Historical Attractions

Historical Attractions (7)

Sunday, 07 August 2011 19:53

Tigray Church

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The Scenery of Gheralta is spectacular. The view of graceful Mountain Gheralta and the far reaching Hawazien plain is a rare combination of extraordinary beauty. Gheralta, North - West of Mekele, the capital of Tigrai, is the home of a quarter of the churches, some famous for their stone workmanship, ancient paintings and old manuscripts, and others known for their magnificent view and difficult ascent.

Such great churches as Abune Yemata (Guh), Mariam Korkor, Debresion (Abune Abraham), Yohannes Maequddi and Silasie Degum are in the very heart of Gheralta, Making it the home of rock churches of Tigrai.

Sunday, 07 August 2011 19:50

Debre Damo Monastry

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The first Ethiopian Monastery, on an impressive amba surrounded by vertical walls. To reach Debre Damo, visitors have to climb up ropes thrown down by the monks above. Debre Damo is noted for ancient illuminated manuscripts, which are the oldest in the country, a great illuminated bible

Wednesday, 01 June 2011 00:19

YEHA Ancient Civilization

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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 archaeological 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 (temple of the moon) may had been built more than 2800years ago, 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 temple speaks eloquently of the works of an early high civilisation.

The archaeological 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 dramatic highland scenery and eventually ends in a beautiful and serene agriculture hamlet. 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 archaeological research and tourism.

Wednesday, 01 June 2011 00:17

Fasiledes Castle walls

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Fasiledes Castles doesn’t only have the castle of the great king Fasiledes. It also has other castles built by his successors as King of Kings of Ethiopia. The castles are found in the historic city of Gondar which ones served as capital city of Ethiopia. Gondar is 50 kilometers north of Lake Tana, 700 kilometers north of Addis Ababa and nestles in the foothills of the Semien mountains at an altitude of 2,200 meters above sea level. Gondar, founded by King Fasiledes in 1636, was the capital of Ethiopia for nearly 200 years. This fact is reflected by the number of palace buildings in the castle compound.

The city’s main imperial precinct, known as the Royal Enclosure, covers an area of 7.7 hectares and contains five castles raised walkways and connecting tunnels surrounded by high stone walls. The oldest of these is the Castle of Fasiledes, built of stone in the mid-17th century, reflecting a number of influences, mainly Axumite, Portuguese and Indian. The upper storey offers panoramic views and Lake Tana is visible on a clear day. The castle has been renovated recently. Fasiledes’ grandson, Iyasu the great, built his own castle and decorated it with ivory, gold and precious stones but an earthquake in the early 19th caused severe damage.

 {gallery}Fasiledes{/gallery}

Wednesday, 01 June 2011 00:14

Harar (The Walled City)

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The Omo valley is dominated mainly by many ethnic groups who speak omotic language as classified by linguistics. The region and the people of this area are

one of the least affected by the modern world.The life style of these people has hardly changed for centuries. People still live in simple make shift huts, dress animal skins and drink from calabashes. The area is a veritable paradise for photographers and naturalists.

The people of the Omo Valley and their culture have been source of fascination for travelers. The Hammar who are well known for their sense of elegance are the major ethnic group in the region. The Surma and Mursi women, who wear lip plates by piercing their lower lip have been compelling tourists to travel to their land to see what seems impossible.

In addition, the Omo valley is rich in human prehistory; archaeologists have unearthed the remains of earliest human being on earth. Also the area is known for the existence of large number of wildlife of a great variety.

Wednesday, 01 June 2011 00:10

Axum

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Axum or Aksum is a city in northern Ethiopia which was the original capital of the eponymous kingdom of Axum. Axum was a naval and trading power that ruled the region from 400 BC into the 10th century.

These obelisks, also called stelae, are known to be the tallest single pieces of stone ever quarried and erected in the ancient world. Their age and use is a complete mystery. Some scholars, extrapolating from ancient coins found at the base of the giant pillars, suggest that they may have been carved and erected around the beginning of the 4th century AD. Due to their proximity to nearby tombs, the obelisks may possibly have been used as memorials to deceased kings and queens, but this is only a speculation. The tallest of the monoliths, now fallen and broken into six massive pieces, was 33.3 meters tall and weighed an estimated five tons. The tallest obelisk still standing at Axum today is 23 meters. Precisely carved upon its sides (and upon the sides of many other nearby stelae) are what seem to be representations of multiple storey’s with floors between them. Each storey features several window-like carvings and, at the base of the obelisks, what appear to be false doors complete with knockers and locks. Are these carvings merely artistic ornamentations or did they have some deeper function? It is still mystery.

An even greater mystery surrounds the ancient city of Axum. A few hundred meters from the cluster of towering obelisks is a large walled compound surrounding two churches. Between these two churches, both dedicated to St. Mary of Zion, are the foundational remains of an ancient church and a strange looking, fenced off and heavily guarded “treasury” said to contain the true Arc of the Covenant.

The Arc of the Covenant and its supposedly divine contents are one of the great mysteries of antiquity.

Ethiopian legends say that when the Queen of Sheba made her famous journey to Jerusalem she was impregnated by King Solomon and bore him a son - a royal prince. The name of the prince was Menelik, which means "the son of the wise man". Although he was conceived in Jerusalem, he was born in Ethiopia where the Queen of Sheba had returned after discovering that she was carrying Solomon's child. When he had reached the age of twenty, Menelik himself traveled from Ethiopia to Israel and arrived at his father's court. There he was instantly recognized and accorded great honor. After a year had passed, however, the elders of the land became jealous of him. They complained that Solomon showed him too much favor and they insisted that he must go back to Ethiopia. This the king accepted on the condition that the first-born sons of all the elders should also be sent to accompany him. Amongst these latter was Azarius, son of Zadok the High Priest of Israel, and it was Azarius, not Menelik, who stole the Ark of the Covenant from its place in the Holy of Holies in the Temple. The group of young men did not reveal the theft to Prince Menelik until they were far away from Jerusalem. When at last they told him what they had done he asserted that they could not have succeeded in so bold a venture unless God had willed its outcome. Therefore he agreed that the Ark should remain with them. Thus Menelik brought the Arc to Ethiopia, to the sacred city of Axum, where it has remained ever since.

The Arc remained in this church, called Maryam Tsion Cathedral, until1965 when Haile Selassie (said to be the two hundred and twenty-fifth direct-line descendant of Menelik, son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon) had it transferred to a more secure chapel, the so-called treasury, ten meters away from the northeast corner of the old church.

 

Wednesday, 01 June 2011 00:03

Lalibela

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The small town of Lalibela in Ethiopia is home to one of the world's most astounding sacred sites: eleven rock-hewn churches, each carved entirely out of a single block of granite with its roof at ground level.

Of Lalibela's 8-10,000 people, over 1,000 are priests. Religious ritual is central to the life of the town, with regular processions, extensive fasts, crowds of singing and dancing priests. This, combined with its extraordinary religious architecture and simplicity of life, gives the city of Lalibela a distinctively timeless, almost biblical atmosphere.

History

The town of Lalibela was originally known as Roha. It was renamed after the 12th-century King Lalibela, who commissioned these extraordinary churches. Lalibela was a member of the Zagwe dynasty, which had seized the Ethiopian throne around 1000 AD.

King Lalibela's goal was to create a New Jerusalem for those who could not make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land (and to create a sacred city to rival powerful Axum, with its Ark of the Covenant). According to some reports, he had been to the Holy Land himself and was inspired by what he saw. But the king made no attempt to copy the churches of the Holy Land; in fact, Lalibela's sacred architecture could not be more unique.

The churches of Lalibela were not constructed — they were excavated. Each church was created by first carving out a wide trench on all four sides of the rock, then painstakingly chiseling out the interior. The largest church is 40 feet high, and the labor required to complete such a task with only hammers and chisels is astounding.

Popular legend has it that angels came every night to pick up where the workmen had left off. One of the churches, Bet Maryam, contains a stone pillar on which King Lalibela wrote the secrets of the buildings' construction. It is covered with old cloths and only the priests may look on it.

King Lalibela's project for gaining the church's favor had two unexpected results: the creation of a holy place of unparalleled beauty and the king's conversion to a religious life. After laboring for 20 years, he abdicated his throne to become a hermit, living in a cave and eating only roots and vegetables. To this day, Ethiopian Christians regard King Lalibela as one of their greatest saints.

The churches have been in continuous use since they were built in the 12th century. The first Europeans to see these extraordinary holy sites were Portuguese explorers in the 1520s, one of whom noted in his journal that the sights were so fantastic, he expected readers of his descriptions would accuse him of lying.

What to See

The roofs of the Lalibela churches are level with the ground and are reached by stairs descending into narrow trenches. The churches are connected by tunnels and walkways and stretch across sheer drops. The interior pillars of the churches have been worn smooth by the hands of supplicating worshipers.

The rock-cut churches are simply but beautifully carved with such features as fragile-looking windows, moldings of various shapes and sizes, different forms of crosses, swastikas (an Eastern religious motif) and even Islamic traceries. Several churches also have wall paintings.

Each church has its own resident monk who appears in the doorway in colorful brocade robes. Holding one of the church's elaborate processional crosses, usually made of silver, and sometimes a prayer staff, these monks are quite happy to pose for pictures.

There are 11 rock-cut churches at Lalibela, the most spectacular of which is Bet Giorgis (St. George's). Located on the western side of the cluster of churches, it is cut 40 feet down and its roof forms the shape of a Greek cross. It was built after Lalibela's death (c.1220) by his widow as a memorial to the saint-king. It is a magnificent culmination of Lalibela's plans to build a New Jerusalem, with its perfect dimensions and geometrical precision.