My next stop was Axum, considered the most holy city in Ethiopia, where the Ark of Covenant is said to be held.
This small city was a sacred place for Ethiopians for various historical reasons. Now is a chilled touristic town but people remain very religious. The inhabitants are very nice, they helped me out every time I hitch hiked to get somewhere.
Due to the vicinity with Eritrea it’s common to see men with guns.
Axum was the capital of the Kingdom of Aksum that existed during the 1st millennium AD. The Aksumites erected “stelaes”, which were big obelisks carved from a single rock that were used to mark the underground tombs of kings. The biggest one, now fallen, was 33 meters long, weighed about 500 tons and is considered the biggest monolith on the world.
There is also the Ezana Stone, where it’s documented how king Ezana converted the territory to Christianity, and is written in three ancient languages: Ge’ez, Sabean and Greek.
The Orthodox churches are painted colorfully and they don’t have statues. The church of St. Mary of Zion is exactly like that and is impressive from the inside because it’s built with no columns and you can admire the size of the church and the cupola inside.
Next to it there is a repository where the Orthodox church claims to have the Ark of Covenant, which is a chest that holds the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments (like the one on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). Inside this small building lives a guard that never leaves and no one else is allowed in, even his family can only talk to him from outside the fence.
That’s all about the holy city of Axum. Now I start moving back south, and for lack of transport it took me two days to reach Gondar, which should be only 7 hours away from Axum.