Ashenda is a unique Tigraian traditional festival which takes place in August to mark the ending of fasting called “ filseta ”.


Meskel has been celebrated in the country for over 1600 years. The word actually means ‘crosses in Ge’ez, the classic language of Ethiopia, now used predominantly in the Ethiopian Orthodox church


This falls on the 12th July and commemorates the flogging of the disciples. Traditionally boys make long whips and crack them as loud as often they like. This goes on for about a week


Axum is considered the best place to be on Timkat


Who We Are

Our Vision

To make Tigrai’s a home of well-developed cultural and historical heritage, ensuring satisfied customers and beneficiary communities in 2020.

Our Mission

To create well-organized involvement of local community, government and non-governmental organizations for sustainable preservation, development, and promotion of historical, cultural and natural heritages of Tigrai, as well as serving efficient and effective service so that the social and economic benefits occur in improvement living standard of the community.


Tigrai culture and Tourism Bureau (TCTB) is the leading public entity in charge of supporting the development of tourism in the region.

Tourist Attraction









What Clients Say

A journey to remember but not for the faint-hearted!! Precipitous drops, no barriers (Abune Yemaeta)

UnKnown Visiter

I was thinking that I would visit a small museum like any other in the area but something was absolutely different. I found hundreds of things, artifacts, and archaeological findings

UnKnown Visiter

The only reason to visit Axum has to be the stelae fields. These fascinating columns look like they were erected by giants.

UnKnown Visiter

Tembien lies to the far southeast of Aksum. The Aksum-Adwa-Tembien road leads you along spectacular scenery.  From the peaks of the highlands of Adwa, the road drops to the Werie Gorge before it reaches its lowest point at the riverbed of the River Werie, a tributary of the great River Tekeze. Then the road twists up before it brings the visitor to a complete view of the terrific mountains of Tembien as well as the mountain ranges of Gheralta to the east.
Historically, Tembien is remembered as the birth place of Emperor Yohannes IV and Ras Alula Aba Nega, while other Tigraians know it for its delicious honey and the hyperactive-seeming “Awris” dancing, where both male and female jump up parallel to each other. Furthermore, the area is home to some of northern Ethiopia’s impressive rock churches and natural attractions. Work Amba, Abba Yohanni, Gebriel Wukien and Mariam Hibiito are just few examples which can be visited without much strenuous effort from the Adwa-Tembien road.
 Work Amba
 This is a natural attraction site found 45 km east of Adwa where one can see a lot of migratory bird species that comes from different areas, even from outside of the country, on the months of May and November. The area is rich in varieties of vegetation and large mammals. Furthermore the site has geological importance with lime stone scenery.
Abba Yohanni
Abba Yohanni is a monastery about 8 km off the main road. Another local road goes to within a few meters of the foot of Debre Assa, the mountain on which the church is built. Because of its whitewashed façade, the church is visible from a distance. Incised from the sheer cliff, the church is accessible only through a tunnel-like passage on its west side.
The interior of the church is as spacious as it is beautiful. Divided into several bays and aisle by its arched columns, the church is 14 meters deep and 12 meters wide. Seven free-standing columns and many non-free-standing columns support the ceiling, which is as high as nine meters.  The ceiling is adorned by domes which themselves are decorated by finely carved crosses. Classic in its decoration and supreme in its workmanship, Abba Yohanni is a wonderful gift of art contributed from the distant past to the present.
Gebriel Wukien  
This church is found 16km North West of Abbi – Addi and some km across the field and further 10 minutes ascent of the mountain side.
Architecturally interesting, this church has three aisles and four bays. The remarkable features are well-carved, interesting details, six massive, finely hewn freestanding pillars and three cupolas. Because of its “remarkable detail” some compare it with Mariam Wukro and Medhane Alem Adi Kesho.
Mariam Hibiito
Built in the 15th century, Mariam Hibiito (The Hidden Mary) is really hidden in a foot hill and surrounded by old green trees. Unlike in many other rock-hewn churches of Tigrai, the carvers of this structure had much time to spend in beautifying its exterior. To say the least, they have cut out four free-standing columns reminiscent of those at Medhane Alem Addi Kesho.  
Inside the church there are four free standing and six non-free-standing columns. An unfinished dome-making effort is also evident on the ceiling. The church itself is 13m deep and 9m wide. It can be reached after 34km from the town of Abbi-Addi. The church is also surrounded by mountains in attractive setting.

Gobo Dura
          Gobo Dura – gobo means mount – is the name of a hill located about 5km west of Aksum and is famous for its lioness carving and for its ancient quarries. The hill played a crucial role in the history of the city, since most of the spectacular Aksumite stele and stone monuments originate from this quarry. If one arrives via the Adwa-Shire Road, turn right at the water station to reach the site. This is an important quarry for the great stele of Aksum, where we found evidence of unfinished stele and some marks on how the people quarried and transported the huge ones to the present location. At Gobo Dura, it is possible to also enjoy watching birds, monkeys, vegetation, farming and generally the life of the rural society.

The Lioness of Gobo Dura
       Half way up the hill, one of the massive stone blocks scattered on the southern slopes deserves special attention, for it bears a lioness’ outline realistically carved on its northwestern face even though no one exactly knows why the lioness was depicted there. But tradition says that it was carved in the 10th century AD by Anbesa Wedim, an Aksumite King, after the destruction of Aksum by Queen Yodit to protect the town from such destruction again.

Wushate Golo (The Interior of Pelvis)
        The site, sometimes called Gaul Gobo Dura, is the next very important quarry site after Gobo Dura. It is found north of the latter and showcases man-made terracing for sliding stele down and how the people used to chisel out stelae from the big block of granite stone.
The Teri-lingual Text Inscription of King Ezana
This monument is located about 300 meters north of Mai Shum reservoir on Enno Littmann Street, i.e. the road leading from the town to the Tombs of Kaleb and Gebre Meskel. The stone is inside a small house beside the road, to the left, and can be reached in a 5-minute walk from Mai Shum. Three local farmers, whose names are now written inside the house, found the stone at the beginning of the 1980s. Like the famous Ezana inscription visible in the Ezana Park, it is written in epigraphic South Arabian (western face, visible from the entrance), Greek (eastern face, behind the South Arabian Script), and unvocalised Geez (southern side). It dates back to the 4th century AD. The text is also very similar to that carved on the stone in the Ezana Park, and it celebrates the victory of King Ezana and his army against  the Aksumite God of the War, Mahrem – the Greek Ares – whose cult was abandoned in favor of Christianity by king Ezana himself around 340 AD.  
Tombs of Kaleb and Gebre Meskel
The complex – about 2km north of Aksum – is one of the best existing examples of 6th century monumental Aksumite architecture. Kaleb, saint and king, also known as Ella Atsbeha, was the son of Tazena and the father of Gebre Meskel. Kaleb lived in the 6th century AD and became one of the most famous kings of Aksum due to his successful aggressive policy in foreign lands. In the first half of the 6th century he was able to consolidate the power of Aksum in the southeast, the coastal plains, and the highlands of Yemen. We know all this from Kaleb himself, through an inscription written in Ge’ez in South Arabian characters. Kaleb prays to the Lord ‘who has given me a strong kingdom through which I overcome my enemies and I press underfoot the head of my enemies’ and continues mentioning the territories and peoples under Aksumite power, including the Beja and Nuba, living on the Red Sea coast and in central areas of the present–day Sudan respectively. Kaleb refers to the Christian Lord as ‘strong’ and ‘valorous’ in battle’, definitions that would have well suited the Aksumite God of War, Maharem, whose cult was abandoned by King Ezana about two centuries earlier. Kaleb’s son, King Gebre Meskel – whose name means Servant of the Cross – reigned around the mid-6th century. He is credited by the Ethiopian tradition with having built the famous monastery of Debre Damo, founded by Abune Aregawi.
These two basically similar tombs are constructed side by side beneath a shared superstructure, which comprises a central raised courtyard reached from the west by a flight of six steps 12m wide. The tombs are approached by stepped edit, fully roofed and constructed of huge, carefully dressed granite blocks of irregular shape, each individually worked to fit its desired place. The northern Tomb of Kaleb comprises a longitudinal chamber from which three rooms open eastward. The southern Tomb of Gebre Meskel is more complex, comprising a longitudinal chamber and three rooms to the east. The central room comprises three sarcophagi. Two other rooms also extend westward on either side of the entrance stair. Look out for the carvings of crosses on the stone slabs!

Enda Abba Liqanos
The church is located at the top of Mount Likanos (2,339 meters above sea level), halfway between the Tombs of Kaleb and Gebre Meskel and Enda Abba Pentaleon Monastery. It can be reached from the aforementioned tombs by heading eastward along the track that passes in front of the gate of the compound where the tombs are located. A signboard close to the gate indicates the way.
Enda Abba Likanos was one of the Nine Saints. While most of the Nine Saints had to spread out to other parts of Tigrai and northern Ethiopia, Abune Likanos, along with Abune Pentaleon, was favored by King Kaleb to stay near Aksum as they were the King’s confidants. He established his monastery north of Aksum, not very far from the tomb of Kaleb and Gebre Meskel. The site is believed to also be an Aksumite quarry. Little is known about Abba Likanos’ life except that he spent twenty-five years in the monastery. The current church on top of the monastery hill was built in the 20th century.

Enda Abba Pentalewon
This ancient site is located at the top of a steep 40m rock pinnacle approximately 5km east of the old city center. To get there from downtown, take the Aksum-Adwa road and at the end of the city, look for a signboard to the left which indicates the track. Alternatively, follow the track that brought you to Abba Likanos, past the Tombs of Kaleb and Gebre Meskel.
Enda Abba Pentaleon is of special historical interest because it is one of the few Pre-Aksumite sites found in Aksum. On the peak, the ruins a Sabaean temple can be found, which was dedicated or re-dedicated to Mahrem, the God of War (Ares in Greece) as a thanksgiving offering for a victory over the Himyarites. This dedication is part of a fragmentary Greek inscription found in the old church and it is most likely the earliest Greek inscription found in Aksum to date. It says: ‘ (…) in this space (..) and he order (?) to the repaired (…) it and the other side of the sea (…) unconquerable (god) of the Aksum (…) the first and only (?) in the distant (and) big (…) infantry (…) I have dedicated (…) to unconquered Ares of the Aksumites.’
Part of this ancient structure was subsequently incorporated into the church of Abba Pentaleon, named for one of the Nine Saints who came to Ethiopian in the 5th century to restore the pure faith. According to Ethiopian tradition he built a small cell by himself on the top of the hill and stood on his feet 45 years uninterruptedly. Before starting his military campaigns, king Kaleb used to seek comfort and blessing from the saint, who supposedly and miraculously participated in the battle against the Himyarites and caused the death of 5,050 warriors. The old church consisted of an east-west oriented building with a rectangular plan of about 13.5m by 6.9m, located at the center of a circular platform almost entirely surrounded by a stone wall.
Pentaleon was the adviser to king Kaleb, who joined the monastery after he abdicated in favor of his son Gebre Meskel roughly Ad 550. Another plausible local tradition claims that saint Yared, contemporary of Gebre Meskel who invented the notation of Ethiopian ecclesiastical music and compiled the Mezgaba Dugwa (Treasury of Hymns), spent much of his life at Pentaleon.  Women may enter the monastery compound and look at the various holy crosses and books. The inside of the church is accessible to men only. Look out for a particularly fine 15th century illuminated manuscript of the Gospels.

Hawelti Melazo
The interesting Sabaean site of Hawelti is located about 10km from Aksum, at the top of the small hill to the left of the unpaved road linking the Adwa–Shire Road with Mahbere Degwe. The junction with the Adwa–Shire Road is just past the eastern end of the city of Aksum.
As the name says – hawelti translates as stele – the site is characterized by the presence of monoliths, quadrangular in cross – sectional and made of white, calcareous rock. The stele surrounded two similar buildings, rectangular in plan, of which regrettably nothing is left today but their hollows in the ground. This was an ancient Pre-Aksumite sanctuary of the god Almaqah. According to the French archaeologists who excavated the site in 1959, the external walls of the twin buildings had a low bench on which a larger number of votive pottery statues were found. They represented mostly animals, particularly oxen, but also sitting women and models of houses. Small pottery oxen are still found by the people living in the area and can be seen at the National Museum in Addis Ababa, which has on display two fascinating figurines of stylised sitting women. What made this site famous, however, was the finding of three extraordinary artefacts near the place where the building stood. They date back to the 6th-4th century BC. The first is the amazing white rock throne, 1.4m high, standing on bull’s hoof feet and with its external sides beautifully carved in bas-reliefs representing human beings. Carved on one side is the male name Rafash. A band with an ibex pattern decorates the front of the throne. The throne is on display at National Museum in Addis Ababa.
About 1.5km southeast of Hawelti, on the same side of the Aksum–Mahber Degwe Road is the village of Melazo. It can be reached on foot after first crossing the Mai Agazen stream, which is dry or quite low during most of the year. In the Sabaean period, Melazo must have been a site famous for its important sanctuaries dedicated to Almaqah. In the 1950s, archaeologists found one shrine to the south of the village and another near the north-eastern edge of the hill. They excavated a votive altar and two incense burners, possibly dating back to 6th – 4th centuries BC, all on display at the National Museum in Addis Ababa.    

                                                          RELIGIOUS HERITAGES IN VISITING SEQUENCE
                                           Saint Yared: The Father of the liturgy in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church
Needless to say, Aksumite civilization had other aspects besides architectural tokens of power. Culturally, the Aksumite Empire was vibrant. One of Aksum’s greatest cultural contributions was Saint Yared’s seamless musical system. Yared’s hymns were so moving that even ‘… the King and Queen and the Bishops and priests and the King’s nobles ran to the church and they spent the day by listening to him.’ For Yared, church music was ‘of a divine, not human origin.’ He also combined spiritual singing with dancing known locally as Shibsheba. No other church in the world combines dancing with chanting. Typically, Ethiopian Orthodox priests sing and dance use instruments such as the Kabaro (drum) and Tsanatsil (sistra) wearing their snow–white ceremonial dresses embroidered with the national tri–colour. The sights and sounds of the Shibsheba are believed to be the greatest accomplishment of the 6th century in Ethiopia.
A short distance to the east of the Daero Ella fig tree, in the middle of the road to the Stelae Park, is a small walled enclosure in which are set two Aksumite pillars, possibly from thrones similar to those in the Cathedral precinct. They are known as the Pillars of Yared and are used at festivals and other occasions when the Ark of the Covenant is carried in procession around the outside of the cathedral precinct.
The Ark of the Covenant of God
To the north of the old church of Tsion Maryam is a separate chapel housing the most sacred endowment of the Ethiopian people, the Ark of the Covenant. The legend that recounts the story of the Ark, containing the tablets with the Ten Commandments received by Moses on Mount Sinai, is told in the Kebre Nagast, a text that unifies the origins of the Aksumite monarchy with the New Testament.
Ever since its disappearance from Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, the Ark is kept in Aksum. Tradition has it that Solomon and Sheba fell in love with each other. As a result, Menelik I was born, heralding the beginning of the Solomonic Dynasty in Ethiopia. When he had become an adult, Menelik I, impatient to see his father, went to Jerusalem, where he was accorded a royal reception. Despite Solomon’s entreaty to persuade his son to stay in his kingdom, the Ethiopian prince declined to accept his father’s offer and, instead, chose to return to his beloved Aksum.
Most significant to Ethiopians is the journey back to his homeland. As was the custom or perhaps royal protocol then in Israel, any journey of a king’s son included the sons of the chief priests of Jerusalem. Accordingly, the Ethiopian prince was accompanied by Zadok’s son, Azarias - who actually stole the original Ark of the Covenant of God from Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem. After a long and arduous journey through Egypt and the Sudan across the Sahara Desert, the holy object arrived in Aksum, where it is safely kept ever since. The possession of this sacred object makes Aksum the holiest city of our universe.
As is known, the Ark contains the stone tablets in which God inscribed the Ten Commandments. As described in the Bible, Moses received detailed instructions from the Almighty regarding the size, design, construction and content of the Ark. Hence, the Ark is referred to in Ethiopia as Tselate Muse (Mose’s Ark).
For many historians, the mysterious disappearance of the original Ark of the Covenant of God from Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem has remained inexplicable, if not enigmatic. Such a murky historical cleavage has driven the entire world into a historical wilderness. No other single ecclesiastical object has ever attracted so much interest and triggered so much debate in modern history.  Often, the unconventional debate has been between Western scholars and ordinary Ethiopians, who remained stubborn advocates of their history. Although no other country in the world has claimed ownership of the sacred relic, it took Ethiopians millennia to convince the enlightened world that they are the God-chosen guardians of the one-of-a-kind relic. In recent times, apparently, the world has reluctantly recognized Aksum’s persistent and unequivocal claim as the final resting place of the ‘lost’ Ark of the Covenant of God.
Of course, one side of the issue has to do with proof. But the flip side of it is faith. And in Aksum, faith overrides all other considerations. As the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abune Pawlos, proclaimed, “…faith does not go well with scientific proof. We don’t doubt it, that it is here, in our place. We don’t have to prove it to anyone. You want to believe, it’s your privilege. If you don’t want to believe, it’s your own privilege again… It is here and we believe it.” (Munro Hay 2005:39).
After the birth of Christ, it did not take Aksumites long to embrace Christianity. As a state religion, Christianity was adopted in the fourth century AD well before several European realms. Christianity found its footings when Frumentius – the Syrian boy who later become Ethiopia’s first bishop – converted King Ezana of Ethiopia to Christendom. Soon Aksumites constructed the original church dedicated to St. Mary of Zion, the first in sub-Saharan Africa and perhaps one of the earliest and most revered churches in the world. Aksum then became an oasis of Christianity in a region dominated by pagans. After its destruction in the 16th century by Ahmed Gragn, two cathedrals were built in the 17th and 20th centuries on each side of the ruins of the old. Aksum is now graced by these two cathedrals as well as by the nearby Chapel that houses the Ark. Depicting the architectural style of its time, the older church is adorned wall to wall by magnificent murals. Built in 1965 by Emperor Haile Selassie and inaugurated in the presence of Queen Elizabeth of England, the new cathedral is a dome-shaped edifice of modern architectural vibrancy. Most venerated of all places of worship in the country, St. Mary of Aksum serves as the fountain of Christians from far and near who beg for mercy and redemption.
The church also served as a venue of secular activities. The location known as Tsef Tsef was a site where royal judgments were passed, mediations were arranged and even protests were held. It was also a site of imperial function, where Ethiopia’s powerful king of kings bowed, seeking blessing from the clergy and legitimacy from the polity. Several past Ethiopian emperors had to temporarily abandon their thrones and desert their capital cities so as to hold elaborate coronation ceremonies in St. Mary of Zion – the mother of all churches!
 Coronation Ceremony
The church of St. Mary at Aksum is not just a site of Christian worship. It is also a site for private contemplation, group mediation or conflict resolution, public gatherings and royal judgments. Most important of all other events that had taken place here is the coronation of the Ethiopian kings.
The coronation ceremony in Aksum is the stuff for Hollywood movies. Meticulously planned and extravagantly arranged, the epic royal function makes the crowned king feel symbolically placed at the center of the universe. In essence, it is a colorful religious ritual designed to legitimize a secular undertaking. Before being crowned as the king of kings of Ethiopia, any would-be emperor had to endure an avalanche of arrogant questions, asked by ordinary women in a manner of interrogation. One writer described the beautiful coronation ceremony as follows:
“As the king approached the cathedral, the priests, singing the chants composed by the legendary sixth-century musician Yared, declared ‘May you be blessed, O king of Israel’. The ‘daughters of Zion’ (the young women of Aksum) gathered in two rows on their side of the pathway near one of the Aksumite inscriptions to the east of the cathedral. The women stood to the left and right of the road holding a cord, with two older women holding swords. As the king’s horse approached, the women questioned arrogantly, ‘who are you, and of what tribe and family?’  The king answered, ‘I am the Son of Solomon, the son Ibn Hakim (Menelik)…’ He then used his sword to cut the cord, while the older women declaimed, ‘Truly, you are the king of Zion, the son of David, the son of Solomon.’ Then the king was seated on the coronation throne, spread with precious clothes for the occasion, the throne was called ‘the throne of David’. During the ceremonies the king also took on a new name, the throne name…”
King Zera Yakob in 15th century, King Sertse Dingle in the 16th century, Emperor Susnyos in the 17th century and Emperor Yohannes IV in the 19th century all are cases in point. Aksum saw its last coronation in 1930 when Emperor Haile Selassie became the king of kings of Ethiopia.
The Church of Arbaetu Ensessa
At the south-western border of Maryam Tsion’s outer compound is the church of Arbaetu Ensessa – the Four Animals of the Apocalypse, also popularly known as the women’s church. The site is marked by the presence of a beautiful bell tower to the left of the main entrance. The church is rectangular in plan and has the same east-west orientation as the old and new cathedrals. It was built during the beginning of the 1960s in an effort to “modernise” the pre-existent old circular church. The latter was built, according to tradition, by a nephew of Emperor Fasiledes, Adiam Seged Eyassu. Remnants of ancient architecture are still preserved in the church, whose name features already in the Book of Aksum and which archaeologists include in the list of the monuments belonging to Aksumite culture (ca. 150BC – 700AD). Part of the ancient podium still exists, as well as the approximately 7m long 6-step stairway on the western side, opposite the main gate. Following the Ethiopian tradition of the religious architecture, the church interior is divided into three concentric sections. Access to the outer one is through the door on the northern side of the building, near the north-western corner. The first section runs all around the Keddest, which contains the Mekdes, the sancta sanctorum accessible only to priests. The sections are decorated with paintings on canvas and on the walls, most of them made in recent years. They include the image of St. George killing the dragon, the Virgin with Child, and an angel vertically set on the wall beside the door leading to the central section; Abraham and Isaac, on the central and right metal window panels above the door on the western wall of the central section; the Nine Saints, on the ceiling of the central section; the damned burning in hell, expressively painted on the central side of the central section’s southern wall; and the interesting scenes recently painted on the southern wall of the outer section. Beneath the sanctuary and not accessible to visitors are two Aksumite shaft tombs. A number of Aksumite carved stones are preserved in the churchyard.
 Enda Eyesus Church
Enda Eyesus Church is situated in the  Stelae field. It is separated from the field by stone walls. The church is known for its murals. It is decorated wall to wall by paintings depicting several subjects. St. Mary and Child, the apostles, saints, among other things, adorn the external walls of the church. The churchyard is also a site of several stelae, some of which are decorated. One decorated stele, the top of which is full-moon shaped, is the prominent structure in the churchyard of Enda Eyesus.

                                              Legend and myth – queen of sheba in visiting sequence
 Mai Shum Reservoir
The name ‘Aksum’ is thought to derive from the Cushitic word ak, meaning ‘water’ and shum, the Semitic for ‘chieftain’. Apart from wells dotted throughout the Old Town, Mai Shum was the primary water supply, and is still used for domestic use by inhabitants of parts of the city. Legend describes it as the ‘Queen of Sheba’s Bath’ which has recently been given credibility on the discovery of an older earthen wall below the one now visible. The stairs cut into the rock on the southern side appear to be extremely old, although impossible to date, and are thought to be from the time of the Aksumite Empire.
The present makeup of the reservoir dates to its enlargement by Bishop Samuel in the reign of King Yeshaq in the late 1400s. Its religious significance is demonstrated at the festival of Timket, the Ethiopian Epiphany, during which Christ’s baptism is revisited in a mass re-enactment of the event as a symbol of renewal of faith.
Enda Mikael, Addi Kilte
This is a ruined palace in the old town, examined by the DAE in 1906 that dates between the 4th and 5th centuries AD. The central pavilion of Enda Mikael measures 27x27m, comprising of ten rooms following with the same pattern as Ta’aka Mariam, except with one of the central rooms subdivided.
The site of Inda Mikael
Enda Sem’on, Addi Kilte
This is ruins of palace are located about 200m southeast of Enda Mikael. This site is in fact what archaeologists refer to Enda Se’mon 2, which was excavated in the 1970s by the mission organized by the British Institute in East Africa (BIAE) and directed by Neville Chittick. The central pavilion had a 35m square plan and was divided into two symmetrical halls approximately 5m by 10m, and nine other smaller rooms. Each hall had a wide ceiling supported by 28 columns. Interestingly, just to the west of Enda Sem’on 2, the German archaeologists found two drainage channels leading from the room at the center of the building to waterspouts protruding from the base of the external wall in 1906.
Ta’akha Mariam
The largest Aksumite palace found to date is located about 200m southeast of Enda Semon. Unfortunately, very little remains of this once magnificent – and perhaps royal – palace.
When the German archaeologists excavated the site in 1906, they found the area covered by houses and saw people using the stones for building material. Local people also told them that many palace stones had been used to rebuild the cathedral. The ruins were then further devastated in 1936, when the Adwa-Shire Road built by the Italian cut the ancient site in half. Since then, the only way to appreciate Ta’akha Maryam’s superb architecture has been to rely on the famous, fascinating reconstruction made by a member of the DAE Expedition, Daniel Krencker, on the basis of the 1906 excavations. The complex had an amazing dimension of 120m by 80m and consisted of a central pavilion enclosed by two-story wings at its four sides. The ten three-story towers of these wings emphasized the staircase entrance opening onto the courtyard at the southern front, or through the door to the northern wing. The central pavilion had a 24m square plan and lay on a podium approached on its northern and southern sides by two flights of stone steps. The recessed walls created four corner towers, perhaps three-storied, whereas the rest of the building had two floors. The pavilion was divided into nine rooms, ranging from 7m by 6m to 5m in square. They had stone floors and their ceilings were supported by stone and possibly wooden columns on stone bases. The imposing quality of the complex was embellished by two four–columned porticoes with floral columns with octagonal column bases, two of which can be seen in the Ezana Garden Park.           
Dungur Palace
Located about 700m east of Ta’akha Maryam and less than 2km southwest of the Cathedral, this palace is the best preserved and therefore the most spectacular of the elite residences. Traditions strongly attribute the palace to the famous legendary Queen of Sheba, who ruled Aksum some 3000 years ago. The overall plan is similar to that of Ta’akha Maryam, in which the central pavilion measures 18 meter square and has similar layout, with massive, well-dressed granite slabs used as cornerstones. The surrounding courtyards are smaller and closer, and the whole complex measure only 55 x 52m over all.
As in the other cases described above, the pavilion’s indented plan resulted in four quadrangular corner towers; possibly three–storied. The rooms had columns to support the ceiling. The podium on which it lay still has one monumental, beautiful flight of stone steps approaching it to the east and a double stairway approaching the southern entrance. Incorporated at the top of the eastern stairway is a small stone flagged floor area in the central pavilion. Two waterspouts protrude from the western wall, presumably in their original position. Despite some recent reconstructions, it is still possible to observe the peculiar original masonry, which consisted of polygonal coursed and uncoursed rubble as well as complete courses of dressed blocks, the latter being found in Aksum only as the base of the cathedral’s podium and at the Tomb of Kaleb. Two rough stele once existed at the northern corners of the structure. This ruined elite structure was excavated by French Archaeologist F. Anfray, in 1966-68. Therefore, according to his research, the structure is dated back to the 6th – 7th century AD and it could have belonged to an elite resident.
 The Gudit Stele Field
This ancient cemetery lies opposite the southern side Dungur palace, beyond the Adwa–Shire Road. The cemetery is named after Queen Gudit, or Yodit, who is said to have led an army from central Ethiopia that conquered and destroyed Aksum ca. 980 AD. From a Geo-archaeological analysis it emerged that the Gudit Field represents an early Aksumite mortuary site and that it was one of the city’s first areas to have been inhabited, in the 2nd century AD. Recent excavations highlighted the use of the site as a cemetery from the mid-2nd century to the mid-4th century.
The French explorer Charlemagne Theophile Lefebvre visited it in 1841 and provides us with one of the first accounts of the site. He counted fifty-two stele of fragments monoliths, three of which with no decorative elements other than carefully dressed rounded heads. Theodore Bent visited the site in 1893 and mentions the presence of ‘monoliths, all undecorated and unhewn’. The 1906 DAE identified 44 stele and many more were found during the excavations carried out in the 1970s and 1990s, reaching a total of almost 600. A few of them have remarkable dimensions and only about two dozen are left standing. Unfortunately, according to an Italian archaeologist who visited the area in 1937, many stele had been raised without regard for their original position several years before his visit.

Stele 7
Located about 20m northeast of Stele 5, this fallen monolith is highly noticeable for its fascinating and unique decorative pattern. On the front side, it represents a finely carved pillar and capital supporting what seems to be a stylized house, made of two rectangles, with one inside the other, surmounted by a triangle resembling a gable roof. A smaller but similar house is carved on the back side. The pattern raised speculation about whether it might have represented the Ark of the Covenant. Noteworthy is the design of the front–side capital, which contrasts pleasantly with the geometric rigor of the house by representing delicate, curling, heart–shaped leaves and spiral volutes terminating in small four–petal rosettes. The stele has a total length of 9.78m and it is rectangular in cross–section.

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