Axum was the seat of an empire which extended across the red sea to Arabia, traded with India and China, had its own alphabet and notational system, constructed great engineering works and dams and was reckoned by the 4th century Persian Historian Mani to be one of the four great powers of the ancient world, along with China, Persia and Rome.
After its conversion to christianity, early in the fourth century, Axum also emerged as an important religious centre, site of the country’s most important and revered church of St Mary of Tseyon, which, according to Ethiopian tradition, is the repository of the biblical Ark of the Covenant.
The visitor can see stelaes made of single blocks of granite, including the tallest stood over 33 metres high-the largest monolith in the world, the tombs and castles of kings, Axum Museum, inscriptions and the 16th Century of St. Mary of Zion Church, built on the site of Ethiopia’s first church and it is a chapel of the Holiest Christian Sanctuary in Ethiopia, and Ethiopians believe that the church houses the Ark of Covenant, containing the tables on which Moses wrote the Ten Commandments. (For western audiences, this has been popularized in Graham Hancock’s The Sign And The Seal).
A visit to Axum can be extended to take in the 800 BC Pre-Axumite temple at Yeha, 55 Km East of Axum, and a little further, the 7th century monastery at Debre Damo. (Women are not allowed to enter the latter, and the only access is by rope.