Historical Attractions of EthiopiaWritten by Super User
Ethiopia, the oldest independent nation in Africa, has a heritage dating back to the first century AD. Traders from Greece, Rome, Persia, and Egypt knew of the riches of what is now Ethiopia, and by the first century AD, Axum was the capital of a great empire. This realm became one of the first Christian lands of Africa.
Late in the 10th century, Axum declined and a new Zagwe dynasty, centered in what is now Lalibela, ruled the land. Axum, Lalibela, and Gondar now provide the greatest historical legacy. It was in the 16th century that the son of the great explorer Vasco da Gama came to Ethiopia. He found a land of many kingdoms and provinces beset by feuds and war.
The following are some of the major historical attractions:
Axum: The "Cradle of Ethiopian Civilization"
This is the birthplace of Ethiopian ancient civilization. Axum was a seat of legendary rulers and fabulous kings and an empire that extended across the Red Sea to Arabia, traded with India and China, had its own alphabet and notational system, and constructed great engineering works and dams. It was reckoned in the 4th century to be one of the four great powers of the ancient world.
This ancient city is also believed to be the last resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. The holy city of Axum is still one of the most important Christian pilgrimage centers. Here, visitors can see stelae (the largest single pieces of stone erected anywhere), the tombs and castles of kings, Axum Museum, and the Mariam Tsion Church, built on the sit of Ethiopia’s first church, and much more. A visit to Axum can be extended to take in the 500 BC pre-Axumite temple of Yeha.
Lalibela: One of the "Living Wonders of the World"
St. Lalibela is credited with the foundation of the 11 rock-hewn churches in the 12th century. Some of the world's most incredible manmade creations, they are a lasting monument to man's faith in God. These remarkable edifices were carved out of solid rock, in a region where the rugged landscape still protects the churches from mass tourism. The 11 manmade churches are found in the town of Lalibela. Other churches are reached by a 45-minute drive by 4x4 vehicle, or a 3-hour mule ride. This place is a very nice venue for some of the most famous church festivals in Ethiopia — A visit during the great celebrations of Timket (Epiphany) and Gena (Ethiopian Christmas) is particularly rewarding.
Bahir Dar and the Island Monasteries of Lake Tanana
The beautiful city of Bahir Dar is set on the southeastern shore of Lake Tana, the source of the mighty Blue Nile River. On the lake, local fishermen still use papyrus boats to fish and get around the different islands. Bahir Dar is just 30 km from the spectacular Tis Isat Falls. Here the Blue Nile creates "Smoking Water" — an awe-inspiring sight as it plunges into the gorge below. From Bahar Dar, you can also explore some of the ancient island monasteries that have been built around Lake Tana. The 37 islands of Lake Tana shelter 20 monasteries — surviving remnants of an old, contemplative tradition. Because of their isolation, these monasteries were used to store treasures and religious relics from all parts of the country. The lake’s monasteries are famous for their typical Ethiopian religious paintings, illuminated manuscripts, and other ancient church treasures. The monasteries include Dek Stephanos, with its priceless collections of icons and remains of several medieval emperors, Kebran Gabriel, and Ura Kidane Mehret, famous for its frescoes. The colourful local market at Bahar Dar is alo very interesting for visitors.
Gondar: The Camelot of Africa
Gondar was the 17th-century capital of Ethiopia and is notable for its medieval castles and churches. The city's unique imperial compound contains a number of castles built between 1632 and 1855 by the various emperors who reigned during this period. These dramatic castles, unlike others in Africa, display richness in architecture that reveals the Axumite traditions as well as the influence of Arabia. On a second day, visitors could take in the very fine and recently restored medieval church of Debre Sina Maryam at Gorgora, at the northern end of Lake Tana, or vistas of the Simien Mountains.
Harar: The Living Museum
The fortified historic town of Harar is located in the eastern part of the country on a plateau with deep gorges surrounded by deserts and savannah. The walls surrounding this sacred Muslim city were built between the 13th and 16th centuries. Harar Jugol, said to be the fourth holiest city of Islam, numbers 82 mosques, three of which date from the 10th century, and 102 shrines. But the townhouses with their exceptional interior design constitute the most spectacular part of Harar's cultural heritage. The impact of African and Islamic traditions on the development of the town's building types and urban layout make for its particular character and uniqueness.
The city is also noted for its superb handicrafts that include woven textiles, basketware, silverware, and handsomely bound books. Harar has been a place of pilgrimage from all over the world for many years.
We are the cultural tour specilists in Ethiopia. Our cultural tour to the Historic Route is crafted by our experainced tour operators and led by our expert cultural tour guides. For any of the above attractions, Grand Holidays Ethiopia Tours can organize a tour program by air and/or road travel. Let us know your interest and the time you have and we can tailor-make a program that suits your interest, time, and budget.