Axum, / Aksum/, is a city in Tigray , northern Ethiopia, located at 14°07.475'N 38°43.975'E near the base of the Adewa mountains. It was the center of the Axumite Kingdom , which emerged around the time of the birth of Jesus and declined (after about 1000 years of dominion) due to the shift of the power center of the Ethiopian Empire further south

Rock-hewn churches of Tigray

tigray rock hewnThe epithet of ‘best-kept secret’ has been applied to so many modern mediocrities that it seems ludicrously inadequate when confronted by religious sanctuaries as magnificently obscure as the church curved into the sandstone cliffs of Tigraye. Practically unknown to other Ethiopians-let alone the outside world-before 1966, the rock-hewn churches of Tigray have been described by the British academic Ivy pearce as ‘the greatest of the historical cultural heritages of the Ethiopian people. Most of these architectural gems remain in active use today, several house paintings and other sacred artefacts dating to the middle ages, and very one of them is imbued with an aura of spirituality that seeps from the very rock into which they are carved.

Sightseeing in Axum

stele fieldThe most striking relics of Axum are its obelisks or stelae . They are made from single blocks of granite carved to represent multi-storey buildings. The tallest, now fallen, once stood more than 33 meters high and numbered 13 storeys. The highest obelisk still standing is 10 storeys and 24 meters tall. The carving is deep and precise, showing the beams for each floor and the windows. Another stele looted by the Italian army was only returned to Ethiopia in 2005 and is due for reinstallation. Other local historical sites include the graves of king Kaleb and king Gabre Meskel , the Bath of the Queen of Sheba , and the ruins of the vast Royal palace ,the Archaeological museum ,Ezana Garden ,King Bazen's Tomb ,King Ezana's Inscription. Aksum was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1980

Surrounding Axum

tombThere are several places of interest within few kilometers from Axum. The most noticeable is the temple of Yeha. It is the single most remarkable antiquity and a well preserved 12m high stone temple that is thought to be over 2,500 years old. The ancient clifftop monastery of Debre Damo is also impressive. To get the church is only accessible by ascending a 15m high cliff with the aid of a leather rope.  Within 25km east of Axum, the Adewa town and surrounding hills is also remarkable. This is the place where Emperor Menelik II defeated the Italian army on March 1 1896, there by ending Italy’s attempts to colonize Ethiopia.