of Sheeba's throneroom
of the Lost Ark?
wasn't completely ignorant about my travels. I had heard of Axum and
knew a couple of things I wanted to see there. Axum was the home of
the Queen of Sheba. In addition, there was a church that claimed to
have Moses' Ark of the Covenant. Of course, tourists weren't permitted
in the church and only priests could enter the holy of holies. So,
God - and the priests - only knew the truth.
official Axum tour was about four hours. Ethiopia certainly had a
lot of history I wasn't aware of. And, since 98% of the area had not
yet been excavated, there was sure to be a lot more to be discovered.
Axum's landmark of fame was the stela of Ramhai I. Actually, there
were 3002 stelae in the Axum area and 66 at the park. Remhai I's granite
stela, constructed in 2500 B.C., was 23.1 meters tall and meant to
mark his tomb. It wasn't the largest. Remhai II's stela was so large
it never was successfully erected. The next tallest had been hauled
off during the Italian occupation - and was supposed to be returned
in six weeks.
In 1000 B.C., Axum was also the home of the Queen of Sheba. The kingdom
of Axum included most of the Red Sea area of present-day Yemen, Ethiopia,
Sudan, Djibouti, and Eritrea. Although from Axum, the queen was in
Yemen when she heard of Solomon and came for a visit in Jerusalem.
The guide said she stayed in Israel for a year, had a son by Solomon,
and then moved back to Axum. I toured her throne palace. She had another
enormous palace about a stone's throw away, but it had not been excavated.
son of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, Menelik I, was credited (or
blamed, depending on your perspective) with taking the Ark of the
Covenant from Israel. It was hidden for a thousand years but eventually
made its way to Axum. There was a special place at the Monastery of
Mary where the ark was housed. Only the guardian of the ark could
see it. I had to ask, when Italy returned the stela to Axum, would
Axum return the ark to Israel? I already knew the answer but not the
way it would be given. I was told that the ark goes wherever God wants
it to be. Apparently, God knew better than Solomon because the king
had tried to get it back where he believed it should belong.
travel posters called Ethiopia "the land of 13 months of sunshine".
The country followed the Julian calendar containing twelve months
of 30 days each. The leftover five or six days of the year comprised
the 13th month. And, during any of those months, somewhere in Ethiopia
there was sunshine. I certainly felt the sunshine as I walked Axum
on market day.