Historic Destinations and Attractions in Ethiopia
Axum is found in the mountainous land of Tigray region northern part of Ethiopia which lies about 1,024 km north of Addis Ababa. It was the capital of Kingdom of Axumite next to Yeha. One of the powerful state which flourished its power till the present day of the Red Sea,and whole horn of Africa, including Yemen. The power of Axum was based largely on trade due to its proximity to the Red Sea in the north east and the Indian Ocean coastal trade routes to the south. Romans, Persians, China’s, Greeks, Arabs and Indians where known to have good relations with Axumites.
Axum is one of the worlds ancient civilizations that is clearly seen today. There influence of religion, economic, political, and social development has reflected great impact for today’s Ethiopia. The Axumite kingdom reign from 1B.C to 10th A.D. even it extends to 10th B.C with the fabled Queen of Sheba. Axum is the 1st place to built church on the soil of Africa, blessed town for the sanctuary of Ark of Covenant, and it is the holiest city of the Ethiopian Orthodox faith.
The city of Axum is famous for its historical relics of monolithic stele park, palaces, the church of St.Mary (Zion), sanctuary of Ark of Covenant, Museum, tombs of kings etc. A visit to Axum means a discovery of history back to 500 B.C.
Al Nejashi Mosque
Negashi is some 10 km away from Wukro town in Tigary region that lies on the plateau commanding a magnificent view of the surrounding area. “Negashi” got its name from Tigre word called Negash or Negus meaning Nejashi the variant word of Arabs.
The history of Negash Mosque begins from the 7th c A.D as of the faith of Islam. The early followers of Prophet Mohammed were harshly persecuted by Quersh tribe of the mercantile ruler of Mecca. In order to maintain the very several of his religion the Prophet had to seek a fate hind out for his followers “under lithe a country within no one is wronged a land of righteousness, depart thither and remain until it please”.
The ruler of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) guaranteed asylum to the first eleven men and four women refugees. Then after lived & settled in peace in Ethiopia until they returned back to their home land. Therefore; Negashi mosque represents the first hand foot print of Islamic faith in Ethiopia and the world since more than 1,300 years ago.
Tigray Rock Hewn Churches
There are hundreds of rock hewn churches over the mountains of Tigray. The rock hewn churches are found in sand stone escarpments; stone built villages and cave churches in Gheralta, Timben, Hawezien, Atsibidera, Genta Afeshum, and Wukro and in many other places scattered unevenly. They vary from their modifications that roughly hewn out, beautifully elaborate wall murals and they are hidden in valleys, cliff faces and indeed, mountaintops.
They are predates Lalibela to 4th c even more. The town of Hawizen is a base exploring these churches to any direction. Some of these churches are found in scenery of mountains, difficult ascent; others are famous for their stone workmanship, ancient paintings and manuscripts.
The most numerous clusters of churches, carved into the rocky face of the mountains in the Gerhalta area, which lies to the south of Hawizen. Such great churches as Abuna Yemata, Mariam Korkor, Daniel Korkor, Debre Tsion, Yohannes Maequddi, Abraha Atsebha, Abuna Gebre Michael, and Silasse Degum are in the very heart of this cliff. This group includes some of the most stunningly situated churches anywhere in Ethiopia.
Yeha is situated 50km drive from east of Axum. It is another historic places adorned with an attractive rock pillars and buildings. The temple of Yeha is the oldest standing structure in Ethiopia and was the largest pre- Christian Temple. It was ancient capital of Sabeans where the founder of Axumite kingdom (in the pre- Axumite time). It was once a place where great civilizations dominated.
Yeha is constructed by the huge stone without the use of Mortal. This is a tower built in Sabean style and dated back 500B.C some prevails more with one side of its walls in ruin, is still intact and testifies to the advanced level of the people of those times.
The imposing ruins of Yeha temple is rectangular edifice. Though it is roofless and upper storey’s the ruins stand some twelve meters in height. The outer face edge and corners are superbly dressed with great precision in reflection of limestone as evening falls and the sun setting.
The town of Lalibela is found 776 km north of Addis Ababa in mountains central highland part of Ethiopia. It was the capital of Zagwe Dynasty for three hundred years. Roha was its former name before it was renamed after King Lalibela.
Being unofficial “eighth wonder of the world” Lalibela hosts the world’s most unique outstanding sacred sites: eleven rock hewn churches, each carved entirely out of a single block of granite with its roof at ground level. They lie between the east and west of river Jordan. The churches entirely separated from the surrounding rock by deep trenches as they are excavated.
As Lalibela is renowned destination it’s also still today a place of pilgrimage and devotion. Each of the churches separated from the surrounding rock by tunnel. King Lalibela has curved the churches with different arts that catch’s you in Bete Medhanlem the roof decorated with Greeks style of Temple, an Axumite style in Bete Emanuel and Aba Libanos and Bete Giyorgis prefect as nowhere you can find it. Others also stand with their own unique characters. Most of them, the roof, also natural, is bit lower than the surrounding plateau, and is decorated with relief ornaments on the top.
Religious ritual is central to the life of the town, especially crowds of singing and dancing priests during Ethiopian Christmas and Epiphany. These extraordinary religious art and rock architecture gives the town of lalibela a distinctively timeless, almost Biblical atmosphere.
Debre Damo Monastery
Debre Damo Monastery is found on the isolated flat topped mountain in northern part of Tigray some 85km east of Axum. It is the oldest existing a 6th c and the 1st monastery in Ethiopia. The mountain is steeply raising plateau of rectangular shape, about 1000 by 400 meters in dimension.
The monastery built in Axumite style with curved wood panels, painted ceilings and walls dedicated to Saint (Abune) Aregawi one of Nine Saints” who came to Ethiopia from Syria to spread Christianity. After that the history of Debre Damo is related with Saint Aregawi who settled on the top of mountain.
The Monastery is known for its magnificent view and extensive collections of priceless manuscripts. The monastery is only accessible by climbing up by a rope, which is made of “plaited leather”, lowered from the cliffs, which visitors tie around their waist and are then pulled up by a monk at the top of the cliffs. It is only accessible to men and male animals.
Gonder was the 17th century capital of Ethiopia during the reign of Emperor Fasilades. It was emerged the largest permanent capital of Ethiopia next to Axum and Lalibela. It was an important the nerve centre of administrative, commercial, cultural and religious until the middle of nineteenth century.
The city’s unique imperial compound contains a number of castles built between 1632 and 1755 by various Emperors who reigned during this period. The first notable castle was built Emperor Fasiladaes and he established the tradition that enhanced by his successors too. These dramatic castles, unlike any other African, display richness in architecture.
During period of Gondarine the city is flourished as the metropolis of art, music and learning; have subsequently marked Ethiopian architecture in a long –lasting manner.
That picturesque in the Royal Enclosure, from which the Emperors once reigned. The most famous buildings in the city lie in the Royal Enclosure, which include Fasilades castle, Iyasu’s palace, Dawit Hall, a banqueting hall, stables, Mentewab’s castle, a chancellery, and library. Near the city lies Fasilades’ bath (a place of where the annual ceremony of Epiphany (Timket) conducted), Debre Birhan Selassie church, the Qusquam complex and the eighteenth century Ras Mikael Sehul’s Palace are other attractions.
Gondar nowadays one of the world heritage site of Ethiopia and well charming touristic city that you can taste the impressive medieval art, music and culture that still intact with them.
Lake Tana is the largest lake of Ethiopia that occupies an area of 3600 km and crossed by the longest river of the world which is Blue Nile. The city of Bahirdar is base for lake islands, the majestic falls of Blue Nile which is located 560 km of Addis Ababa, in the south eastern shore of Lake Tana and Gondar. It came into important trade and commercial centre since 18th c to Gondar and its surroundings. Apart from its scenic beauty and serves as a celebrated tourist destination, today it is one of the most administrative centers of the Region.
From Bahirdar one must explore some of the ancient monasteries that have been built in the islands of Lake Tana. It hosts the fabled Blue Nile (most spectacular feature: the Tis Isat waterfalls), the beautiful Creator Lake of Tana and 14th century Island monasteries. The colorful local market at Bahir Dar is renowned for its weavers and wood workers are additional sites.
The islands still function some of the oldest and most beautiful Ethiopia’s glorious art and treasures. Some of the monasteries include Daga Stephan’s with its priceless collections of icons, as well as the remains of several medieval emperors, Kibran Gebraiel, Ura Kidane Mhiret, Debre Mariam, Tana Kirkos, Azuwa Mariam etc. with its famous frescoes.
The city of Harar is an ancient and Islamic holy place since 1520 and found 528km east of Addis Ababa. The city is famous for its ancient building, great walls and as centre of learning Muslim scholarship. That leads to be strong Muslim sultanate came into power. Harar has been ruled by seventy two successive Imams since its formation.
Today, Harar next Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem is one of the main Muslims pilgrims site in the world. The city is well known for its superb handicrafts that include woven, textiles, basket ware, silverware and handsomely bound books. The exciting market also one of the most colorful in Ethiopia which you can see different tribes altogether.
In this walled and old town, more than 90 mosques are built and are still service active. And with all its uniqueness, the town is known by locals as “Jegol”, a name everybody notices. Because of this UNSECO registered the city as the world heritage.