After a great flight in an almost empty Ethiopian Airlines Dash 8 Q400 we landed in Axum which is right up near the Eritrean border - a trip made all the more exciting knowing that Ethiopia and Eritrea are not happy neighbours having recently fought a full scale war against each other.
Our hotel, the Yeha (it should be in Calgary !), is perched high on a hill overlooking the stelae field.
The stelae, or obelisks, are 1800 years old with the big ones weighing up to 520 tons !
There are more than 500 obelisks in and around Axum with each one having an underlying, beautifully made, stone tomb.
The stonework is amazing and many of the huge blocks are precisely joined with flush recessed iron ties.
Each obelisk was carved out of one piece of granite, transported 5 km from the quarry by elephants and rollers and erected by unknown means.
The biggest one fell over soon after it was finished and the force and vibration collapsed its own tomb roof and cracked many others in the surrounding area.
The second biggest one fell sometime in antiquity and broke into 3 pieces.
It was looted by Mussolini's invading army in 1936, transported by ship to Italy and erected in the Piazza.
It remained there until repatriated a few years ago in a giant Russian Antonov aircraft after 65 years of diplomatic negotiations.
The third has a lean like the Leaning Tower of Pizza.
A 2000 year old pizza oven.
There must have been one hell of a volcanic blowout once upon a time - rocks are everywhere !
The farmers plough through the rocks and leave them in place to help prevent erosion and retain rainfall.
Queen Sheba's palace - the precise stonework is fabulous !
Ethiopians love their churches !
We walked past the church which is said to house the Ark of the Covenant.
Emperor Menelik, the son of King Solomon and Queen Sheba, stole the Ark from his father in Jerusalem and brought it to Ethiopia.
Its presence cannot be verified as for 3000 years only the single priest/guard is ever allowed in - anyone going too close will burst into flames.
Of course, we in the west know that it is stored in a warehouse in New Jersey after Indiana Jones obtained it for the U.S. government.
An 800 year old bible !
The Ezana Stone was unearthed by a farmer ploughing his field.
It sat on the side of the M1 in ancient times with the same inscription in a different language on each of 3 sides to tell passing travellers of the feats of King Ezana of Axum.
The return flight to Addis Ababa marked the end of our solo travels !