Historic Route

AXUM

Axum is found in the mountainous lands of Tigray Region, in the Northern part of the country which lies about 1024 kms north of Addis Ababa. It was the capital city of the Axumite Kingdom next to Yeha.  Axum was one of the powerful nations among the four greatest nations of ancient times, which its civilization flourished from the 1st century BC to the 7th century AD.

A powerful trading center, Axum controlled the highlands of northern Ethiopia and the Red Sea coast of present-day Eritrea. Culturally, it was closely associated with the people of southern Arabia, who spoke related languages and followed similar traditions. Axumite kings built massive stelae (stone pillars) to adorn their tombs, and some of these stelae still stand today. Its trade relations include all the powerful nations of its time; including the Romans, Persian, Greek and as far as the present day China. 

The foot prints that they left us behind could be witnessed through there influences on different socio-economical and cultural impacts such as: religion, economic, political and social development for today’s existing Ethiopia.  

According to some studies its existence even dates back to 10th century BC with the fabled story of Queen Sheba, which is the mother of Emperor Minlik I, who brought the “Ark of the Covenant” to Ethiopia. Axum is the first country in Africa which proudly accepted Christianity, and is the holiest city of 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 and etc. A visit to Axum means unlocking a history which is more than 500 B.C

TIGRAY ROCK HEWN CHURCHES

There are hundreds of Rock Hewn Churches over the mountains of Tigray. The rock churches are found in sandstone 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.

The town of Hawizen is a base for 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.

LALIBELA

The town of Lalibela is found 776 kms 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, Bete Medhanlem's roof is decorated with Greeks Temple style , 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.

BAHIRDAR

Lake Tana is one of the largest lakes in Ethiopia that covering a total area of 3,600sq km (832 sq mi) and it’s intersected by the world’s longest river which is the Blue Nile. BahirDar is home to many fascinating features such as: The Lake Tana islands and the majestic falls of the Blue Nile located at a distance of 560 km South East of the shores of Lake Tana and Gondar.

This specific place came to be one of the most important trade and commercial center starting from mid 17th century for Gondar and its surrounding regions. Apart from its scenic beauty it serves as, one of the most important Tourist Destination in the country, in present times its acts as an administrative center of the region.

Been based in BahirDar one could explore the ancient monasteries that have being built in the islands of Lake Tana. It hosts one of the famous spectacles of Blue Nile river which is “ Tis Isat Waterfalls”, which is praised for the smoke that it forms when it touches the floor of the fall, the beautiful creator of Lake Tana and Monasteries that date back to the 13thc and 14thc. The colorful local Market at BahirDar which is famous for its weavers and wood works are additional spectacles to enjoy at your visit there.

The island still functions as a museum for the Oldest and Most Beautiful Ethiopian’s glorious art and treasures. Among the countless Monasteries the DAGA STEPHANO’S holds a significant place for its priceless collection of world class antiques, it’s also the resting place for several Medieval Age Emperors and for its famous Frescoes (an ancient form of art, painted on walls by using water colors.)

AL NEGASHI MOSQUE

Negashi is about 10 kms away from the town of Wukro, in Tigray region that lies on the plateau with a magnificent over head view of the surrounding area. “Negashi” got its name from a Tigrayian word “Negash” or “Negus” which is used as a variant word for Arab.

The history of Negashi Mosque dates back to the 7th century AD, the faith Islam itself faced suffering in its early stages after the followers of Prophet Mohammed faced persecution by Quer’shi  tribe of the Mercantile ruler of Mecca. So, in order to maintain the very survival of the religion itself, the prophet had to find a sanctuary for his people and he sent 83 of his families to a land he quoted by saying, “go to the lands beyond the desert, where there is a kingdom where no one is wronged, a land of righteousness go there and remain until my calling.”     

The ruler of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) gave them asylum for those who seek refuge, after settling down they lived in peace and harmony until they returned to their homeland. Therefore, Negashi Mosque is known to be the first Foot Print where Islamic Faith was introduced to Ethiopia and the world nearly 1,300 years ago.

YEHA

Yeha is situated 50km 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, which pre- dominantly where the founders of Axumite kingdom (in the pre- Axumite time). It was once a place where great civilizations dominated.  

Yeha is constructed by huge stone without the use of Mortar. This is a tower built in Sabean style and dated back 500B.C.  The remaining one side of its walls which is still intact testifies to the advanced level of craftsmanship of that time.

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.

DEBRE DAMO MONASTREY

Debre Damo Monastery is found on the isolated flat topped mountain in northern part of Tigray some 85kms 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. It is only accessible by climbing up 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

Gondar was the 17th century capital of Ethiopia during the reign of Emperor Fasilades. It emerged as the largest permanent capital of Ethiopia next to Axum and Lalibela. It was an important administrative, commercial, cultural and religious centre 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 by 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 flourished as the metropolis of art, music and learning and subsequently marked Ethiopian architecture in a long –lasting manner.

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 is 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 and still intact medieval art, music and culture.

HARAR

Home of the EMIR’S, Harar, is an Islamic state and Holly City that flourished during the 15th century (1437 AD) is located 528Kms east of Addis Abeba. The city is well recognized for its medieval architecture, great walls and was a center of Muslim enlightenment. Harar, was a strong hold to the Muslim Sultanate which ruled these lands and trade routes of the Medieval Time. Since its foundation, Harar has been ruled by Seventy Two success Imams.

In today’s world, Harar stands as the fourth main Muslim Pilgrim sites next to Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. The city is well known for its superb handicrafts like woven, textiles, baskets, silverware and bound books. The market place shows the diversity of ethnic groups and the harmonious existence with color and passion.  

In this walled old town, there are more than 90 Mosques that provide active service, because of its uniqueness, color and beauty the town is locally known as “JEGOL”,

Harar’s attractions are:

  • The city walls
  • Rimbaud House – fine traditional house dating back to the period when the French poet Arthur Rimbaud lived in Harar in the 19th c.
  • The Hyena Man – As evening falls, local men attract wild hyenas to the city in bizarre spectacles as they bravely feed these dangerous scavengers.