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Historical Ethiopia

Ethiopia, the oldest independent nation in Africa, has a heritage dating back to the first century AD. Traders from Greece, Rome, Persia and Egypt knew of the riches of what is now Ethiopia, and by the first century AD, Axum was the capital of a great empire. This realm became one of the first Christian lands of Africa. Late in the 10th Century, Axum declined and a new Zagwe dynasty, centered in what is now Lalibela, ruled the land. Axum, Lalibela and Gonder now provide the greatest historical legacy. It was in the 16th Century that the son of the great explorer Vasco Da Gama came to Ethiopia. He found a land of many kingdoms and provinces beset by feuds and war.

The following are some of the major historical attractions:

   
Axum
Axum was the seat of an empire which extended across the Red Sea to Arabia, traded with India and China, had its own alphabet and notational system, constructed great engineering works and dams. It was reckoned in the 4th century to be one of the four great powers of the ancient world. Today the visitor can see stelae (the largest single pieces of stone erected anywhere), the tombs and castles of Kings, Axum Museum and Mariamtsion Church, built on the sit of Ethiopia’s first church. A chapel within the church compound is believed by Ethiopian Orthodox Christians to house the Ark of the Covenant (see Graham Hancock’s The Sign and the Seal). A visit to Axum can be extended to take in the 500 BC pre-Axumite temple of Yeha.
       
 
Lalibela
     
King Lalibela is credited with the foundation of the 11 rock-hewn churches in the 12th Century. One of the world's most incredible man-made creations, they are a lasting monument to man's faith in God. These remarkable edifices were carved out of solid rock, in a region where the rugged landscape still protects the churches from mass tourism. The 11 man made churches are found in and around the town of Lalibela. Other churches are reached by a 45-minute drive by 4x4 vehicle, or a three hour mule ride.The venue for some of the most famous church festivals in Ethiopia, a visit during the great celebrations of Timket (Epiphany) and Gena (Ethiopian Christmas) is particularly rewarding.
Bahar Dar
Bahar Dar is set on the south-eastern shore of Lake Tana, where local fishermen still use papyrus boats. It is just 30 km from the spectacular Tisisat Falls. Here the Blue Nile creates "Smoking Water" an awe-inspiring sight as it plunges into the gorge below. From Bahar Dar you can explore some of the ancient monasteries that have been built around Lake Tana, or on its many Islands. These include Dek Stephanos with its priceless collections of icons, the remains of several medieval emperors, Kebran Gabriel and Ura Kidane Mehret with its famous frescoes. The colourful local market at Bahar Dar is renowned for its weavers and wood workers.
Gonder
Gonder was the 17th Century capital of Ethiopia and is notable for its medieval castles and churches. The City's unique imperial compound contains a number of castles built between 1632 and 1855 by the various emperors who reigned during this period. These dramatic castles, unlike others in Africa, display richness in architecture that reveals the Axumite traditions as well as the influence of Arabia. On a second day, visitors could take in the very fine and recently restored medieval church of Debre Sina Mariam at Gorgora, at the northern end of Lake Tana, or vistas of the Simien Mountains.
There are two itineraries for air and road travel. A combination could be made or the itineraries altered to take in other sites or activities en route, such as the markets of Senbete and Bati; the rock hewn churches of Tigray; some days walking in the Simien Mountains, or crossing Lake Tana by boat.

Harar
Dating back to 1520, the city of Harar is an ancient and holy city. Always an important trading centre, the city is famous for its ancient buildings, its great city walls and with 99 mosques, the town is also known as a centre of muslim learning. The city is noted for its superb handicrafts that include woven textiles, basketware, silverware and handsomely bound books. Harar has been a place of pilgrimage from all over the world for many years.

Harar's attractions:
- The City Walls
The City Walls and the narrow streets lined with traditional Harari gegar houses.
- Rimbaud House
- A fine example of a traditional house, dating from the period when the French poet Rimbaud lived in Harar.
- The Hyena Man
There are two itineraries for air and road travel. A combination could be made or the itineraries altered to take in other sites or activities en route, such as the markets of Senbete and Bati; the rock hewn churches of Tigray; some days walking in the Simien Mountains, or crossing Lake Tana by boat.

     
   
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