Calendar   Home
Previous Day

March 4, 2002

Next Day
Taking no chances with cars and impassable roads, we flew to our next destination, Aksum. Internal flights anywhere in Ethiopia shouldn't cost more than $75. The problem is the flights are unreliable and often canceled. Luckily, this Air Ethiopia flight left on time and we arrived in Aksum by mid-morning. According to legend, Aksum was the Queen of Sheba's capital in the 10th century BC. The ancient world knew the Kingdom of Aksum as a great power; for 1000 years Aksum dominated the trade routes between Africa and Asia and controlled the Red Sea. To our eyes, as we walk down Aksum's wide and rural streets, it's hard to imagine that this was the center of a great civilization. Although ruins and tombs can be found here, there aren't many modern buildings. Aksum has a much smaller population today than it did 1000 years ago. Perhaps this adds to the aura of Aksum's historical sights.
Aksum's sights must be under-visited. Our guide encouraged us to sit on the Great Stelae, a 4th century monolith that is the largest man made obelisk in the world. Too big to stand, it crashed to the ground and broke apart when the ancients tried to erect it.
Incredibly, 98% of Aksum's ruins have yet to be excavated. The stelae field is Aksum's most impressive sight. These 2000 year old obelisks proclaim the power that once ruled here. Besides their huge size, the most striking thing about these obelisks are the well-preserved carvings along their sides.
Old priest (12th century carving).
New priest