The Ethiopian epic, the Kibre Negest (Glory of the Kings) tells us that Menelik I, the son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, brought the original Ark of the Covenant from Jerusalem to Axum and thereby established one of the world’s longest known and uninterrupted monarchical dynasties.Impressive ruins, monuments and archaeological artifacts abound in and around Axum attesting to the solid, articulate, confident, literate and resourceful strength of this civilization. Axum’s most popular known insignia art is its mysterious monolithic stelae made of single pieces of granite with identical decorations. The biggest of them, now fallen is 33 meters high and weighs 500 tones, making it the largest monolith in the world.
Some 55 km east of Axum, this is the most important pre-Axumite site and perhaps Ethiopia’s oldest capital. The 5th century BC Temple at Yeha, displaying incredible skills in stonework, is the oldest building still standing in Ethiopia.
DEBRE DAMO MONASTERY
Situated atop a 3,000m-high amba (tableland), and accessible only with the aid of a leather rope operated by the monks, the founder Abune Aregawi - one of the nine holy men who immigrated from Syria - was carried up the 15 m-high cliff by a flying serpent, so the legend goes. Built in the 6th century, Debre Damo is the oldest monastery in Ethiopia while its stone Church is said to be the oldest still standing. The monastery is off limit to females.
This village is the site of the first Muslem settlement granted to Islamic refugees by the king of Axum at the time of Mohammed in 7th century AD. The present day mosque is said to stand on the site of the original, also dating back to the 7th century. The shrine has great significance to Ethiopian Muslims and is the focus of an annual pilgrimage and festival.