Ethiopia (April-May 2015)

4. Axum to Maryam Wukro

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To see the map below with a better resolution in another tab, click here.

To see all the waypoints in Google Earth, click here (.kmz file).

This page covers the visit of Aksum and the section of the red path between waypoints 48 and 71.




I spent two nights in Axum, where I visited most of the usual touristic sites.


View over modern Axum from the Abba Libanos monastery.


New building under construction in downtown Axum, or the art of erecting straight walls with twisted scaffolds. Note how the wood bars in the scaffold are interlocked with almost no bolts, nails or wires. Totally amazing!


The atmospheric main plaza of Axum. The plaza was being renovated when I visited. It will probably look nicer, but it may lose much of its character.


Sewing services on the plaza.



Granite stelae in the main stelae field of Axum. They were carved and erected during the 4th century AD. The high stela in the middle is known as the Roma Stela. It is the highest standing stela in the field (26m) and weighs more than 160 tons. Under the Italian occupation it was cut into three pieces and moved to Roma; it was returned to Axum in 2005. The high stela on the right is the Ezana Stela (23m). The shattered stela lying on the ground is known as the Great Stela and is the largest stela in the field (33m). The stelae were cut from a quarry located 4km away from the field. The door on the left, under the Great Stela, leads to underground tombs known as the Mausoleum.


The Roma Stela and its false door.


The Mausoleum (excavated in the mid-1990s) under the Great Stela.


King Remhai′s tomb. Note how large the stone blocks are and how well they fit together. The roof of the vault on the right consists of a single slab.


A stone ruler above King Remhai′s tomb. Not easy to move it around.


Church of Tsion Maryam, near the main stelae field. The church was built by Emperor Fasilidas, the founder of Gondar.


Woman carrying a ″Paris je t′aime″ bag near Tsion Maryam Church!


Left: Queen of Sheba′s Bath. Right: Stone known as the Ezana Inscription. Ezana was an Aksumite king in the 4th century AD. The Ezana Inscription is a kind of Rosetta Stone: the same story that celebrates Ezana′s victories is inscribed in Greek, Sabean and Geez scripts in Greek and Geez languages.


King Kaleb′s tomb on a hill 2km north of Axum′s center. Like King Remhai′s tomb, it is made of huge stone blocks that fit together well, but here some of the blocks are self-locking non-rectangular blocks.


Smaller stelea in the Gudit stelea field west of Axum (named after Queen Gudit).


Monastery of Abba Pantaleon, located on a sharp hill dominating Aksum.


Paintings in the Abba Pantaleon Monastery.


Priest showing old treasures (crosses, crowns, and religious books) from Abba Pantaleon Monastery.




Adwa mountains seen from the monastery.


I went from Axum to Adwa by bus. Gebru and Gebrehiwet absolutely wanted to host me for an injera lunch in their home town. There (at Gebru′s home) I had my best injera meal ever, as well as excellent traditional Ethiopian coffee.


Some members of Gebru′s family.



We all spent one night in Adwa, before resuming the trek toward Yeha.


Typical rock formation soon after leaving Adwa.


An unusual scenery in Tigray: a large (artificial) lake, the water reservoir for both Adwa and Axum.



The area north of Adwa is populated by a mix of Christians and Muslims. Below, Christian women and a Muslim farmer.



A valley inhabited by many members of Gebru′s family.


To reach Yeha we had to cross a small mountain range. During the ascent we had a sweeping view as far as Eritrea.


Painting on a small church.


Jagged mountains as we were getting closer to Yeha..




Large temple in Yeha. The temple, which is dedicated to the God Almaqah, was built during the 7th century BC. Its 14m-high walls consist of 52 layers of limestone ashlars (some measuring more than 3m in length) that fit together remarkably well. Unfortunately, the view suffers much from the scaffolding erected for restoration.


Small stelae in the cemetery in front of the temple′s entrance.


The west wall of the Church of Abuna Aftse next to the old temple.


Stylized ibexes from an old frieze embedded in the church′s west wall. (Yeha was founded by Sabaen settlers from the south-west of the Arabian Peninsula, where ibex was a sacred animal.)


Stones engraved with inscriptions in Sabaean writing stacked in a room near the church.


We set our 10th camp in Yeha slightly below the ancient temple (waypoint 53).


Leaving Yeha toward the south-east across the Adwa Mountains on a cloudy day.


Typical landscapes of the Adwa Mountains.



A big fig tree. We set our 11th camp in a small village nearby (waypoint 60).


A nicely built well near our camp.


Leaving our 11th camp on a sunny day, with the Axum Mountains in the background.


Along the trail.


Yet another rock ourcrop.


Taking a short rest.


The path then descended toward the next valley trough a steep escapment.



Cliff below the escarpment.





Nebelet Tower. (Its location is marked with an orange pin in the map at the top of the page.)


Our 12th camp (waypoint 69),set in view of the Nebelet Tower, in the evening (first photo below) and on the next morning (second photo, with Gebrehiwet preparing pankakes for breakfast!)



View of Nebelet Tower and other cliffs from our camp in the morning.


Nearby church on our way to the rock-hewn church of Maryam Wukro.


Other views of Nebelet Tower along the way.



Sections of the trip (click on the links below to access the corresponding webpages):

-             1. Mekele to Maryam Hibeti

-             2. Maryam Hibeti to Abba Yohanni and Gabriel Wukien

-             3. Gabriel Wukien to Axum via Damo Gellila

-             4. Axum to Maryam Wukro

-             5. Maryam Wukro to Hawzen

-             6. Abuna Gebre Mikael and Debre Tsion Abuna Abraham

-             7. Hawzen to Medhane Alem Adi Kasho via Abreha we Atsbeha


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