Aksum is a place of legend in ancient Ethiopian culture. A resting place of kings and queens dating back to biblical times, the reign of the mysterious Queen Sheba and the alleged resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. For those wishing to live out Tomb Raider fantasies, this is a great place to start!
Aksum was once a great kingdom dating back 3000 years, controlling the Red Sea trade routes from india and the east, to the mediterranean. Today the town itself is just a simple place, but it is under its surface where the true treasures lie. A place of new discoveries for archaeologists, only around 10% of it’s secrets have been found, and an amazing 90% of ancient hidden palaces, tombs and stelae are awaiting discovery.
On a regular basis, farmers digging on their land are finding more and more sites to be excavated, and the Ethiopian government are moving them of their lands for archaeologists to move in.
As a tourist it is great walking between all the stelae and tombs, especially the tombs as it has a sense of foreboding about them. Descending into the dark entrances to the tombs, an eerie feeling takes over, not for those scared of the dark. Or for those scared of ghosts, for that matter! It is almost essential to take a guide there, as there are so many hidden away in peoples backyards, it would be impossible to see them all!
I f you believe all this stuff, in Ethiopian legend, it is believed that when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and Solomon’s temple, King Solomon’s and Queen Sheba’s son, rescued the Ark of the Covenant and brought it to Ethiopia. And nowadays the Ethiopian orthodox church, claims that it is hidden inside a church in Aksum, where only one priest is allowed to see it.
Kind of convenient that only one person is allowed to see it, as they could easily prove to the world they have it, by letting it be seen and examined by professionals. But if you ask most Ethiopian Christians, they believe they have the real Ark.
For those who loved Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the lost Ark, visiting Aksum does live out some of those fantasies! To visit on a limited time it is best to fly from Addis Ababa, as to get here by bus is hard and long (see previous post!), taking around 20 hours from the capital. If doing the historical circuit of northern Ethiopia, you would pass through here on that loop, by bus or by plane. So go watch Tomb Raider and Raiders of the lost Ark, and come see Aksum!