequent flights on Ethiopian carriers and other local carriers.
If you’d rather take the bus or a cab, you may easily go from Axum to any other city in Ethiopia. Road conditions in Ethiopia might be difficult, therefore it’s important to choose a trustworthy transport provider.
Best time to visit Axum
Choosing the ideal time to come is crucial if you want to truly experience Axum’s wonder and beauty. The best time to tour this ancient city is in the dry season, which lasts from October to May. The weather is pleasant and warm throughout this season, making it simpler to see the many ancient sites and ruins without being constrained by bad weather. Sunny days, chilly temperatures, and low humidity levels characterise this season.
The June to September rainy season is characterised by a lot of rain, floods, and slick roadways. Due to flooding and other weather-related dangers, entry to some of the sites in and around Axum may not be available during this time of year. Travel might also be challenging. Rains make the area surrounding Axum lush and beautiful, but they may also make it difficult to travel on the narrow roads and steep slopes.
It is important to remember that those who decide to travel during the rainy season may benefit in various ways. The vegetation re-emerges with fresh growth, transforming the surrounding area into a vivid sea of greens. Rainfall is also frequently accompanied with less crowds, reduced rates, and improved lodging availability, making it a fantastic choice for travellers on a tight budget.
Visitors to Axum should be aware of Ethiopia’s admission regulations as well. Visitors must have a passport that is valid for at least six months after the date of entrance in order to enter the nation. Additionally, visitors must possess a current visa, which can be acquired from an embassy or consulate of Ethiopia. Additionally, a visa may be acquired at Bole International Airport in Addis Abeba, the nation of Ethiopia’s capital.
Accommodation for tourists to Axum
Due to its rich history and cultural significance, Axum receives a large influx of visitors every year. This has resulted in a wide variety of places to stay within and beyond the city, catering to visitors of varying means and inclinations.
Sabean International Hotel is a great choice for individuals in need of a five-star hotel in Axum. It’s a luxury hotel with a prime downtown location, complete with a pool, spa, and fitness centre. There’s a restaurant there, too, where you can have both Western and local Ethiopian cuisine. Rooms are large and nicely appointed, guaranteeing a relaxing stay.
The Axum Hotel is another excellent choice; it’s about a 5-minute walk from the historic Stelae Park. The hotel has a lovely garden and an outdoor pool, and the rooms have all the conveniences of home like air conditioning, satellite TV, and free Wi-Fi.
There are also plenty of low-cost lodgings in Axum. The Africa Hotel is a good example of a hotel that doesn’t skimp on comfort to keep costs down. It’s a 2-star hotel that’s conveniently positioned near several of Axum’s top sights. This motel has clean, comfortable accommodations and a helpful, cordial staff.
Sabean Guest House is another great low-cost alternative that’s conveniently close to the heart of town. It’s a great value for the money, and the rooms are clean and pleasant.
The Yeha Hotel is great for individuals who would rather stay in a lodge. Located in Yeha, about 35 km from Axum, is a lodge. The lodge’s tranquil setting, amidst verdant foliage, is ideal for relaxation. The rooms are comfortable and have contemporary furnishings and conveniences.
In conclusion, visitors may find a variety of hotel alternatives in Axum to meet their needs and budgets. There is a wide range of accommodation options, from five-star hotels to more modest guesthouses and cabins. Especially during busier times of year, booking in advance is a good idea to avoid disappointment and save money.
Ethiopian cuisine in Axum
Visitors to the city should sample the local food to get a sense of how different Ethiopian flavours differ from other cuisines. Axum is a melting pot of flavours. Injera, a sourdough flatbread produced from teff flour and eaten with a variety of stews and sauces, is one of the most well-liked foods to taste. Tibs, a tasty meal comprised of sautéed pork, veggies, and spices, is another dish you should try. Visitors should also sample shiro, a hearty stew cooked with ground wide beans, chickpeas, or lentils and flavoured with berbere and garlic.
Ethiopia is well known for its flavorful and fragrant coffee, and Axum is no exception. Numerous cafes in the city serve some of the best coffee in the nation. The Sabean International Coffee Shop, one of the most well-liked cafés, is renowned for its fragrant coffee and welcoming atmosphere. The Black Gold Coffee Shop, which provides a selection of coffee blends and delectable treats, is another excellent choice.
Axum’s greatest traditional Ethiopian food may be found at the Yeha Hotel, which is a great choice for tourists seeking a more premium experience. Tibs, shiro, and kitfo, a fiery beef tartare, are just a few of the dishes the restaurant serves that are prepared with fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
There are several tiny cafés and restaurants that offer wonderful Ethiopian food at reasonable costs for people who are on a tight budget. For instance, the popular Axum Restaurant serves a variety of traditional meals including injera, tibs, and shiro. The Tukul Restaurant is another excellent choice; it offers delectable Ethiopian food in a relaxed setting.
What is Axum and where is it located?
Axum is an ancient city located in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. It was once the capital of the powerful Axumite Kingdom, which ruled over much of what is now Ethiopia and Eritrea from around the 1st to 7th centuries AD. Today, Axum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its archaeological sites and ancient monuments.
What is the significance of the Ark of the Covenant in Axum?
According to local legend, the original Ark of the Covenant, which contains the tablets of the Ten Commandments, is kept in the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Axum. This has made Axum a popular destination for pilgrims and tourists interested in religious history. While the authenticity of this claim is debated, the church remains an important site for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians.
What are some historical sites to visit in Axum?
Axum is home to many historical sites and ancient monuments, including the obelisks at the Stelae Park, the ruins of the ancient palace of the Queen of Sheba, and the Tomb of King Kaleb. Visitors can also explore the Monastery of Debre Damo, which is located on top of a steep cliff and is accessible only by a rope and leather ladder.
How can I get to Axum from Addis Ababa?
The easiest way to get to Axum from Addis Ababa is by plane. Ethiopian Airlines offers daily flights from Addis Ababa to the town of Mekele, which is the closest major city to Axum. From Mekele, visitors can hire a car or take a bus to Axum.
What traditional Ethiopian dishes can I try in Axum? Axum, like many parts of Ethiopia, is known for its unique and flavorful cuisine. Some traditional dishes to try include injera (a sourdough flatbread), tibs (sauteed meat or vegetables), and kitfo (a raw beef dish similar to steak tartare). Visitors can find these dishes and more at local restaurants and cafes throughout Axum.
Where can I find the best coffee in Axum?
Ethiopia is famous for its high-quality coffee, and Axum is no exception. Visitors can enjoy a cup of locally grown and roasted coffee at one of the many cafes and coffee shops in town. For an even more authentic experience, visitors can visit a local coffee ceremony, which is a traditional Ethiopian ritual for preparing and serving coffee.
Are there any hotels or lodges in Axum? Yes, there are several hotels and lodges in Axum, ranging from budget to luxury accommodations. Some popular options include the Ethiopia Hotel, the Yeha Hotel, and the Axumite Heritage Hotel. Visitors can also find more budget-friendly options, such as guesthouses and hostels.
What is the Queen of Sheba’s Bath and where can I find it?
The Queen of Sheba’s Bath is a historical site located in Axum that is said to have been used by the Queen of Sheba herself. The bath is a large pool carved out of solid rock, with steps leading down into the water. While the exact origins of the bath are unknown, it is believed to date back to ancient times and is a popular site for visitors interested in historical and cultural tourism.
What are some other places to visit in Northern Ethiopia besides Axum?
Northern Ethiopia is home to many other historical and cultural sites besides Axum. Some popular destinations include Lalibela, which is famous for its rock-hewn churches, and Gondar, which was once the capital of Ethiopia and is home to many ancient castles and ruins. Visitors can also explore the Tigray region, which is known for its many monasteries and archaeological sites.
What is the history of the Axumite Kingdom and its significance in sub-Saharan Africa?
From from the first century AD until the tenth century AD, the Axumite Kingdom was a prehistoric kingdom that ruled across what is now Ethiopia. It was a significant trade nation and contributed significantly to the spread of Christianity in sub-Saharan Africa. Axum, one of Africa’s oldest continually inhabited towns, served as the kingdom’s capital. The stelae and obelisks that are still visible at Axum are only two examples of the spectacular structures that the Axumite Kingdom is renowned for. The kingdom began to fall following the introduction of Islam, and in the tenth century it was finally incorporated into the Ethiopian Empire. The Axumite Kingdom was a significant aspect of Ethiopian history and culture despite its brief existence.