Wukro Cluster is predominantly well known for the collection of Rock-Hewn Churches. The cluster comprises the Eastern part of Tigrai and it is in this cluster that one passes through to the Danakil Depression as well. The rock forest of Gherealta and the Desea forest are among which that draws the attention of visitors.
II.A Brief Description of Tourist Attraction Sites
Wukro and its Outskirts: Distant Antique Delights
The paved Mekelle-Wukro road via the small town of Mai Mekden begins its course by climbing the mountain Mesebo up to a highland plain, reaching Wukro after 47km. This small, fast-developing town provides a convenient jump off for many of Tigrai’s most famous tourist attractions, with connections to Atsbi, Tsaeda Imba, Hawzien, Adigrat and Aksum.
Mekabir Ga’ewa Archaeological Site at Adi Akaweh
Located in the southwestern outskirts of the town of Wukro, Adi Akawh is a recently discovered archaeological site. The discovery of the site has created much excitement and interest among archaeologists. German and Ethiopian archaeologists have discovered a number of objects, including a statue of a seated woman and an altar with a Sabaean inscription on it as well as a partially inscribed podium. A translation of the inscription has already been made by professor Norbert Nebes of Jena University, Germany. To the surprise of archaeologists, the inscription mentions the pre-Aksumite Di’amat kingdom and the temple of Yeha. From the evidence assembled, the site is tentatively dated to the 8th or 7th century before the birth of Christ.
The northern edge of Wukro town holds a rock-hewn church called Wukro Cherkos. It is a semi-monolithic church whose side walls, front wall and roof are completely separated and projecting from the main rock. It is attached to the rock only on its floor and at its back wall. The church is believed to have been carved during the fourth century. Internal architecture and art works, rectangular carved columns of quartz – rich sandstone, supporting arches and curved ceilings decorated by similar designs characterise this church. The presence of a sand stone slab with inscriptions of the Aksumite type in the vicinity of the church may also support the claim that the church dates back to Aksumite period.
The Church of Abraha Atsbeha
About 15km drive west from Wukro; Abraha We Atsbeha is located in one of the most scenic sites of the region. Considered among the country’s earliest churches, it is known for extraordinary interior decoration as well as its magnificent murals. Its ceiling is decorated with sophisticated patterns and its walls are dotted by curved crosses. More than a dozen enormous columns divide the interior of the church into several bays and aisles. Without doubt, Abraha Atsbeha is a rock church masterpiece. According to local tradition, the church was constructed in the 4th century, but some scholars estimated its date of construction to be the 10th century. What is certain is that it is built well before the famous rock-hewn churches at Lalibela.
Tigrai, the cradle of Ethiopian Christendom, also contributed for the growth and transformation of Islam, the other great religion of the world. One of the least known histories in Ethiopia is the contribution Tigrai has made to the protection of Islam in the early stage of its development. History has it that after escaping persecution from the mercantile rulers of Mecca, the first group of Prophet Mohammed’s followers had sought refuge in Ethiopia, described by the prophet, as a kingdom of a “righteous king” where “no-one is wronged”. It was at Negash, 60 km north of Mekelle – the state’s capital – that most of the prophet’s co-religionists had stayed and eventually buried. Negash is the Islamic world’s second holiest city, only preceded by Mekkah. As a result, the Prophet exempted Ethiopia from Jihad, the Islamic Holy war.