Empires and Castles of Ethiopia
When you think of Ethiopia you think of impoverished people where 3/4ths of the country live on less than $1 a day. When I first came across the fact that not only there were castles Ethiopia, but a vast Kingdom that rivals the Kingdoms of Europe and was larger than the greatest kingdoms of the world, I was blown away. Ethiopia has quickly become one of my favorite places in Africa. In fact what I’d discover was wild stories of King Solomon of Jerusalem of the famous Temple of Solomon and his many wife’s including the Queen Sheba whose kingdom is believed to have been in modern Ethiopia and Yemen. The more Kebra Nagast I read the more I was fascinated and even becoming convinced of the connection between Ethiopia and the old Judean kingdom. In Ethiopia you can’t separate religion and these vast kingdoms. As a Kingdom there are strong Judean traditions and Christian influences and is the first Christian Kingdom. If you read the Ethiopian scriptures you’ll find the marriage and first born son of Solomon and the connection to Sheba and her son Menelik.
The Aksumite Obelisks marked the reign of the old kingdoms. One of them was taken by Italy and then returned in 2005. Imagine if England and France returned the obelisks from Egypt? I know the Paris one was for a trade for a clock that never really worked.
The Empire of Aksum at its height extended across most of present-day Eritrea, Ethiopia, Western Yemen, southern Saudi Arabia and Sudan. The capital city of the empire was Aksum, now in northern Ethiopia. It was known as one of the four great powers of his time along with Persia, Rome, and China.
Right: St. Mary’s church which contains the Arc of the Covenant behind the curtain in the Holy of Holies according to the Ethiopian Coptic church. They wouldn’t let us go back there. Instead they wanted to show us their old colorful Holy Book or Bible.
The Aksum empire achieved prominence by the 1st century AD, and was a major player in the commerce between the Roman Empire and Ancient India.
Aksum’s capital is found in northern Ethiopia in modern Axum which is now smaller than it once was. The Kingdom used the name “Ethiopia” as early as the 4th century. It is also the alleged resting place of the Ark of the Covenant and the purported home of the Queen of Sheba.
Abyssinia (Ethiopian) Empire – Solomonic Dynasty
The Solomonic Dynamisty claim direct male line descent from the old Axumite royal house. Menelik II, and later his daughter Zewditu, would be the last Ethiopian monarchs who could claim uninterrupted direct male descent from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.
I took this picture of Emperor Fasilides (1603-1667) Castle in Gondar, which was one of the best preserved of the many castles in a small area in the city of Gondar.
Here Paul and I were messing around amongst the castles.
Above: Emperor Yohannes I Castle in Gondar – 1667-1682
We were a little surprised to find a heard of donkeys running down the road. The castles are on the other side of the rock wall.
These cool Banyan roots remind me of Cambodia.
Below: Coffee Ceremony. Coffee is originated in Ethiopia. If you love coffee I highly recommend the personal roasted coffee bean ceremonial experience. I’m not much for coffee being LDS, but my friend Paul must have tried it a half dozen times and loved every one of them.
Fasiladas’ bath – created by Fasilidas back in the 16h century. It’s a beautiful place where they perform baptisms.
Timket – Once a year the Ethiopian church celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan river on January 19 (or 20 on Leap Year), corresponding to the 10th day of Terr following the Ethiopian calendar.
Below: This blue house appears made of dung and this fabulous blue color.
Below the ancient kingdom of Yeha even older than Axum as the capital for Ethiopia and has the oldest building in Ethiopia dated to somewhere around 700 BC. We were definitely out of place in this little village. If you really want to see people who rarely see outsiders this is a great place.
The Monastery of Debre Damo is on a flat-topped mountain with and contains a 6th century monastery available only to men. While on top of this plateau you can see hills and landscape in Sudan and Eritrea. It’s a real treat for multiple reasons. The only entry is via a rope made of animal hides that’s dropped. You tie one it around you and start climbing up the other animal rope. It’s an incredible experience climbing up 100 foot cliff straight up.
If you visit Axum Ethiopia it’s a short 2-3 hours through an amazing countryside ride. Yeha is less than a half hour away. We were able to see much of Axum in the morning and make it out to the amazing unique monastery.