Axum, also spelled Aksum, is considered Ethiopia’s holiest city. It is one of Ethiopia’s eleven UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Church history records that King Ezana (c. 303 to c. 350) from the Kingdom of Axum was the first to adopt the Christian faith, making Ethiopia one of the first regions in the world to officially adopt Christianity. The introduction of Christianity in the 4th century AD resulted in the building of churches such as Saint Mary of Zion.
Located beside the Church of Saint Mary of Zion (Tsion Maryam) stands a humble chapel, believed to be the resting place of the Biblical Ark of the Covenant. The church complex houses the old and new Saint Mary of Zion churches, a museum and the chapel, where the Ark of the Covenant is believed to rest. The museum at St Mary’s contains an impressive collection of royal regalia, gold and silver chalices, crosses, jewelry and drums.
Axum is also believed to have been home to the legendary Queen of Sheba, who journeyed to Israel to visit the Biblical King Solomon after hearing about his divine gift of wisdom. It is easy to understand why Axum plays such a significant role in Ethiopian Christian Orthodox tradition.
Dating back to the 1st century AD, this ancient northernmost town was once the heartbeat of a great and ancient civilization, known as the Axumite Empire, which flourished from the 4th to the 7th centuries. The kingdom of Axum was the most powerful state between Persia and the Eastern Roman Empire, controlling the Red Sea trade through the port of Adulis. Three continents converged here: Africa, Araba and the Greco-Roman world, making it a place of strategic political value. The empire collapsed when Muslim merchants closed off the trading routes across the Red Sea, during the rise of Islam.
The ruins of the ancient city of Axum date back to the period between the 1st and 13th centuries AD. The crowning of Ethiopian emperors continued to take place in Axum long after its political decline in the 10th century. The ruins of the once-magnificent Axumite civilization lie scattered across the Tigray plateau, with the most impressive monuments concentrated on the outskirts of the modern-day town of Axum. Giant monolithic obelisks, castle ruins and royal tombs continue to capture the imaginations of visitors to this ancient site.
When in Axum
The time zone in Ethiopia is East Africa Time (EAT), GMT +3. Ethiopia has two seasons: a dry season (mid-September to May), and a rainy season (June to mid-September).
Modest dress is appropriate, especially when visiting sacred sites. Shoes must always be removed before entering churches or mosques, and women are requested to wear a head covering.
Where to say
The rooms all have ensuite bathrooms and are comfortable and neat. Amenities include Wi-Fi, coffee & tea-making facility, satellite TV and safety deposit boxes. Laundry and room service can be arranged on request. The restaurant offers a menu of traditional cuisine as well as some popular international dishes. Sabean Hotel is located in the main road, just ten minutes’ drive from the airport.
Facilities include a bar, lounge and restaurant, 24-hour front desk and room service, laundry service, free Wi-Fi and flat screen TV. All 21 rooms are neat and modern, with ensuite bathrooms. Standard and deluxe rooms are available, the latter equipped with air-conditioners and coffee/tea-making facility. The restaurant offers traditional and international options. An ATM is conveniently located in the foyer. Armah Hotel is located about ten minutes’ drive from the airport.