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History

Ethiopia has extensive historic sites, particularly in the north of the country, where the visitor can see constructions dating from the first millennium BC, the stelae and tombs of the Axumite kings, rock hewn churches of Tigray dating from the 4th century, the monasteries of Lake Tana and the 13th century monolithic rock hewn churches of King Lalibella in Wollo. In the east, the 1000 year old city of Harar, with its 99 mosques, is the fourth holiest place in Islam, after Mecca, Median and Jerusalem. South of Addis Ababa there are a number of Neolithic sites, including the 1.5-1.8 million year old site at Melka Kunture (Oromia Region) and the 400 stelae at Dilla in Sidamo (Southern Region). Elsewhere in the southern region there are remote, medieval monasteries and in Jimma, in Oromia, there is the recently resorted palace of Abba Jiffar, the last independent king of the area. Many archeologists and anthropologists proved that the human species originated in Ethiopia. In 1994 the oldest human remains ever discovered, the 4.4 million old bones of Homo Ramidus Afarensis, were found in Ethiopia’s Afar Region - the previous record was held by "Lucy" or "Dinkinish" (Amharic for "wonderful"), who at 3.4 million years was a relative youngster.

THE WALLED CITY OF HARAER: The historic city of harar is found in the eastern part of the country. The fourth holiest city after Mecca, medina, and Jerusalem. ,with at list 99 mosques, great city walls , the French poet Rimboud’s house and most friendly people.

Axum: Axum, which lies about 1,000 kilometers north of Addis Ababa, was the second capital city of Ethiopia. This prominent Christian attraction is simply an open-air exhibition of Ethiopia's pre- and post-Axumite civilization i.e. from the 3rd C. BC to the 10th C. AD. This ideal site has been visited frequently for the last two millenium. The Axumite kingdom was founded on the northern tip of Ethiopia at a place called Aksum by the native Sabean people. The creation of this kingdom was an indication of a power shift from the capital at Yeha to the fertile lands of Aksum. Due to its proximity to the Red Sea in the North-East and the Indian Ocean coastal trade routes to the South, trade prospered in the kingdom. Axum grew as a prominent commercial center in the first century AD. Trade with the Arabs, Indians, Turks, Greeks, Persians, Romans and others strengthened Ethiopia's connection with the rest of the world. The Axumite empire came into existence thanks to its hard working people. It witnessed tremendous growth between the first and sixth centuries AD. With a perfect continuation of successful governance, Axum grew to the level of an empire. Language flourished so much that three languages came into existence as a communication medium. Greek was the language of the royal court, Sabean was used by the common people and Ge'ez, a later-developed language, with its roots in the Sabean scripts, became a church language.

YEHA (ETHIOPIA's FIRST CAPITAL)

The Temple Yeha - Yeha is situated in the northern mountainous section of the Tigray region. Although today this small settlement survives as a shanty town, it was once a site of great pre-Axumite civilization. Believed to be Ethiopia's first capital, Yeha was first uncovered in a complex archeological excavation around a courtyard at the beginning of the 20th C. The first settlers of this area, the Sabeans, were the founders of the Axumite kingdom.The temple of Yeha, with one side of its walls in ruin, is otherwise still intact and testifies to the advanced level of the people of those times. There is no trace of mortar being used to build the temple of which the inside of the walls was believed to be have been paved with gold. The archeological excavations made in 1909, 1947 and 1973 respectively, reveal that this beautiful temple was destroyed by fire. Treasures such as gold rings, golden lions, stone-engraved inscriptions written in Sabean, stone-carved animals like the Walya ibex (one of Ethiopia's endemic mammals), pottery works and others were uncovered. Some of these findings are displayed in the 4th-century church museum found in the same compound as the temple while others are displayed at the National Museum in Addis Ababa. The twelve underground formations and four other very deep cave structures (which seem to lead to Yemen, Lalibela, Jerusalem and Axum), increase the area's importance in terms of both archeological research and tourism. Coin mintage, as a result of strong economic dominance, was another development at this time and helped the Axumites to develop trade. Gold, silver and bronze coins, which began to be minted around the 4th C., are still found exposed on the plains of Axum. The introduction of Christianity in the early 4th C. AD was one of the greatest achievements of the Axumite rule. It was during the time of King Ezana in 337 AD that Christianity arrived in Axum. Since it was the king who was the first to convert, Christianity easily reached the people under his rule. Since then, Ethiopia has remained a strong Christian state. The coins of King Ezana and his successors depict a cross, clearly indicating that the kings were Christian. The coins of kings before King Ezana in the pre-Christian era depict motifs such as moons, indicating paganism. Axum reached its peak in terms of economic, political and social development in the fifth and sixth centuries. By then Christian Axumite kings were increasing their influence by expanding their territory across the Red Sea. The whole horn of Africa, including Yemen, was incorporated under the Axumite empire. It was at this time that Axum became known as one of the four great empires of the age. Then in the 7th century Islam was brought to Axum by Muslim followers who came in exile to escape from severe executions in the Middle East.

Rock Hewn Churches of Tigray - Over 125 rock hewn churches are recorded with Tigray-alone. These churches date from 4th-15th century. Most of them are visited around the Gera-Alta chained mountains. Others are found in eastern and southern Tigray. Abreha-We-Atsbeha, Wukro Chercko s churches are hewn in the 4th century. There are some pre Christian period hewn templates too. Special programs can be arranged to visit the Tigray Rock Churches either on surface or camping even up to 2-3 weeks. Otherwise a two or three days addition to the classical route itineraries can be nice to pay a visit of these churches.

Abraha waAtsbeha -The wonderful church of Abreha wa Atsebha is situated 15 kms.west of Wuqro. A newly built gravel road leads to within a few meters of the church and beyond to Hawzien via Degum.The church is one of the best and largest of the rock churches of Tigray, dedicated to the famous kings of Axum, the brothers Abreha and Atsebha. They are known by that name to history, but they are said in Ethiopian legends to be kings who adopted Christianity in the 4th century. The historical king of Axum who did adopt Christianity around that time was king Ezana . His name is equally unknown in Ethiopian legendary accounts.The church is cut into the red rock overlooking a valley, and stands out with its white painted façade sheltering two tall blue doors under arches. The church is decorated with splendid post-17th century mural paintings depicting Biblical scenes and saints. It also has several valuable treasures, the most important being the prayer cross which according to churchy officials, belonged to Frumentius- the first Bishop of Ethiopia whose ecclesiastical name was Abba Salama (Father of peace).

Wukro Cherqos - Directly a the edge of the small town of Wuqro (47 Kms from Mekele), on a knoll of red rock, is the rock- cut church of Wuqro Cherqos.The church is supposed to have been constructed by the 4 C by the two kings Abreha and Asbeha. It is one of the first of the rock churches of Tigray. The upper part of the wool and the ceilings were painted, but now much destroyed. Nevertheless, a good impression of the decoration can be gained. A number of scenes can be distinguished: cherubim and angles, the Abune Samuel, the Nine Saints, St. Qirqos. The priests tell the story that the church was burnet by Gudit, the distinctive queen who is supposed also to have topple the Axum stelae.

Lalibela

LALIBELA ("EIGHTH WONDER OF THE WORLD") Located in the north-east of Ethiopia, Lalibela is another renowned historical destination. Placed third in historic sequence, its site hosts the "eighth wonder of the world", the Lalibela rock-hewn churches. UNESCO has recorded this site as one of the world wonders. It is also holy land for Ethiopia's Orthodox Christians. Today the town of Lalibela hosts eleven rock-hewn churches and all, apart from their historic significance, are renowned for their excellent and unique rock-carvings. The art displayed on the rocks dates from the twelfth century yet is still intact and in great shape. An active pilgrim site, the town is extensively visited and a source of admiration for architects and tourists alike. Founded at the center of the Lasta mountain chain, Lalibela was originally called Roha and was a site of the Zagwe dynasty, of the Agew people. The decline of the Axumite dynasty gave rise to the Zagwe dynasty and, as a result, power shifted southward from Axum. After an interruption of the Solomonic line for almost 12 years, King Lalibela III, from the last of the Zagwe dynasty, managed to have these rock-hewn churches carved. It took King Lalibela his entire reign and more than 60,000 men to finish the work. According to local accounts, the work was assisted by angels. Other erected and cave churches built during this period are found at a short distance from the town.

Gondar- Gondar is the 17th-century capital of Ethiopia. Bordering Sudan and located on the northern shore of Lake Tana, it is one of the prominent historical areas in Ethiopia. Officially founded by King Fasiladas in 1632, the Gondarine period is considered to be the third major dynasty after the Axumite and Zagwe dynasties. The dynasty is historically important for the renaissance king's mobile camp and the introduction of a permanent capital. The attempt by King Fasiladas to end the Zagwe dynasty was successful and set Gondar as Ethiopia's capital from 1632 to 1868. Gondar's 17th century castles reflect the strong dynasty and the power of progressive rulers. The biggest and most magnificent castle of all, King Fasiladas' castle, which is still intact, was the first to be built. Seven of the dynasty's kings had their own castles built to show their power and independent, efficient ruling styles. What is special about the castles is that they demonstrate the progress in Ethiopian building styles and follow on from the rock-building traditions of the Axumite and Zagwe kings. Additionally, Gondar was and is still noted as an active religious center.Among the churches in town, Debre Berhan Selassie is famous for its typically Gondarine style and its ceiling.

BahirDar - The town of Bahir Dar is located 180km south of Gondar on the shores of Lake Tana in the north of Ethiopia. It came into prominence in the 18th C. as a commercial destination for trade caravans to and from Gondar and the surrounding area. Today, it is one of the most attractive towns in Ethiopia and serves as a celebrated tourist destination. It hosts the fabled Blue Nile falls.

Lake Tana Monasteries - Tana is the largest Lake in Ethiopia and it harbors about 37 islands, out of which some 20 churches and monasteries accommodate immense historical and cultural interest. These churches are decorated with beautiful paintings and innumerable treasures. Their typical location may have saved them from looters. To mention some are: Tana Cherkos, Daga Istifanos, Ura Kidane Mehret, and Kebran Gabriel. Access to these monasteries is possible though some of them are not permitted to women.

Dessie & Surroundings

HAIQ ESTIFANOS - The polico- religious monasteries of Haiq Estifanos are found north of Dessie. The famous church was so popular with religious scholars and great contributors to the restoration of the Solomonic dynasty in Lalibela in the 13th century. Only monks are living and serving in it. The monastery preserves wooden and stone relics of the days of its foundation.

GISHEN MARIAM - This church was built in a marvelous (table land) landscape. It is one of the most sacred churches. Underneath of the church the original fragrance of the True Cross is buried. Emperor Zerea – Yeaekob the 15th century Ethiopia king is said to have brought the piece of the “True cross” here.
It is celebrated on October 1st for the commemoration of St. Mary day. This historical church is built on a cross shaped landscape. Thousands of pilgrims come here on October 1st, its annual celebration day; to commemorate the occasion. It is located west of Dessie after mounting the Zigzag rood crossing the Bishlo River.

MEQDELA - The power of the Gondarine Empire was eventually weakened by the presence of the Oromo, as well as by the doctrinal disputes that had undermined the Church. Real power passed to regional warlords in what is called the Era of the Princes, the decades of civil war that ended in 1855 when Kasa Haylu defeated his rivals and became the emperor Tewodros II and he made his capital at Meqdela.Emperor Tewodros II of Ethiopia committed suicide in 1868 after being defatted by the troops sent by Queen Victoria of UK. At Meqdela, besides its beautiful scenery, one can visit the Sebastopol Canyon, the old church and his graveyard. It is the best one of the place for both for trekkers and for historians. (No drive but on mule or walking only.)

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Eshi Ethiopia Tours

Probably you might hear it too many times in a day while you travel to Ethiopia.Travelers with Eshi Ethiopia Tours will truly feel scenic Ethiopia.Our company EET delivers a higher level of professional service, arranging all activities of Nature,culture and every site of historical significance.