I was fortunate to share a tour of Axum with father/daughter travelers, Keith and Laura. Laura works in global health in Addis Ababa, and her dad came to visit her and travel the country for a week or so. I met them at my hotel yesterday upon their arrival. With very little English spoken in this area, when I heard them speaking English, I bounded up the stairs to meet them. When I learned they didn’t have a guide booked yet, I asked if they would be willing to join me. They did and we had a great day...and no rain (it is the rainy season).
What we learned is that only 5% of Axum has been excavated, for various reasons, however, what has been revealed to date is some of the earliest civilizations of the world, some relics dating back 3000 BC. Tombs, churches and monasteries, relics of Queen of Sheba’s palace and her pool just "scratch the surface" of what lies beneath the farms and houses in the area. All the granite churches and stalaes are truly remarkable as well as the history that is attached to each king, queen or priest that it was built for.
This wealth of history and culture in Axum is unbelievable, and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to learn about so much of this part of the world.
Our tour also led us to the Saturday market which was a blast (but quite sobering, I must admit), had lunch at a local restaurant (total bill for three people, who split it evenly, was about $10), and toured St George Church that contains a cloaked 500 year old Bible (to preserve it). The Ethiopian food is good and cheap, but I also think the hotels are reasonably priced at about $20-$25 a night. Traveler Keith could not get over the price of four beers...$3.
While deeply taking in everything I see, I feel like time has stood still for a lot of things here in Ethiopia, including primitive agriculture (hand harvesting barley, tef, corn etc.), hand washing clothes in rivers and various water sources, no running water or electricity in most homes, very few people own a car, and folks rent donkeys like we rent a pick up truck from Home Depot to transport supplies for just about anything. The Aid given to forward humanity here by the US and UK is definitely making a difference, and I am glad to report those dollars are working for the good of the people who also seem to appreciate it very much. I found a culture of warm and welcoming folk, a true blessing of a proud nation.
Photos will not load. Losing electricity (on and off) for the last couple hours. Not sure this will post either, but will try.