BootsnAll Travel Network

Ethiopia: Aksum-Tombs, Stelae, and Palace ruins

Ethiopie Hotel- nice and new with the smell of fresh paint. I loved that hotel and despise the Sudanese Government for putting a time limit on their visas. I only got to spend two nights there, but would have spent a week if I could have. Everything was so new and spotless, it was better than any place I had been.

Aksum is one of Ethiopia’s star attractions with the aforementioned Tombs, Stelae (big penis towers), and Palace ruins. The town once formed part of the great Aksumite kingdom which is described as ‘the last of the great civilizations of antiquity.’ Aksum was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans, was featured in Byzantine and Arab literature, and was reported with wonder by European visitors in the 16th to 18th centuries. Remarkably, 95% of Aksum still remains unexcavated.

According to legend, Aksum was the Queen of Sheba’s capital in the 16th century BC. By the 1st century AD, Greek merchants knew Aksum as a great city and the powerful capital of an extensive empire. For 1000 years, Aksum dominated the vital seaborne trade between Africa and Asia. The kingdom numbered among the greatest states of the ancient world.

Pilgrims still journey to Aksum and important festivals are celebrated here. The great majority of Ethiopians believe passionately that the Ark of the Covenant resides within the town (I didn’t find it.)

My really only worth while adventure occurred when I went out in search of the Tombs of Kings Kaleb and Gebre Meskel. Doing my usual “I don’t need no stinking guide”, I got lost. My copy of a guide book is a copy of a copy, so the map is somewhat washed out. Well, I ended up climbing up the wrong mountain. There were these two little kids who were more than happy to take me up a short route although it was steeper than hell and it didn’t seem right that other package tourists would be able to make it up. When we got to the top, I asked them (really mimed them) about where the tombs were. I was kind of taken a back as how could kids not know about some big holes in the ground where you can go and screw around. Hell if there was anything like that within a ten mile radius of my home when I was growing up you could be sure I was exploring them. Long story short, they ended up throwing rocks at me as I mimed them how useless and incompetent as kids they were. Luckily I ran into a young man who was out plowing his field with his two oxen and wood plough. I mimed him the question about tombs and we were off. Now this guy knew what he was talking about. We headed across about a dozen fields before we finally came upon a little rocky area with with a pile of corrugated metal sheets covering them. The guy lifted them up and I scurried below them. The place had some steps that went down, but you could only go a few because the whole thing was filled with water. Okay, I guess during the rainy season the place floods. The guide book says that the two tombs are right next to each other but the second one the guy took me to was pretty far away. This one also had a shed like cover over it. When he lifted this one, it was a pretty deep hole about a story deep (3 meters). At the bottom was a little crawl space that looked like a tunned that led off to somewhere cool. The problem was that there was no way to get down the hole besides jumping down and the bigger problem was what to do when you tried to get out. As I reviewed my options, I started seeing bats flying in and out of the crawl space/tunnel. That pretty much ended my expedition. Rabies is not good. Rabies there are no cures once you have it. Sure, if you get the shots within twenty-four hours you might survive, but it would take like two weeks to get back to Addis and by that time I would be mummified. I weighed my options and came up with “screw that.” I tipped the guy and headed back. As I took a little more time to review the map I saw my error and learned that I was on the totally wrong mountain and that I had actually stumbled on some other tombs. Too bad I am not more of an adventurer because I bet in one of those tombs sits the Ark of the Covenent, what ever that is.

I met up with Chris and Sergio as they were staying in the hotel next door. Sergio had enough of the Church scene and was heading off the next day to Gonder. Chris was running out of time and had already been to Gonder so he was back tracking and heading to Addis. We ended up just hanging out at the ritzy hotel in Aksum where all the Rat Bastard NGO and UN workers hide out. You should have seen it, when we came out of the restaurant there must have been twenty white new Land Cruisers filling the parking lot. At about $50,000 a piece, there was about a million dollars in hardware sitting there. The hotel charges about a hundred bucks a night and of course these guys would never steep so low as to go middle class. What a waste of fucking money. I just wonder how many poor, displaced, sick Africans are in need at the five star hotel. Pisses me off just thinking about it.

Beyond that, pictures do much better than all this typing, so tomorrow some photos. I am starting to get warm so I need to go make love to the air conditioner for a while. Ciao.

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