Ark of the Covenant
Axum is a dusty, dirty town with layers upon layers of ancient history. I hired a guide, and visited the ruins around town, after a lecture in the museum while sitting on a pillar pedestal from the 3rd century BC. Sites included, the Queen of Sheba’s palace with ruins dated back to the 10th century BC, the giant Stellae fields, and my favorite, stones with inscriptions in Gh’ezz (precursor to Amharic), Ancient Greek, and Sabaen (precursor to Arabic), all engraved at the same time. Staring at the ancient tabloid, conjured images of great city teaming with peoples from many cultures.
The Axumite’s favorite stories are about the Queen of Sheba. You can buy stone figures of Sheba with Menelik strapped to her back (her son with King Solomon). I asked one of the local boys, why a great queen would carry her son around on her back – his reply was that she loved him so much she wouldn’t let any of her servants care for him.
Visited the chapel that “houses” the Ark of the Covenant – an ugly green building built by Halle Sallase, met the guardian of the Covenant and unsuccessfully tried to persuade him to take my digital camera in for a few photos.
From Axum I took the bus to Mekele with 2 Italians and 1 German, to visit the rock-hewn churches carved into the sides of the cliffs. Upon boarding the bus in Axum, I was delighted to find myself on one of the newish more comfortable buses. Ha. There are lots of mountains on the way from Axum to Mekele. When we reached the largest (around 2900 meters), the bus slowed to a complete stop a long way from the top. Everyone was ordered off the bus – at which point we proceeded to climb over the top of the mountain while the bus wound around and picked us up on the other side. Not only were we at around 10,000 feet, but it was high-noon. Thought I was going to pass out.
This happened around 4 more times, eventually at the end I convinced myself that stretching ones legs on a long bus trip is a very good thing. Plus, everyone gets a little air so the vomiting is kept to a minimum.
Ethiopia Finale (Omo Valley, including my adventures staying with a Hamer family in their hut where I carried fire wood, water and had a goat slaughtered in my honor) to follow soon – leaving for Uganda in a few hours.