|Lalibela to airport took half an hour via taxi, saw a ground hornedbill on the way as well as later betw the airstrips...huge black bird that kind of wobbles when it walks! Had brfst at airport while waiting, loaded at 10 and took off. Saw deep canyons & ravines w/ steep vertical walls, plateaus of dry croplands & sparcely forested mtns. & slopes. Quite obviously the remains of forestlands since some patches of dense forest remain either on steeper or remote areas. From the air I see thin lines of water snaking thru 2 to 3 major valleys whereas tributaries in side canyons are all dry. Terrain is very Grand Canyonish, high mounded areas topped w/ reddish rock, lower elevations gray to brown. Barron/rocky, hugely sculpted and eroded, the immensity of it all is breathtaking...now a big reservour lake half way to Axum, towering peaks in distance towards Sudan, a major road to the dam but otherwise few roads twisting & turning up, over, around & thru the maze of peaks and valleys. As we approach Axum more roads and unlike water courses further away which were dry and barron(no irrig or poor soil), green growth is visible along the river/waterways now(near Axum).
We contacted Mulubrahan, a guide who Marta worked w/ and trained when she lived here. He was able to set up transport for 3:30 the same day we arr so took us to Queen of Sheba's purported palace nearby. Stelae (tall upright granite marker/stones) across the way indicate burial grounds as well. We also visited the quarry where the stelae rock came from, some several hundred tons in weight.
Legend has it the Queen of Sheba=Makeda trekked across deserts & sea to visit King Solomon in Jerusalem in 10th century BC bringing many rich products from her land here to encourage trade. She did not return with a trade deal but instead gave birth to Menelik the First(founder of Ethiopian Solomic dynasty) who later returned to visit his father. When he left he returned to Ethiopia with the Ark of the Covenant around 1000 BC. The remains of the palace, however, date from 700 BC., a bit of a discrepancy. There is a German archeologist who has been digging here for past 8 yrs and he has discovered a verticlal tomb beneath the palace which dates much earlier so at present hypothesis is that the remains here are built on top of what HAD been Shebas palace. Many q's remain, the archeologist, Helmut Ziegert web site: www1.uni-hamburg.de/helmut-ziegert has also found evidence in Libya on the shores of an ancient lake of village life which existed as much as 390,000 yrs earlier than previously was believed villages had been formed. See Childres' book
In the quarry we also saw a lioness sculpted on a rock along w/ a Knights Templar or Coptic/St. Georges cross, no knowledge of its age or origin.
Feb13 Happy B'day Mari!!!
Mulubrahan & Moges(the driver) picked us up at 8:30 & we went to stelae site where top of Axumite stelae is a sigh of Almoka, god of moon. The tallest was 33 meters high and weighted 520 tons but had fallen possibly when it was being erected but since its base (which is usually 10% of total height in the ground) was too small it couldn't support the superstructure...it broke when it fell. It was the last stelae to a pagon god in the Axumite kingdom which lasted from 2nd century BC to 7th century AD. All of these stelae are 1st class type which only mark the graves of royalty and these tombs were thought to store royal treasure, but nothing has been found in any of the tombs uncovered to date except one where they found a skeleton, coins, pots, etc.
Legend: A woman called Yodit/Godit in 9th century came from Lalibela, a priest traded sex for the curtain in church which separated the Arch of the Covenant from the people. When the people discovered it was gone, the priest said Yodit stole it so her punishment was to have her breasts cut off. She returned w/ an army and in retribution killed many priests & burned /destroyed many churches. This is when they claim the Arch of the Covenant disappeared!
In 333AD King Ezanna converted the Axumite kingdom to Christianity…they know from records this was the case and in pagan tombs bodies are oriented N to S, N=evil enters head, S=good exits legs. Christian/Muslim tombs bodies are oriented E W(E Jerusalem/Mecca). In this way when they find a tomb they can tell if it is pre or post 333! Ezanna Stone (w/ pagan markings) found in Lalibela similar to Rosetta stone in that it the same story is told in Greek (diplomatic language & merchant lingo), Sabian (Emigrants from Yemen), & Geez (local language)…it was written near 333 since a similar stone in a different location had Christian markings. It describes the Kings conquests and ends warning people never to move these stones. Italians moved one of stones when they occupied Ethiopia and were cursed by losing the Battle of Adwa in 1896 to Ethiopia. The peace was made w/ Italy by Emperor Menelik when his forces(some led by Ras Makonnen, father of Haile Sellassie) pushed the Italians into Eritrea. Worried that he did not have sufficient supplies for his army the Emperor signed a truce which gave Eritrea to Italy thus the animosity began betw political entities of Eritrea & Ethiopia. Culturally the people are same, in fact, Mulubrahan’s father lives w/ his 3 sisters in Eritrea, and he has not seen them for over 10 yrs.
Since 6th century Egypt has dominated Ethiopia thru bishops always Egyptian and church advised the royalty, so controlled the county (Egypt has always been very possessive of Nile & since it originates in Ethiopia it is important to have some say). Finally, in 1958 Ethiopia got its first native bishop!
In Mohamed’s time Islam was divided as well, 1st Jijarad created two groups and 2nd Jigarad began the persecution of one segment of Islam…Mohamed sent a group of the persecuted to Ethiopia at that time and one of them became his wife. Ever since Muslims believe Ethiopia to be a holy country and it says in the Koran there should never be jihad against its people!
Now, just sitting in front of the hotel watching a small sheep (they wander all over in the cities) and like a vacuum cleaner it literally sucked down 30 to 40 fallen leaves off the side walk! I can’t imagine how littered these places would be if it weren’t for the sheep and goats wandering everywhere!
In the afternoon we went to King Kazen’s tomb (according to local legend) who visited Jesus at his birth…the one who brought gold. The tomb has been dated to 10 AD.
Afterwards we went to a private residence which had been turned into a museum in honor of the grandmother who lived there and died 3 mos prior at 85. The grandson showed us around, obviously very proud of everything. The home was a traditional one, over 110 yrs old…had a beautiful ceiling.