One of the 3002

Queen of Sheeba's throneroom

Home of the Lost Ark?

A priestess



AXUMx xxxI 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

Copyright 2001 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.