Why visit Axum?

Axum is one of the most culturally significant places in Ethiopia. As with much of Ethiopia, exploring this town is to walk the tightrope between facts and legends, and no doubt the local guides will try and sway you towards the latter. That's all part of the fun. 

Axum is most famous for its Stelae field, where giant obelisks rise dozens of metres into the sky. These incredible structures became a UNESCO World Heritage site back in 1980. They have fascinating history dating back to 400 BCE. 

Axum is less built up than many of the towns in the north of Ethiopia, and the lack of quality hotels here mean most visits are kept to just one night. The stelae and the nearby churches can be explored in an afternoon, and Axum is ideally located as a springboard further into Tigray for overnights at Gheralta Lodge or Korkor Lodge where you can explore the churches of Tigray. Similarly, it's often placed right before or after an expedition into the Danakil Depression. 

Axum

Exploring the city

As the home to the Queen of Sheba and the Ark of the Covenant – artifact of Moses’ 10 commandments – Axum is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in northern African, dating back to 400 BC.  A quick trip to the north of the city one will quickly discover the stelae field of various monuments that were carved and erected in the 4th century, known as the Obelisks of Axum. The proud pillars, each over 1,700 years old, 24 meters tall, made of solid granite and some weighing over 160 tons, are impressive sights to behold.

In the same area, researchers have uncovered a number of tombs in Axum since the 1970s, but sadly many had been plundered by tomb raiders and only one such grave, The Tomb of the False Door, is now open to visitors.

Do not miss the Church of St. Mary of Zion. This is the most sacred of shrines in the whole of Ethiopia, not only does St. Mary’s host the Ark of the Covenant but also offers up an impressive history, again dating back some 1,700 years. 

This World Heritage site is often referred to as “Abyssinia” in medieval texts and is considered the heart of ancient Ethiopia. It is a marvel of obelisks, ruins of castles, undiscovered tombs, beautiful churches and other cultural treasures spanning several centuries and embracing different religions.

Axum

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