The northern Ethiopia ancient city of Axum , regarded as the cradle of Ethiopian culture and Christianity, is the country’s oldest extant urban settlement. From around 200 BC to 700 AD, Axum was the seat of an empire that extended across the Red Sea to Arabia, traded with India and China , had its own alphabet, constructed great engineering works and which, in the 4 th century, was one of the four great powers of the world.
After its conversion to Christianity, early in the fourth century, Axum also emerged as an important religious centre, site of the country’s most important and revered Church of St Mary of Tseyon, which, according to Ethiopian tradition, is the repository of the biblical Ark of the Covenant.
Once the capital and a major religious center, it remains the site of quite startling antiquities; the 2000 years old mysterious monolithic stelae, hewn from single pieces of solid granite and carved to resemble multi-story houses, ever worked on by humanity anywhere in the world; subterranean stone tombs high enough to walk in; several palaces including ruins of the legendary Queen of Sheba’s palace and bath; special gold-silver-and-bronze currencies; multilingual tablets dating from the time of Christ – and much more besides.
There are several places of interest that can be visited as a straightforward day trips from Axum most notably the ruins at Yeha , found amidst imposing mountain scenery, which is the site of the country’s most ancient dating back to pre-Christianity times temple, a remarkable huge stone structure, and of a fine and richly endowed Ethiopian church of more modern times. More over the ancient cliff top monastery of Debre Damo and the town of Adwa are among the several attractive sites that can be covered within a day excursion.