Aksum sometimes spelt Axum was the centre of the Aksumite Empire which was one of the four great powers of the ancient world. The kingdom was at the crossroads of the three continents: Africa, Arabia and the Greco-Roman World. They controlled the ivory trade from Sudan and patrolled the coast along the Red Sea controlling trade. The site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.

 

The ruins of the ancient Aksumite Civilization covered a wide area in the Tigray Plateau. Today visitors can discover the remnants of this civilisation in the form of massive rock obelisks, impressive tombs and the reputed bath of the Queen of Sheba. The largest standing obelisk rises to a height of over 23 meters and is exquisitely carved to represent a nine-storey building of the Aksumites. It stands at the entrance of the main stelae area. The largest obelisk of some 33 meters long lies where it fell, perhaps during the process of erection.

 

Visitors can visit the Church of St Mary which dates from the 16th century but is built on a church that dates to the 4th century AD. Ethiopian Christians believe it is the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant a holy Judeo-Christian relic. A series of important stone tablets have helped historians with translation as they have Greek, Sabaean and Ge’ez inscriptions.

 

Access: How to get to Aksum (Axum)

Most clients will include Aksum on a multi-day Ethiopia trip as the trip from Addis Ababa takes about 18 hours by road. There are daily domestic flights from Addis Ababa which take 1 hour 30 min.

 

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