Ethiopia is the only African country that was not colonised by the Europeans and this has made it an interesting destination for historical knowledge. Its heritage dates back to the first century AD, as traders from Greece, Rome, Persia and Egypt knew of the riches of what is now called Ethiopia. In the first century, Axum was the capital of a great empire and it became one of the first Christian lands in Africa.
Here are some historical attractions you should visit in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia’s most ancient city and the capital of the historic Axumite state, it is the site of many remarkable huge stones and towers.
The largest pillar, which was 35 meters long and weighed 500 tons, is the biggest piece of stone ever cut by humanity anywhere in the world. Axum, according to history, was a great commercial centre, issuing its own currency and trading with Egypt, Arabia, Persia, India and even Ceylon. The settlement was also the site of Ethiopia’s oldest church which dates back to the coming of Christianity early in the fourth century.
Just out of town, the remains of an early Axumite palace, popularly thought to have belonged to the Queen of Sheba, is worth a visit. The remains are located at Dangur, near the mountain from which the obelisks were originally excavated. The beautifully worked tombs of several ancient Axumite rulers and the local archaeological museum are also worth a visit.
Lalibela, a medieval settlement in the Lasta area of Wello, lies at the centre of an extensive complex of rock churches. Lalibela has 11 remarkable rock-hewn monolithic churches, believed to have been built by King Lalibela in the late 12th or early 13th century. These notable structures are carved, inside and out, into a solid rock and are considered to be among the wonders of the world. Each building is architecturally unique but reflects beautifully executed craftsmanship and many of them are decorated with fascinating paintings. These astonishing edifices remain places of worship till this day.
This is the capital of Ethiopia and the social and economic nerve of the country. It was founded by Emperor Menelik in 1887. More than 21,000 hectares in area, Addis Ababa is situated in the foothills of the 3,000-metre Entoto Mountains and rambles pleasantly across many wooded hillsides and gullies cut with fast-flowing streams.
Wide tree-lined streets, fine architecture, glorious weather and the incongruity of donkey trains along the boulevards makes it a city of surprises and a delightful place to explore. The clear mountain air gives the city the bracing atmosphere of a summer highland resort.
It is a monastery which has the oldest existing church in Ethiopia. Local tradition said Abune Aregawi, one of the nine saints, built the church in the 16th century. The Monastery of Debre Damo can only be reached by rope pulley.
Bahir Dar is a small town in the south-eastern shore of Lake Tana where local fishermen still use papyrus boats, and just 30 km from the spectacular Tis-isat Falls. Here the Blue Nile creates a ‘Smoking Water’, an awe-inspiring sight as it plunges into the valley below.
From Bahar Dar one must explore some of the ancient monasteries that were built around Lake Tana or on the many Islands.
Gonder 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 various emperors who reigned during this period. These dramatic castles, unlike any other in Africa, display richness in architecture that reveals Axumite traditions, as well as the influence of Arabia.
Harar is an ancient and holy city. Always an important trading centre, it is famous for its ancient buildings, great city walls and as a centre of Muslim scholarship (the town has 99 mosques). The city is well known for its handicrafts that include woven textiles, basket ware, silverware and handsomely bound books. Harar has been a place of pilgrimage for many years.
Its attractions include the city walls and narrow streets lined with traditional Hararigegar houses, Rimbaud House, a fine traditional house dating from the period when the French poet, Rimbaud, lived in Harar and the Hyena Man.