Axum (Aksum) is the capital city of ancient and holy Ethiopia. Today, Axum is located in the northeastern portion of what is now Ethiopia, on the horn of Africa.
Axum was a powerful, urban Iron Age Kingdom in Ethiopia, which flourished in the centuries before and after the time of Christ. Apart from being the home of the Queen of Sheba, whose palace and throne remains can be seen today, one of the churches in Axum, according to legend, also claims to contain the the Biblical Ark of the Covenant in which lie the Tablets of Law upon which the Ten Commandments are inscribed which have been under the protection of Coptic monks ever since at The 16th century Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion.
The Cathedral is the repository of the crowns of some of Ethiopia’s former emperors. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church claims that the Ark was brought to the region by Menelik I on his way back from a meeting with King Solomon, his father. Menelik is believed to be the son of the Queen of Sheba.
The Ark is watched over by a guardian who is appointed for life. None but the guardian may view the Ark, and the guardian may never leave the chapel where the Ark is held.
As far back as 1000 B.C. Axum was the capital of the ancient the kingdom of Axum which included most of the Red Sea area of present-day Yemen, Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti, and Eritrea. In its heyday, its region of influence included both sides of the Red Sea.
Aksum shows its long history in its monumental architecture. Part buried, however, but also part exposed, the extensive traces of noble buildings with large stone foundations are found there side by side with the ruins of even more impressive structures: temples, fortresses, and rich palaces. Many of the oldest relics of Axum suggest an idolatrous veneration of celestial deities.
The most notable, carved from single pieces of solid granite, take the form of towering obelisks. Several are more than 500 tones in weight and stand twenty meters high.
One group of these undecorated prehistoric monuments stands on the Gondar road, about a kilometer outside Axum, close to the remains of a massive building with finely-mortared stone walls, deep foundations and an impressive throne room, said to be the Queen of Sheba’s palace.
The obelisks are said to depict the dead rulers’ palaces, their tombs lay beneath, and were the stairways to heaven for the kings of Aksum.
According to the guides and the guidebooks only a small portion of Axum has been excavated and there are tons of sites that are waiting exploration.
The largest number lie in the Northern Stelae Park, ranging up to the 33-metre Great Stele, believed to have fallen and broken during construction. The tallest standing is the 24-metre King Ezana’s Stele.
Another stele 24.6 metres high was removed by the Italian army was returned to Ethiopia in 2005 and reinstalled in 2008.
Aksum also contains the historic site of the Queen of Sheba’s Bath, said to date back to when the Queen of Sheba lived in Aksum, although in reality the bath is a natural reservoir.