Few nations, if any, can
boast the historic splendour of Ethiopia, evidence of whose
extraordinary past is everywhere, from its rock-hewn churches, still
places of living worship, to its ancient historical traditions and
magnificent cultures. Ethiopia, is a nation of surprises, full of
diversity and contrast, from the ancient to the modern.
Legend has it that Emperor Menelik I, the son of the Queen of Sheba and
king Solomon, brought the Ark of the Covenant from Jerusalem to
Axum, where he settled and established one of the world’s longest
known, uninterrupted monarchical dynasties.
This is only one example of Ethiopia’s magnificent history, which
encompasses legend and tradition, mystery and fact, from a powerful and
religious ancient civilization. The well -trodden path through
Ethiopia’s famous and fascinating historic places takes you
through a scenically magnificent world of fairy -tale names, such
Gondar, Deber Damo and Bahar Dar.
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a population of more than two million people,
Addis Ababa is not only the political capital but also the economic
and social nerve-centre of Ethiopia. Founded by Emperor Menilek in 1887,
this big, sprawling, hospitable city still bears the stamp of his
exuberant personality. more than 21,000 hectares in area,
Addis Ababa is situated in the foothills
of the 3,000 meters Entoto mountains and rambles pleasantly across
many wooded hillsides and gullies cut through with fast-flowing
Like any other capital in the world, there is more than enough for
anybody to do in Addis. There are numerous restaurants offering various
exotic dishes from many parts of the world. Ethiopian food is
served at the majority and there are Chinese, Italian, Indian, Armenian,
Arabic, Greek and many other specialist restaurants. Indeed, it is
possible to eat your way round the world without ever leaving Addis
Ababa. on the entertainment side several cinemas show international
films with English dialogue or sub-titles. Most of these cinemas also
stage dramas in Amharic depicting Ethiopia’s social and cultural life
during different historical epochs. Shopping in Addis is a delight and
the shops are fairly well stocked with almost all consumer goods.
The local jewellery, sold by the weight of gold or silver, is in
particularly high demand .The main market-known as the
Mercato, is largest open market place in
Africa and has a wonderful range of goods and products, items of local
art and Ethiopian curios and antiques. Here, haggling over prices
is expected - and one should allow ample time for this, At the
shops in town, however, prices are fixed, although a small
discount is often allowed on large purchases.
If you have some spare time during your stay there are a number of
places that are well worth a visit. The Addis Ababa university, whose
campus occupies a palace built by Haile Selassie before the
Italian occupation of Ethiopia, houses the Institute of Ethiopian
studies and the Ethnological museum. The St George Cathedral was
built in 1896 in the traditional octagonal shape in commemoration of
Ethiopia’s military success at the Battle of Adwa (St George is
the patron saint of the soldier) and houses modern paintings by masterArtist Afework Tekle, an Ethiopian painter whose work has won
wide international recognition. The Menilek
mausoleum was built in 1911 and the Trinity Cathedral in 1941, Both
serve as tombs of emperors, princes and Ethiopian martyrs of
freedom. Menilek’s wife, Taitu, and his daughter, Zewditu,
are also entombed at the mausoleum.
Halfway by road to Axum from
Addis Ababa, you will pass, 1,005
kilometers to the south, Ras Dashen, which, at 4, 543 meters, is
Africa’s fourth -highest mountain. Axum, the northernmost stop along the
route, is the site of Ethiopia’s most ancient city and is renowned
for its Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion, where, as legend has it the
original Ark of the Covenant is housed. Axum is also famous for its
seven mysterious monolithic stelae, all made of single pieces of granite
and with identical decorations. The biggest of them is 33 meters
high and weighs over 500 tones. It was the largest monolith in the
world but fell at some time in the past.
Bahar Dar, the next stop, is 578 kilometers from
Addis Ababa, has daily Ethiopian
Airlines flights and a number of good hotels, and is located on he
southern shores of Lake Tana, the source of the
Blue Nile, with its ancient island monasteries and both the Blue
and the white Nile’s most spectacular feature, the Tis Isat waterfalls.
On the island of Dega Estefanos, you will find the church of Saint
Stefanos, which has a priceless collection of icons and
manuscripts and houses the mummified remains of a number of Ethiopian
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
16th Century. The Monastery of Debre Damo can only be reached
by rope pulley.
historic route north from
Addis Ababa, the
first stop is Deber Markos, 305 kilometers north of the capital
and also accessible by air three times a week with Ethiopian
Airlines. Here you will find the 19th Century church of Markos
(saint mark), with its pale but beautiful paintings depicting
scenes of biblical and religious history.
Gondar lies 748 kilometers along the route from
the capital and is also served daily by Ethiopian Airlines. The
town has some good hotels. The oldest and most impressive of
Gondar’s many imperial structures is the palace of Emperor Fasiladas,
said to have been built by an Indian architect. There are also
numerous other fascinating historical buildings and relics to be
seen in the area.
the oval- shaped, almost north- south historical route, is
Harar, 523 kilometers due east of
Addis Ababa. While the town has a
reasonable hotel, most people prefer to stay in
Dire Dawa, 54 kilometers
away along the road to Addis Ababa. The
most dominant features of Harar are its strong
encircling walls, which tightly embrace the town, its rich and
exciting market place probably the most colorful in Ethiopia and its 99
Muslim mosques, which make this the fourth most holy city of
last stop the route is Lalibela, 642
kilometers from the capital, with good hotels and with daily Ethiopian
Airlines flights. Though not much more than a village,
Lalibela is internationally renowned for its
rock -hewn churches, which are sometimes called the eighth wonder
of the world. Carved out of the rock in which they stand, these towering
edifices seem to be of superhuman creation in scale, workmanship and
Although Lalibela is unique,
it is not the sole site of Ethiopia's famous rock-hewn churches. In
Tigray near Mekelle, over 200 fine example of
these monuments to man's devotion to God as well as his building skills,
may be seen and visited.
Capital of the Emperor Yohannnes IV (1871 - 1889),
Mekelle is now the main town of Tigray, the most northern Ethiopian
region. The Emperor's palace has been turned into a particular
interesting museum, with many exhibits of his time and subsequent
history. The town is also well known as a transit point for the Camel
Caravans bringing salt up from the arid lands of the Danakil Depression.
This makes the market palace a particular interesting place to visit.
Intrepid visitors can also make excursions into the Danakil to visit
some of the Afar nomads that trek across the region.