This is my first Christmas away from home. Many who’ve done this before, were off in Europe having a white Christmas instead of a hot and smoke filled Christmas many of my relatives are having at home right now. Instead, I’m in Ethiopia, a country that doesn’t celebrate Christmas on this day. Even the mall in Dubai I visited on the way through had a Christmas tree.
However, I’ve replaced turkey and ham with an archaeological adventure through the Kingdom of Axum. The first place we visited was a field of stelae, the tallest collapsed and in pieces but still an impressive site on the ground. The two tallest standing though were still an impressive site. The tallest stelae were decorated with carved doors and windows and others were large pieces of granite. One had been removed by the Italians during their occupation and since returned and the other was still standing but held up with supports. Underneath the stelae are tombs, and we managed to explore one of the tombs as well. Tombs are a speciality of Claire’s, give her a dark hole to go explore and she can’t help herself.
After we’d got our fix of stelae, we went further back in history to visit the Queen of Sheba’s pool. The Queen of Sheba came from a kingdom in what is now Yemen but ruled Axum for about 50 years. She then went and had a baby with King Solomon in Israel. The baby was known as Menelik I, the first emperor of Ethiopia. This all happened around the 10th century BC. Another thing he apparently did was bring the Ark of the covenant to Ethiopia and it is in a church here in Axum, that is only opened to men, but even then only one priest can see the Ark.
We then visited a tablet with three languages on it, one of which is Greek! It talks about various victories of a King Ezana who ruled Axum around 320-360 AD and obviously had connections with Greece. It was at this time some stingy Australian without a ticket tried to get in. I mean seriously who travels to another country and doesn’t pay to see the archaeological sites. It was about $AUD15 for all sites included.
We then headed up the hill so Claire could do some more tomb exploration, these ones actually housing treasures as well as dead people. After a lovely lunch we then headed to the Queen of Sheba’s Axum palace. We then saw were her tomb is supposed to be with a large stelae toppled over. There must be no money for archaeology though these days as much of Axum including the Queen of Sheba’s tomb is yet to be excavated with a little trowel and a brush.
Naturally, none of this is in the movie “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark”. The Armenians think the ark is atop Mt Ararat, the Ethiopians think it is in a church in Axum and replicas are in other Churches around Ethiopia. I’m sure in the future I’ll come across more locations for the Ark of the Covenant on my adventures.