20 May 2011
A quick 30 minute early morning flight took us over the mountains from Lalibela to Axum still in Northern Ethiopia. Our guide met us t the airport and took us to our hotel on a hilltop overlooking the church to drop our bags before starting our tour. Only a dozen or so people got off the plane in Axum and it seemed like we were the only tourists at the hotel or in town.
Our first stop was the obselix park and museum that featured the biggest one piece granite obselix in Africa and according to our guide the largest in the world. A largest one had tumbled and broken into pieces centuries ago and two slightly shorter ones remain standing, surrounded by 60 or so smaller obselixes. A few had carved designs and windows but mostly they were smooth granite stones that served as grave markers. Underground several tombs had been excavated and the adjacent museum featured artifacts that had been recovered.
After lunch we visited the Queen of Sheeba's pool (looks like a small reservoir but now used for religious ceremonies), the partially excavated palace and tombs of the Axumite Empire, an ancient road marker carved in three languages on the outskirts of Axum (declaring the victories of the ruler as a warning to visitors), the large church and monastery where the guardian monks claim to protect the true Ark of the Covenant, and the remnants of the Queen of Sheeba's palace. Our guide worked on several archeological digs in Axum, most recently in January with a German team that uncovered the true tomb of an Emperor of Axum. He showed us around the dig site and shared some of his research in trying to discover who was buried there. The stonework of the granite tombs was amazing with large interlocking blocks that fit together smoothly without any gaps (it's hard to find anything so well done nowadays). According to our guide the German researchers used carbon dating on the site to place it's construction to approximately 3000 years ago.