|The Mysterious Monoliths|
Ethiopia's most ancient city, and capital of one of the most glorious empires
of the past, is one of the most illustrious links in the Historic Route.
The Axumite Empire flourished 3000 years ago. Its riches can still be pictured
on the magnificent stelae or obelisks, the graves of Kings Kaleb and Gebre
Meskel, and the Legendary Bath of the Queen of Sheba.
The 16th century Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion was built in the compound
of an earlier 4th century church, and is the holiest church in Ethiopia.
In its sanctuary is said to rest the original Ark of the Covenant.
The churches and monasteries of Axum are richly endowed with icons, and some of the historical crowns of ancient Emperors.
Wonder of the World
King Lalibela is credited with the foundation
of the 11 rock-hewn churches in the 12th century. One of the world's most
incredible man-made creations, they are a lasting monument to man's faith
in God. Most travel writers describe these churches as the "eighth
wonder of the world". These remarkable edifices were carved out of
a solid rock, in a region where the ragged landscape still protects the
churches from mass tourism. The 11 man-made churches are found in and
around the town of Lalibela. Other churches are reached by a 45-minutes
drive by 4x4 vehicle, or a three hour ride on mule-back.
|The Church of Laibela|
|Some 76 kilometers
from Axum is the monastery of Debre Damo (closed to women), which is said
to have the oldest existing intact church in Ethiopia. Local tradition says
that Abune Aregawi, one of the nine Saints, built the church in the sixth
century. The monastery of Debre Damo can only be reached by rope pulley.
The treasures secreted within, kept intact through the country's 1,400 tumultuous years of history because of that arduous, dangerous ascent, include an extensive collection of illuminated manuscripts, among them the oldest surviving fragments of texts anywhere in Ethiopia. The church now houses about fifty manuscripts, although the monks claim that they formerly possessed no less than a thousand.
|Window on the past||Debre Damo|
city of Harar is an ancient (1520) and holy city. Harar was an important
trading center. The city is famous for its ancient buildings, its great
city walls and as a center of Islamic learning (the city has 99 mosques).
It is believed to be the fourth holiest city for Islam after Mecca, Medina
& Jerusalem. The city is well known for its superb handicrafts that
include woven textiles, basket ware, silverware and handsomely bound books.
Harar has been a place of pilgrimage from all over the world for many years.
Harar's attractions are:
As evening falls, local men attract wild hyenas to the city in a bizarre spectacle as they bravely feed these dangerous scavengers.
The City Walls, and the narrow streets lined with traditional Harari gegar houses.
A fine building traditional house dating from the period when the French poet Rimbaud lived in Harar.