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Ethiopia–Why to Go NOW? 4. Reason: The riddles of Aksum

Updated: Jan 19

Aksum in Ethiopia is the epicentre of enigmas: whether it's about the Ark of the Covenant, or the Queen of Sheba. Ready for exploring?

Safety note: I was in Ethiopia in 2019. There is currently a travel warning from the Federal Foreign Office. Please check before you book a trip.

Imagine you're the single monk voted to be the keeper of the Ark of the Covenant, in charge of the original tablets depicting Moses’ 10 commandment! Are you proud? happy? intimidated? My advice would be to run … because… well ... let me explain what it could mean.​

​Firstly, you would never again leave the church compound. Really never, you're locked in for life. A high price to pay … especially because nobody REALLY knows if the Ark of the Covenant is actually kept in the box (no one's allowed to open it). But then again, if you are the keeper, you might be able to risk a peak and be the only living person on earth to know. Secondly, you'd be joining a VERY elite few. The only other persons who might have known are the famous Queen of Sheba and the even more famous King Salomon and their son Melenik. And that was about 3.000 years ago …

​The story of Queen Sheba and Salomon is quite enchanting as well. Everything in Aksum is like a storybook coming to life. And don't start to argue with your guide, he will believe those stories to be true, whatever scepticism you show. The major Aksumite monuments in the town are steles, these obelisks are around 1,700 years old.

Click on the first picture to see it full size:

​The largest number are in the Northern Stelae Park, ranging up to 33 metres long (3.84 metres wide, 2.35 metres deep, weighing 520 tonnes). The 25 meter high Obelisk of Aksum was removed by the Italian army in 1937 during their occupation, only returned to Ethiopia in 2005 and reinstalled on July 31, 2008. But it’s what’s under your feet here that’s most important. Amazingly, about 90% of the field hasn’t yet been excavated! So no matter where you walk, there’s a good chance there’s an undiscovered tomb with untold treasures beneath.

We loved exploring the city. It is an adventurous feeling to climb down into some tombs underneath the Stelae field and explore the chambers in the light of a your torch, or more likely the light of your mobile phone. Or you wander through the ruins of Queen Sheba's Palace and try to visualize the buildings in all their splendor of long-forgotten times – whether she really lived here or not. This is part of Aksum’s appeal: the thought that fascinating finds and secrets lurk in the depths. UNESCO Film

You can watch a short Video here:

I didn't really film - I was too occupied to take pictures of all the beautiful things going on around me, but as I had the drone with me, and as I sometimes pressed the record button on my camera as well, I had a few (very shaky, sorry) clips, that I edited into a short clip. I hope you enjoy watching it …

How to get there:

Ethiopian Airlines flies daily (at least from Frankfurt) directly to Addis Abeba. If you book with them, you get a discount on the inland flights, which you will probably need, as the roads are very bumpy and dusty …


We arranged everything through Lalibela Eco Trekking. Molla Kassaw - the owner - organized our whole trip and everything worked perfectly. We didn't have a single guide, but always different local guides, who showed us their town/hike. That way we got to know a lot of different people, who knew their local attractions best.

In the separate blogs I will recommend places and restaurants we visited or have seen, alongside any other comments we had about the various places and the what-to-dos.

You can read more Blogs of Ethiopia, which I wrote here:
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