Axum, the birth place of Ethiopia’s civilization, is a fascinating ancient highland city in the northwest Tigray region. It was the capital of the Queen of Sheba in the 10th century BC, and by the first century AD was capital of the far-reaching kingdom of the Axumite. It is one of Africa’s most spectacular archaeological sites. The ruins of the site spread over a large area and are composed of tall, obelisk-like stelae of imposing height, an enormous table of stone, vestiges of columns and royal tombs inscribed with Axumite legends and traditions. The giant monolithic stales are magnificently carved; and it is mystical and strikingly mysterious as to how these colossal granite stales were transported, carved and erected. The largest though fallen and broken, is more than 33meters which makes it the tallest stale ever erected in the whole world. The first most comprehensive archaeological studies on Axum’s spectacular ancient monuments took place in 1906 by a German team officially designated as the Deutsche Axum Expedition. Its importance is recognized by UNESCO which has declared it a World Heritage Site in 1980.
On top of erecting their colossal monuments to commemorate their victories and to pay homage to their deceased kings, the Axumits were able to issue coins to facilitate trade and were even patrons of fine arts. The city of Axum emerged several centuries before the birth of Christ, as the capital of a state that traded with ancient Greece, Egypt and Asia. With its fleets sailing as far afield as Ceylon, Axum later became one of the world’s four superpowers, expanding its influence between the Roman Empire and Persia, and for a while controlled parts of South Arabia. Avoiding the gods of the Sabeans, the Conqueror King Ezana accepted Christianity as the official religion of the Axumite Empire in the 4th century AD. This makes Ethiopia the third oldest Christian country after Armenia and Georgia. The New Testament states that the Abyssinian Queen came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of King Solomon. What is most fascinating is that Menelik I, son of Queen of Sheba and King Solomon went to his father in Jerusalem, but returned back with the most precious relic of all times, the true Ark of the Covenant, which is kept at the sanctuary of the Church of St. Mary of Zion in Axum.
Even after the demise of the Axumite Empire, the city remained the sacred place of the Ethiopian Empire, where magnificent coronation ceremonies took place and where various regal crowns, thrones, jewellery and other valuable treasures are preserved to this day.